Divergent (by Veronica Roth)

24 08 2011

Veronica Roth has also hopped on the wagon of YA dystopia, but unlike some other recent exploits that base themselves in romance (Delirium, Matched), she takes a different action-packed approach and has delivered a rollercoaster ride from (almost) beginning to end. In this (along with the fact that its heroine is just a kick-ass ballsy chick), Divergent will undoubtedly be compared to The Hunger Games (it really does have *a lot* in common with that book – but in a good, non-derivative way). But hey, HG 1 was a good book, so there are worse books to be compared to.  

OK, so there are issues, let’s get them out of the way.

First, we get a world built upon a premise that as a reader you just have to take for granted: 5 factions based on 5 ‘virtues’ or innate personality traits (or moral values – yup, that can of worms): Amity, Candor, Dauntless, Abnegation, and Erudite. If you don’t make it through the initiation process of one of these factions, you become factionless, hence poor, hungry, despised and given the lousiest job ever. If you’re not willing to give yourself over to a teensy weensy bit of willing suspension of disbelief, you will see that Roth never tells us how this world came about.  But the cat was all: who cares? Just go with the flow and then this type of world is oddly different from other YA recent dystopias. Rather than something that is forced upon the people in this world, these people actually seem to get a choice based on an aptitude test (the result of which they can disregard if they want to) that shows them what character traits they most align with. The cat totally bought it. Totally. Also the fact that Divergent people (not just 1 virtue shows up in the test, but the results are ‘inconclusive’ because you might have more) existed and that they might be considered a danger to the smooth running of society. This is just something you will have to accept if you want to get on with this story.

Then, yes, there is violence for violence’s sake. Tris chooses Dauntless and amongst other things getting punched on the face – a lot – seems to be a sign of bravery . Also, you punch, you stab, you kill…and you move on. Now that’s refreshing! And, yes, there are still certain plot holes as deep as the chasm (the cat definitely wanted to read more about Tris’ family history, but considering the outcome of book 1, that’s not likely to happen). And finally, yes, there is a romance tidbit that didn’t really need to have been there. It certainly doesn’t make the book more interesting – please let the next dystopia thing the cat picks up be one without the romance already. But even despite all that, Divergent is such a thrilling high on adrenaline ride, so completely over the top with the action and the jumping, and the fighting, and the initiations and the…, you don’t even want to stop to catch your breath!

Praise where praise is due. At the age of 22 (!), Veronica Roth has found the trick to get the reader hooked from page 1. All of this is certainly made possible by her deceptively easy and simple prose. Her first person present tense narrative is so accessible that it feels believable and has the necessary drive to keep the reader going. Despite seeing the flaws in this book, the cat just couldn’t help herself: Divergent is riveting. Kudos to Veronica Roth.

Divergent is a good alternative for that old pet-peeve of the cat: seeing Die Hard for the first time! Bring on the sequels! But as a serious endnote, the cat definitely needs to get something of her chest: what is up with the butt-ugly cover?? It’s so sci-fi cheesy that it took the cat months to actually pick this book up. Seriously, this cover is a turn-off!  Apart from that: be prepared to be entertained!



5 responses

25 08 2011

22? Uh-oh. I immediately need to read this book and find out whether I’ve just discovered a new hero or a new nemesis… Thanks for the review!

25 08 2011
Ringo the Cat

Yes 22, very hard to grasp for an old cat like me! So that was her publishing age, which means she probably started writing this when she was like 18! Debut or not, flaws or not, that *is* something to admire, I think.

9 05 2012
Insurgent (by Veronica Roth) « Ringo the Cat's Blog

[…] this book was not on the “Most Anticipated Releases” list of 2012. But with anticipation and a great predecessor comes great responsibility, of course, and it remained to see whether Veronica Roth could live up […]

30 07 2012
Cryer’s Cross (by Lisa McMann) « Ringo the Cat's Blog

[…] me, not in combination with the lackluster plot in any case. Present tense is OK (cf. Hunger Games, Divergent), but I guess it is the combination with that third person singular which gives it an unnatural […]

28 01 2014
My Friend Dahmer / The Darkest Minds | Ringo the Cat's Blog

[…] book combines a number of tropes that have been popular in the last couple of years: dystopian and/or apocalyptic madness, psychic or otherwise supergifted kids (sometimes even locked up), a […]

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