159 of 170 people found the following review helpful
Veronica Roth's Divergent is a difficult book to ignore if you have the YA dystopia bug. The five star reviews number in their hundreds and with its sequel Insurgent imminent and The Hunger Games - the YA dystopia against which all others are currently judged - riding high at the box office and in the book lists, to not read Divergent seems somewhat rude. Therefore, not wishing to be impolite, I took the plunge.
Divergent takes place some time in the future in a city that was once Chicago. Every citizen now lives as a member of one of five factions, each defined by their overriding personality trait: Abnegation (selfless), Amity (kind), Candor (honest), Erudite (seekers of knowledge), Dauntless (brave). Each faction contributes to society in accordance with this trait. For example, members of Abnegation rule, Amity members are peacemakers and farmers and the Dauntless police this world. But there are those who fall outside the Factions, living a life worse than death as the Factionless. They drive the buses.
At the age of 16, the young are assessed to determine which Faction they suit but they must still make the choice of Faction on their own. Most opt for their home Faction but there are some who make a jump, turning their backs on their families. One such girl is our heroine. Known as Beatrice in Abnegation, she picks the name of Tris in her chosen Faction of Dauntless, although her fellow initiates name her `Stiff'. Divergent follows the initiation or training sessions that Tris and her friends (and the not so friendly) must undergo before they are selected to be members of Dauntless or, if they fail, cast out to be Factionless.
Through these trials, during which the initiates are taken to their very limits in physical and mental torture, each inflicting the same on their classmates, Tris learns that there may be an alternative Faction. Those initiates who don't perform as they should in the sessions may well be Divergent and, should that be discovered, they will be dead shortly afterwards. That is because they can beat the system.
Without doubt, this is a pacey novel. It's not a short book but Divergent is very difficult to put down. This is largely because of Tris - she has a habit of manipulating her way into our care. She's 16 but she constantly stresses how young she looks, how small she is. And in describing the truly horrible rituals she undergoes, it's difficult not to feel outrage on her behalf and sympathy for her suffering and admiration for her bravery. This is increased as we watch a girl emerge from self-sacrificing Abjugation rules to being able to express herself with tattoos, colourful clothes, even jumping off a train just for the thrill of it. Throw in a love interest that is delicately dealt with - no Twilight angst here - and you're going to care for young Tris.
Despite my strong feelings for Tris, I found Divergent a frustrating novel. There is no sense of the world at all. This is a big failing for a dystopian novel to my mind. Part of the fun is finding oneself in a familiar world transformed and distorted. We're told it is Chicago but this isn't a recognisable place or even environment. There's little description of Dauntless or any of the other factions. We're briefly told that Dauntless is dark, tall towers are mentioned, canyons frighten and trains travel outside the Factions but there is very little other than that. There is no sense of the state of the place. And what about outside? What about the rest of the world?
The idea that society can be divided into such convenient Factions is not believable. It seems preposterous to me that anyone could be anything other than Divergent. The fact that the novel presents inter-Faction fighting doesn't help the sense that this division could never happen. And where are all the adults? There's barely a sense of them in Dauntless.
Tris might be a fascinating heroine but the repetitive insistence on her small stature and undeveloped, childlike appearance doesn't tally with her increased strength and makes her relationship with Four incongruous and a little uncomfortable. She is also not always likeable - as the novel progresses there are actions that are not necessarily forgiveable. I wonder if they will be remembered in Insurgent or if they are already forgotten.
My main problem with Divergent though is the fact that the vast majority of it comprises the ritual trials that Tris and the others must undergo in order to be accepted as Dauntless. This means hundreds of pages of teenagers being forced to fight each other literally senseless in ugly duels as well as drug-induced confrontations with their greatest fears, facing a multitude of different horrendous ways of meeting a terrifying, painful death. Violence spreads outside the Pit, young people are reduced to the depths of despair while others are tormented by memories of abusive parents. It's all rather... unsavoury. As for the finale, it felt, to me, rushed and surprise-free.
Nevertheless, despite these rather major gripes, I read Divergent quickly and I will read Insurgent when it's released in May. There is a great deal of promise here and I was frustrated that the novel as a whole didn't live up to that potential. Perhaps Insurgent will prove a pleasant surprise.
70 of 75 people found the following review helpful
I've taken my time with getting to the Divergent series by Veronica Roth because I was afraid of all the hype surrounding it but boy do I regret it. I have just finished reading this book and I can't believe that I put it off for so long! This book isn't quite what I expected but it's certainly action-packed and I never knew what was going to happen next.
Divergent follows the story of Beatrice (Tris) Prior in a new dystopian world. In an attempt to proven the outbreak of war, humankind broke into five different 'factions': Erudite, for the clever, Amity, for the peaceful, Candor, for the honest, Abnegation, for the selfless and Dauntless, for the brave. Children grow up in whichever faction their parents belong to, but at the age of 16, they go through an aptitude test to show them which faction they belong in and the following day, at the Choosing Ceremony, they must decide the path for the rest of their lives. Tris knows that she doesn't belong in Abnegation like the rest of her family and so she makes the difficult decision to leave her family behind and join a new faction, Dauntless. A tough initiation process follows - one that not everyone will survive. As Tris tries to fit in among the Dauntless she struggles to figure out who she is and who her real friends are. As if finding herself in a new faction wasn't difficult enough, Tris has a secret that she learned about herself during the aptitude test. A secret that she has been warned to never tell lest it destroy her.
What I love about this story is that it doesn't seem fantastical in the slightest. The characters and the setting all felt very real to me that's all down to Roth's genius. Each character is flawed, some more than others, and this made it easy to relate to them as a reader and I found that I actually cared about what happened to the characters. When they felt sad, I felt sad; when they felt pain, I felt pain and when they felt happy, I felt happy. It is rare that you find a book in which you can truly share your emotions with the characters but Divergent is one of those gems. The book is written in the first person from the perspective of Tris herself. She often finds herself torn between what she thinks she should do and what she actually wants to do and isn't afraid to admit that she is sometimes selfish. I really loved this about her because, let's be honest, very few of us can say that we don't often have selfish thoughts no matter how hard we try to be moral people. Tris isn't afraid to admit it when she's afraid or weak but she's also strong-willed and determined not to be beaten. She is well aware of what her short comings are and that she hasn't been blessed with the best physique for a member of Dauntless, but she tries her hardest and at the end of the day, that's all that matters right?
The character of Four was also really interesting because his emotions were always undercover and you could never really tell what he was thinking. Four isn't a difficult character to love but because he doesn't show his true emotions very often, you're also sort of frightened and unsure of him for a large part of the novel. I guess this is perfect because that's pretty much how Tris feels about him for a large part of the story too so the reader and Tris really are as one on this adventure. I love that Roth didn't make him the stereotypical 'bad boy' (I guess that's what he is) but made him a real character that has much more to him than meets the eye. He does what he wants and he isn't easily influenced by the opinions of others.
Sometimes I felt like the characters seemed a little deadpan but I suppose that's all part of the 'dauntless' act and it made the moments when the characters were happy and laughing all the more special. This certainly isn't a happy story and it isn't one that suddenly retreats in a world filled with fluffy clouds. There is a darkness lining this book that is ever-present, even when the story takes a more positive turn. It is evident that there is more going on in this story than meets the eye but Roth has carefully staged this story so that the reader has absolutely no idea what's going on until it hits you in the face. The reader is on a level with Tris throughout the story - what she knows, we know, what she doesn't know, we don't know. At least, that will be the case if you have been completely unexposed to the spoilers that are just about all over the internet. I knew very little about Divergent prior to reading the story so I found all the twists and turns to be incredibly shocking and exciting.
There's no insta-love in this story! I think this book deserves a big fat hooray just for that. It's hard to find YA books that aren't centred on romance that still get the romance perfect but I think Veronica Roth may have done it. The chemistry between Tris and Four takes a backseat in this story, but it's always there lurking in the background. There aren't any PDAs or sexual scenes, in fact, the romance is rather chaste which I guess can be put down to the factions in which the characters were brought up in and the ones they currently reside in.
The story doesn't exactly end on a cliffhanger so you could almost read Divergent as a standalone novel and be satisfied at the end. That said, this almost certainly won't be the case because you'll want to find out more about this phenomenally interesting world. I did find the ending to be a tad abrupt as I turned the page on my kindle expecting to find more story when, in fact, it was already over. There were no clues whatsoever as to how this story will continue so you really are in the dark and I can't wait to get my hands on a copy of Insurgent! This is, I think, one of the keys to this story's success. This book wasn't predictable in the slightest and never knowing what was coming next made me desperate to keep reading.
All in all, Divergent is a fantastic and captivating read that I would highly recommend to all fans of dystopian novels. The combination of very real characters and an original plot make this an absolute must read and I understand now why there is so much hype surrounding this series. If you're looking for a YA book that stands out from the rest, then this is your book.
129 of 141 people found the following review helpful
Divergent is based around a surreal world divided into factions. Each faction is different and it's "members" have unique qualities and personality traits. There are five factions: Candor, Erudite, Abnegation, Dauntless and Amity. At the age of 16 all children must undertake an aptitude test to determine which faction they are most suited to - But they don't have to pick this one. So what is divergent? Well, the main character Beatrice or "Tris" as she is most referred to as is a divergent - this means that instead of suiting only one faction she suits a number of factions. This means she must choose between the faction her family belong to, Abnegation or another faction - but deserting her family would be the ultimate betrayal.
As Tris decides which faction she will choose she undertakes a number of initiation trials which are completely gripping - what a page turner! The relationships between the other initiates are explored and sometimes they are more enemies than friends.
Divergent is a brilliant read, I loved the new ideas and the new world that had been created. Tris is a fun, intelligent character with lots of wit - I thought she was fantastic and really surprising at times. I read this in two sittings it was that good - I'd more than recommend this book to both young adults and adults alike.
If you loved "The Hunger Games" then you'll definitely love this, but if you haven't heard of that either then give them both a go!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 26 August 2014
I enjoyed this book so much more than the Hunger Games. It probably not fair to compare the two but they are on a similar subject. There is a good flow to this story and it makes this book an easy read. The descriptions are great the only small critique on that line is I did notice a couple of grammar and spelling mistakes, and if I noticed them there were probably more than a few. However I did really enjoy this book. For the first few chapters I kept thinking that was quick I will just read one more, then by the time I got to the later chapters I did not want to put the book down.
We join Beatrice on her journey of the most important year of her life. In this world society is broken up into 5 factions:
Amity (The Peaceful)
Dauntless (The Brave)
Abnegation (The Selfless)
Erudite (The Intelligent)
Candour (The Honest)
At the age of 16 the people of each faction are tested for their aptitude and must choose a faction that potentially best fits them. Once you join a faction that is it. Told in the quote "faction before family". Beatrice knows she does not fit into her own faction (Abnegation) as selfless acts simply do not occur to her on instinct. On the test day she is given the results of Divergent, and then told to never speak of it again, what does it mean? Why is it so dangerous? However the next day she must choose a faction and should she stay with what she knows as there is not guarantee she will fit in any better in her a new faction.
The whole book is written from her perspective, so we tend to get information and interpretations from her, which is ok. The book is well thought out and with great characters and character development. The only thing I could find wrong with the book were the fights. The book is quite action packed and exciting but there are few hand to hand fights so making slight mistakes in them is not such a problem. The problem with writing fights is it is not just which strike is thrown but you have to think very carefully about the positioning of each character when they throw and after they are hit counter. This was a minor detail in the book. The action in to book is more frequent short but brutal.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 5 November 2012
I'd seen many favourable reviews for this book before reading it myself, which is always a dangerous thing. Hype and hoopla surrounding a book can often lead to high expectations not being met. And although this wasn't quite as mind-blowing as I'd hoped it would be, it was still a very good, very well-written read, and has great potential for future plots.
I loved the whole idea of the different factions and how it forces our young characters to examine their own personalities and decide exactly what kind of person they want to be. The system initially seems to work well, although it's odd to our eyes, but soon cracks begin to show and insurrection seems inevitable.
There were a couple of great characters in there, including the main one, Tris, a young girl with unique qualities and a great sense of honour, as well as others that were not quite as well fleshed out as they could have been.
It's quite a violent world for ones so young, but anyone who's read the Hunger Games will be accustomed to reading about those type of things by now. And they are also handle realistically here, which I appreciated.
Unlike the Hunger Games, which gets off to a very quick start and maintains a fast pace throughout, Divergent slowly creeps up on you instead, culminating in a fantastic tension-filled ending. The training section is long (perhaps overly so), but the plot twist at around 3/4 of the way through was thrilling and also slightly terrifying.
The romance was pretty cute. The boy (I shan't say his name for fear of spoilers) is a total sweetie-pie, and admires our heroine despite her own insecurities about being so small/looking so young.
I will definitely be reading the rest of the series, but since I've heard Insurgent has a killer cliffhanger, I've decided to wait until book three comes along, which will be on September 26th 2013.
Recommended to fans of the Hunger Games and other YA dystopians.
4 Stars ★★★★
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Dystopian society? Check
Female heroine? Check
Society breaking down? Check
One of the most popular genres right now, it takes a little something extra for a book to stand out from the crowded shelf. Luckily, I think Roth's series has that something. Similar to the Hunger Games and Scott Westerfeld's Uglies/Pretties/Specials trilogies, Divergent starts off another trilogy with the interesting twist: people are divided into factions based on their characters. Different. There are five factions, one for those who are selfless, one for those who crave knowledge and learning, one for those who are brave, etc. At age 16 you choose your faction for life.
Beatrice chooses to change faction from that of her family, a rarity. Has she made the right choice?
Thrilling in its violence (which is hard to bear given that Tris as she now calls herself is short and slight and faces larger opponents in hand-to-hand combat as part of her initiation), it's a visual world from the start, Tris herself likeable if a little naive at times (especially with regards to the obligatory love-interest).
The scenes that take our characters into their own psyches and fears are great - frightening, real, intense. The denouement shocking and brutal, with a wide open finish ready for part two.
Has messages at its core of acceptance and tolerance, knowing who you are, staying true to your ideals, but nothing preachy that detracts from the action. I think this has good gender-crossover potential with strong male and female characters and enough action to appeal to anyone in that frame of mind, as well as a fledgling love story.
Hope this follows Hunger Games into a film, it's ready for the plucking.
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
Divergent by Veronica Roth (published by Harper Collins)
This isn't The Hunger Games. Not by a long chalk. It was rapidly put out into the Hunger Games slipstream because it's been pushed out of the same future-dystopia-teenager-saves-the-world mould. But it has three major problems; one, it is not the Hunger Games; two, it treads through the shallows in a creative landscape that offered so very much more; and three, the writing is hackneyed and formulaic in too many places. I listened to the audiobook and it was well-performed but I still found myself looking heavenward or wincing too many times as certain stock phrases and expected plot twists wormed their way out of the story.
But before all of that I need to say that the concept is quite excellent (and this added to my sense of disappointment I think.) We arrive in a dystopia Chicago where people have divided after a devastating war into five factions to keep the peace. These five factions are;
Amity (The Peaceful)
Dauntless (The Brave)
Abnegation (The Selfless)
Erudite (The Intelligent)
Candour (The Honest)
Everyone either sits inside each faction and gains support and their livelihood from this association (Faction before Family!) or they become factionless, the feckless poor who rely on handouts from those in factions to survive. Every teenager chooses a faction to join aged 16. It's such a great idea, there's everything here you'd need in a fast-paced future-dystopia YA novel. There's the choosing ceremony (think Harry Potter choosing hat with a bit more blood, oh and without the hat!) and then there's the initiation process the choosers go through as they join their factions.
Our heroine (the story's told from first person point of view just like the HG) is Beatrice - soon to be christened Tris - who changes factions swapping from selfless Abnegation to the seriously unhinged Dauntless (The Brave or frankly, the Bonkers!) The first quarter of the book really pulled me in. The world is realised well and we have a strong sense that where we're living is in some mutated version of society and that the fences which the Dauntless Faction eventually go on to patrol are in fact not about keeping dangers out, but stopping a different, freer kind of society getting in. We're in an annexed piece of America, a slice of the Land of the Free that has fallen a long way from its ideals. We experience the bleak and frankly ridiculous precepts of this tyrannical world where everyone accepts what is so obviously not going to work. Humans can't be divided neatly into factions, people's personalities don't slice that way, but like all really crazy tyrannies in human history what we're like doesn't necessarily feature in the wild beliefs that underpin this government. All of this worked very well, Tris, having chosen Dauntless after a ambiguous faction test, is actually the regime's worst nightmare - Divergent - which means she has the characteristics of more than one faction.
From the second quarter in my attention began to wane, along with my patience. There are long periods of initiation which, because Dauntless (such a great name don't you think) is all about bravery, are simply various forms of running, jumping, fighting and rolling about. It's kind of football league scores but for fighting, this aspect of the novel is a little like a video game but not as good - no explosions, ka-pows! and fancy graphics.
Where the concept runs into the sand for me is around where the author choses to take it. There's a lot of unrequited lovie stuff with a leader of the Dauntless whose name is Four (weird name, want tell you why he's called that as it will spoil the plot). The scenes between Tris and Four are agonisingly twee, the writing is clunky and repetitive and whereas HG did nuance and trauma through subtly and what it didn't say as much as it did, Divergent smashes you over the head with the plot moves as they come. It was very disappointed by the final quarter and listening to it on Audiobook up the speed to times two so they actress reading it sounded a bit like Pinky or Perky on speed just because I felt I knew exactly what was going to happen. By the end Tris was less a three-dimensional character, traumatised by what she'd been through, more a low-res avatar in some not particularly well-made computer game. I'm not sure why this is, perhaps the general overall lack of skill in the writing, or the youth of the writer means that the true trauma and horror the character suffers isn't drawing deeply enough from a well of real-world experience. Imagined trauma isn't the same as living through trauma and whilst of course I'm not suggesting that you need to be shot at, fall from a building or jump from a moving train to write about those things when dabbling in deep affairs of the heart and visceral emotions like loss, fear and abject terror, unless you've had a conjugate experience - some of the traumas life can throw at you - your ability to evoke them on the page is, well, muted. And that sums up for how this great concept was systematically eviscerated on the page, becoming less and less interesting, in the end I really couldn't care less about Tris and her emotional response to what happens to her parents suggested she'd lost the emotional plot too.
And that was it for me, not HG which was passionate, frightening and about what tyranny does to the human spirit and how that spirit responds. Divergent was about how difficult it is to establish a relationship when you're running, rolling, jumping and fighting. It lacked emotional resonance, probably needed to say less about more in terms of its themes and would have been so very much better, in my very humble opinion, if written by the author - who is clearly very talented - when she'd had a bit more trauma or life experience to draw on.
Sorry Veronica, just not for me, but I'm sure that doesn't really matter as it's done (doing) so well.
*** Three Stars
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Simply put, I did not like this book. I tried to like it. I wanted to give up but kept on reading and really I don't think it was worth it. I see from the ratings that a lot of people liked it but I didn't. The beginning of the book starts off like Matched. It is slow, we are presented with a brother and sister the day before some type of choosing ceremony.
I did not get the whole Dauntless thing. What was the point of them? Seems like the only thing they did were stunts and have fun. There were no wars, so why all the fighting? We meet some people guarding a fence (that I am still clueless about), but apparently said guard duty is a job that is kind of like punishment. So what did they do?
There was so much senseless violence! And I am not usually one to complain about it but golly (ha, I said golly), at least in the other book it is very necessary for survival. In this one it is just there because I don't know why.
The Faction world is kind of clear. We don't know a lot of details of the world outside of Chicago. What happened to everything? I still don't have a clear mental picture of that dang Dauntless compound! And like Tris, I too wondered where that train was coming from and going to!
I didn't like Tris in the beginning. I wanted to. I tried to. But she really sounded like a robot! I felt like I was listening to the thoughts of a robot. All she did was tell me her observations in sentence structured like no real human would talk like. I did like the part where she was complimented. And the part where she wasn't sure if she should be jealous or not. I thought her reactions were sweet and it made me grin. She grew on me as the book went on but I did not see us as friends.
Tris was good at everything she did. It got to the point that her being the best just wasn't even surprising. I mean, I didn't even need details anymore since she always came out on top.
The romance between her and that boy with the horrible real name (for the book) was unbelievable and forced. It made me feel awkward. Like I'd overstayed my welcome. Like I was too nice to say goodbye and they'd forgotten I was there. That awkward. Personally, I think the relationship needs to be nixed as slapping and cutting each other is not healthy. And not cool, not cool at all!
There is some good though. There isn't really a boring moment in the book. The action is nonstop. Anywho, you should still read it because everyone else liked it and we can compare notes when you're done!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 5 January 2015
There is a very obvious metaphor in the world of this book, a metaphor so obvious that it seems strange that it isn't built upon. Well, it is the start of a trilogy so I suppose we're not done yet. In future Chicago, one day a year, teenagers of around sixteen have to choose which path in life they're going to take. Having been raised on path, they're often pressurised into following in their parents' footsteps regardless of their own choices. To not choose - or to choose incorrectly and end up factionless - is the worst thing imaginable. Except, perhaps, to not fit in. That's worst of all. Really, the extention of that metaphor has nothing to do with changing the world - it implies that the correct path is out there and all you have to do is find it and be accepted into it. Perhaps that's a problem with the book, I'm not sure.
The story itself throws up interesting questions about how to achieve peace. The factions are surprizingly well chosen, although there is a strain of anti-intellectualism which the PhD student in me found a little disconcerting. When is violence the right path? What is bravery? What is selflessness? Ultimately, I think there was too little criticism of selflessness, but that's a hard one to get right. The other factions all come under scrutiny; hopefully those which feature less in this story get more of their due in the subsequent volumes. [EDIT] I forgot the interesting but sadly neglected issue of nature and nurture in this book. Having been raised by a faction most choose to continue in that faction - because they have been raised that way? Or because there parents were part of that faction so they genuinely act that way? But to mis-quote another YA series "I think sometimes we sort too soon." [/EDIT]
I did find myself wondering - where are the workers? Who is producing anything besides the food we see very briefly when we visit the wall around the city (a very nice little bit of obvious foreshadowing, which I assume must be fulfilled in the later books)? If there are to be luxuries and computers and tatoo ink, where is it coming from? It's not a major flaw to say that the metaphorical science fictional world doesn't work - one of the advantages of YA fiction is that it does tend to lack the tendency towards making the future believable and focusing on the point, the metaphor, which is what matters. But it does make it a very middle-class dystopia.
Perhaps - but I could be judging the author because of her ridiculous belief in a magical sky wizard and his trickster son - there is another metaphor here, of giving up on faith, of believing in something bigger being the real "dauntless" choice. But that's quite a lot of rubbish, so I'm choosing not to believe that.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 18 March 2014
I read this book really quickly, as it was reasonably well written and I wanted to know what happened. The answer was: nothing much for most of the book, and then all of a sudden, there was a revolution (where the motives and everything about it was totally unexplained) over about 20 pages. Really? Are we expected to believe this?
The main problem with the book, apart from the astonishing lack of adults (including dauntless training) seemed to be a total lack of context. It was supposed to be a dystopian world, but there didn't seem to be any "world" to speak of and within the city, a total lack of economic activity. Neither was it clear what happened outwith the city - was it a wasteland? The factions weren't clearly outlined, which is rubbish, as someone as "divergent" as Tris would surely have asked lots of questions and, at 16, been a bit more worldy-wise (let's face it, a wallflower doesn't make a good heroine), particularly if she schooled with other faction children.
The world within the book was poorly drawn and clearly aimed at people with no imagination or ability to question anything because otherwise why, oh why, were there no answers????
Also, I wondered whether anything had been proof-read before publishing. At one point, Tris's mother comes to the compound and tells her it is very important to come in the bottom half of the rankings. Tris then proceeds to power her way to top spot, and claims no-one told her any of the things her mother had previously told her! Things also seemed to happen over about three days, but comments are made indicating that weeks had passed. Confusing!
I also found it totally unbelievable, quite frankly, that her mother did not offer her any guidance as to her choices of faction, even when she had received guidance from her own mother, given the dangers that she later alluded to. Without wishing to give anything away, would a dauntless upbringing really have produced such a drippy mother? (Answer - no, because of what happens when the revolution starts.)
I am extremely frustrated with this book - the characters are totally two-dimensional and Tris does not come across as intelligent or inquisitive. I would also say that she isn't brave either, if she survives the simulations largely by manipulating them as a divergent (which she doesn't even try to hide, despite warnings from various characters throughout the book, which Tris is too stupid to take on board). There is no depth to anything and apparently no answers to be found....