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.
on 26 December 2015
Hmmm.... I read this book because I made reference to the premise of the Divergent film (which was based of this book) to a co-worker, and indicated it was just plain daft. I added it was good that teen girls were being given a positive/strong role model, but that the film was still daft. My co-worker, an English teacher barely out of the target demographic herself, suggested I read the book before I make such sweeping generalisations.
Well I've read the book, which is set in a post-apocalyptic/dystopian Chicago, where the population are seemingly walled in (from some unseen baddie) and divided into 5 factions, based on the single character trait they're supposed to have (because of course people only ever have one character trait). The result is that some join Candour (because they're honest, implying that that the remainder in a semi-permanent panic, because their pants are on fire), others join Amity (implying that the others are asses), Abnegation (well these might not be as much of an asses as the others, but they're going to be holier-than-thou), Dauntless (which does seem to involve being an ass), and Erudite.
Into this world steps Beatrice (Tris), who, at the age of 16 is asked to chose a group (or faction). If she choses to change factions (from the one into which she was born), her family will pretty much disown her, and it'll be really hard to speak them ever again. Well, she moves to Dauntless, goes through training (which proves she's joined a bunch of bullies), only to find she's going to have to save her new Faction from becoming mindless drones who go about murdering people. The reason she can do this is because she's not affected by the "drone inducing medication", which happens because she's Divergent (ta-da-dah).
So all, in all, my original grumble stands. It's a stupid premise based on the fact that publishers probably wanted something like the successful Mockingjay franchise. Don't get me wrong, the book's good if you want to empower teen girls, but I can't see the attraction for anyone else. Oh, and the film's better by the way, because at least we didn't get Tris's whiney internal monologue about how she was put upon all the time.
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.
on 29 August 2013
Slightly disappointed by this book having read some great YA fiction over the past year or so. It's a great concept - a society divided into factions, arranged by their defining attributes: Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity, Candor, and Erudite. Teenagers coming into adulthood have to decide whether the faction they were born into is the one for them; they can stay with it, or transfer to another; a mysterious 'test' helps them decide where their aptitude lies.
Early on, the heroine starts struggling with the idea that she must be one or the other. A thread of internal struggle runs through the book, with the heroine trying to figure out her own sense of identity. A great metaphor for adolescence in general...
Yet despite this great concept, I found the book disappointing. The prose is clumsy and repetitive, and a lot of the characters pretty two-dimensional. Elements of 'mystery' are much more self-explanatory and probably much less mysterious than they're intended to be, and even though there's a good scene set in the early part of the book the interesting part of the story doesn't actually really get going until about two-thirds of the way in, and then the story speeds up and rushes towards the ending, and suddenly stops just as you're getting to something interesting! I don't think I'll bother with the rest of the series to be honest, it just wasn't a patch on The Hunger Games which had far better pacing and much more interesting characters. This was actually somewhat witless in parts.
on 21 March 2016
The instructions to redeem the free books are not very easy to find, so this might help... To redeem your voucher you need to copy the code, follow the small font link on the top of your email, it takes you to the page to enter the redemption code. Submit the code. Wait for the success message. Hit back till you get to the start and then select the redeem now button. Choose from one of the selected books and click buy now. You'll get a receipt for £0.00.
Not read the book yet, but got a top seller for free, so can't complain!
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!
on 27 April 2011
The society in which this book's set is split into five different factions. Beatrice was born into Abnegation - the selfless. The book kicks off by introducing the reader to Beatrice and her life as one of the selfless. We learn that Beatrice doesn't like living without mirrors. She doesn't like always putting others before herself. And so, when the day of the big Test comes, she decides that she may want to choose a different faction at the Choosing ceremony. I won't say which one she does choose (although it's pretty obvious), however I will tell you that I think she is crazy for doing so. But I'd have done the same thing.
We follow Beatrice as she renames herself Tris, and goes through her training as part of her initiation. She has to do some pretty awful things. At first, she's just a weak little girl who really can't do much compared to others in her class. But as the novel progresses the reader sees an incredible change in Tris. She becomes a strong, courageous woman - at just sixteen.
Another of the recurring characters is Four, Tris' mentor. He is honestly one of the most complicated characters I have ever come across. His character development was outstanding - and we weren't even reading from his point of view! Plus, he is hot stuff. That always helps us to fall in love with characters, doesn't it?
There were so many extra characters in this book, and normally it would have been easy to get confused. But Roth pulls it off fantastically. Each character has their own traits and personality, it's so easy to tell them apart and learn their names. There were some characters I loved, some I hated, and a lot that I felt sorry for by the end of the book!
The ending is everything I could have ever wanted. Packed full of action - people dying, people fighting - and a couple of heartbreaking scenes. A few of those scenes, actually. The ending also leads nicely onto the sequel which, believe me, you will be highly anticipating and longing for after you've read this book!
As for the writing style, I cannot believe that this is a debut! Veronica Roth writes as if she's been doing this forever, and she's only 22 years old! The woman has some serious talent, and I can't wait to see how she uses it in the next two books in the trilogy.
Veronica Roth also recently announced that the film rights for Divergent have been sold to Summit. Yes, the studio that is responsible for The Hurt Locker. And Twilight, but I'd rather forget about that. Let's hope that all goes well so we can see this story on the big screen!
on 27 March 2014
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
on 10 March 2015
Paper thin characters in a plot with no substance based on a deceit which simply doesn't bear examination. What is all the fuss about? The least readable "teenage dystopia" novel I've yet sampled; I had to force myself to read it to the end in an unsuccessful attempt to discover something positive. I won't be wasting my money on the successors.
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.