I can't really remember why I picked up this book to be honest with you, I think because it was just one of those books that was floating around out there and it was talk of the YA community.
Now three stars means I liked this book. Liked it enough to binge read it, and then binge read the second as well, before discovering I was stranded in Rome with no wifi connection and without the third book on my Kobo. THE HORROR.
I do have to say I don't like that people think that every dystopian novel is trying to rip off the hunger games. The Hunger Games trilogy was great, but certainly not the first successful dystopian story, maybe just the first successful one of our generation.
Divergent, in my opinion is completely its own story. The only similarities are the fact that it takes place in the future after the civilization as we know it has fallen apart and been replaced by a new governing system (again not a unique concept or owned by anybody in particular)
This book was about a girl (Tris) and her journey into discovering herself and fighting to become who she wants to be (and hiding the secret of what she truly is). I think the point of this story is to help us to find ourselves. To see that we are beyond our labels, no one is any 'one' thing.
Not to quote the breakfast club or anything but....well, I'm gonna quote the breakfast club.
"You see us as you want to see us - in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain...and an athlete...and a basket case....a princess...and a criminal."
This is essentially the concept of the Divergents. These people who have a bit of everything, are a threat to a perfectly labeled society, because without labels they have nothing but chaos.
Story: So over all I enjoyed the story. The action, fight and death scenes were very vivid and well written. What I did have a bit of trouble with was the romance. Don't get me wrong, if I had a Four & Tris 4ever shirt I would proudly wear it, but I think there was something inbetween that was missing. Once they are together they have this great connection and understanding of one another. However, the lead up to this all just seems very abrupt.
He is her superior in a sense so there is somewhat of a moral dilemma, and it seemed like the main focus of the story was on the fighting and glosses over the fact that they just suddenly boom, are together and are soul mates.
The villains in this story though. I mean, come on. Eric? You love to hate him. Peter? He's just so selfish that you don't even know how to handle it and yet he has so many hilarious moments and truly becomes a main character of this series. He switches allegiances when it's convenient for him and hey (everyone for themselves right?)
I feel like this story wrecks with your emotions in a lot of ways. You never know who you can trust and that's part of the reason I like it. However it is sort of a glimpse into a world of 'what happens when teenagers are in charge' Because seriously, Eric and Four are both eighteen and they are essentially leaders in their faction.
What do we do for training? Neurologically damaging laser tag, and zip lining. HECK YEAH. It sounds like a lot of fun (you know except for being zapped in the training game). WHERE ARE THE ADULTS. Is my question, even Dauntless adults have to have some sort of concern over their children's well-being, no?
Thanks to the first-person (heroine only) present-tense telling--along with the general kids-fighting-to-survive dystopian premise--the Hunger Games influences felt strong throughout...with a dash of 'Inception' for plot spice.
Despite the page count, this was a quick read. The present-tense of course lent itself to immediacy, so the pacing clipped along at a steady rate even through more mundane scenes. The prose was effective, clean, and simplistic. So much so, this reader often had the sense that the story might be geared for more of a younger YA to middle-grade range. But the level of brutality and sensuality was beyond that of what most would recommend for MG.
I was initially encouraged by the personality/faction-based society laid out by Roth: Abnegation, Amity, Erudite, Candor, and Dauntless. Break out a thesaurus and you'll have a clear enough idea about the identity characteristics and ideals of each. (And just in case you get confused, there's a handy glossary and manifesto listing in the back of the book to help you out.) Readers receive the vague sense that the previous world was destroyed by “war” and that a number of the post-war factions are tense with each other. The story takes place in some deteriorated version of Chicago, and secrets are the name of the game. So many secrets...it sometimes feels as though they impede the worldbuilding.
Beatrice (Tris) rapidly transitioned from oppressed, inexperienced little girl to confident bad@ass. A little too rapidly for this reader to suspend disbelief. While Tris' thoughts were logical and easy to follow, I maintained only a tenuous connection to her. In talking to more people who've read the book, I have to conclude that this is more of a personality thing. (I have developed the theory that she particularly appeals to smaller females who've struggled with a sense of impotency, repression, and helplessness. As a more physically powerful and innately aggressive sort, I had more trouble relating to her than I did with, say, Katniss Everdeen.) I also didn't really note the passive offering of useful survivalist information that might lend such a story more weight and lasting value. Add to this the semi two-dimensional side characters/villains and limited depth to Tris' family members...and the result is the character motives and emotional relatability being a bit less pronounced than other comparable books of this genre.
The major flip side to this was Tobias. We weren't in his POV, but I understood him. He wasn't sweet, smooth, or particularly gentle, but he wasn't bad-boy typical, either.
While I appreciate the mainstream author's unorthodox bravery in allowing her heroine to have come from a theistic background of some unspecified sort—and to allow occasional mention of God as part of her thought process—it seemed more like an afterthought toward the end than a cohesive integration. (Not that life-or-death situations don't tend to bring up afterthoughts like that. So, in one sense it did add to the realism.)
I set out on this review carefully, and in hopes that people will not hate me too much for it. I did not love Divergent; in fact, I wavered between a rating of 2.5 and 3. Part of the problem, I suspect, is likely the hype. The fandom did such a good job of convincing me that this dystopia was flipping awesome that I bought it at full price without having read it, something I pretty much never do...for good reason, apparently. To my mind, Divergent does not deserve the crazy amounts of hype, and definitely is not one of the better dystopias I've read.
My problems, though, are much more widespread than just expectations set to high because of the blogosphere's immense love for this book. Let's just go in order as I experienced my big three issues, shall we? First off, there's the writing. I realized on the first page that Roth writes in the stereotypical YA style that I loathe: short sentences that are rarely compound, mostly simple words, and lots of dashes. The writing in Divergent is only marginally better than the writing in Twilight. I make this comparison not because it's common to compare every YA book to Twilight, but because that really is the book Roth's writing reminded me of.
Next up is the world-building. Maybe it's just me but this society does not make one lick of sense. You probably know, if you follow YA fiction at all, that this world is divided up into five factions based on a personality trait: Erudite (intelligence), Dauntless (bravery), Abnegation (selflessness), Candor (honesty), and Amity (kindness). Lol whut, right? How did this happen?
"‘Decades ago our ancestors realized that it is not political ideology, religious belief, race, or nationalism that is to blame for a warring world. Rather, they determines that it was the fault of human personality—of humankind’s inclination toward evil, in whatever form that is. They divided into factions that sought to eradicate those qualities they believed responsible for the world’s disarray.’"
Right. Because the obvious way to remove disarray and prevent people from fighting is to break them up into groups. They'll be separate but equal. In fact, each faction is responsible for a different aspect of making the society run. Abnegation, since they're so selfless, run the government and mete out resources. Amity farms. The Erudite think things and make technology. Candor run the judicial system. The Dauntless defend from any possible external threats. Am I the only one who thinks this is the worst idea ever? Who would ever have agreed to this plan?
Not only that, but a big part of being in a faction seems to be hatred of certain other factions. How is that healthy? To eliminate evil, we will separate into groups and resent one another. This is supposed to come off as a recent development, I think, but I really can't see how it could ever be any other way, since certain personality types just won't necessarily mesh well. If this were the real world, the Dauntless would probably have overthrown everyone as soon as they were unhappy with a governmental decision, since they're THE ONLY ONES WHO KNOW HOW TO FIGHT AND THEY HAVE ALL OF THE GUNS.
Oh, and I need to say a little bit more about those factions they developed. I've heard the factions in Divergent compared to the houses in Harry Potter, but that's not what I thought of as I read about them. I like to think of the factions as 'fratorities,' a word I made up to describe a gender neutral fraternity or sorority. At the age of 16, the kids of this world have to essentially rush a faction/fratority. Then they go through initiation, and if they don't pass they can be kicked out. Just like the fraternities and sororities on my college campus, each of these has a different mentality: the friendly ones, the partiers, the smart ones, the trustworthy ones, the ones that do community service for their job applications. Perhaps it was because we so few older individuals in the book, except for some parents, but there was a very childish, fratority feel to the whole thing.
The other nigh insurmountable issue with Divergent to my mind is Tris. At the best of times, I just could not believe that she's particularly special. At the worst, I wanted to throw her off the cliff more than Peter did. Since she was divergent, she was supposed to basically fit into each faction equally, but I just didn't see that. She did not strike me as especially brave, honest, kind, intelligent or selfless, despite all the attempts to prove her so. She struck me, in fact, as very average. This is fine and could have been a good thing, except that I was constantly told how unique and amazing she was. I feel like is she's divergent, than probably about half the population should be.
The other thing that really bothered me about her was her inability to be a good friend, and how incredibly mean she was. The perfect example of this is in her treatment of Al. On the very first night in Dauntless, she's in her cot, trying to sleep and resisting the urge to cry. Then she hears Al crying and thinks: "I should comfort him---I should want to comfort him, because I was raised that way. Instead I feel disgust. Someone who looks so strong shouldn't act so weak." Wow, really, bitch? It would be okay if he was an itty bitty girl like you, but big, masculine men aren't allowed to cry? This just makes me so incredibly angry. She later befriends Al, but always secretly thinks of him as a wussy baby. This is not okay.
However, you may notice that I went with a 3 rating, so I didn't hate it, even if I did flirt with a meh. Well, the 3 is because I think I will be reading the next book, because I would like to know what happens next. I do kind of like Four, and I hope he'll have more of a personality in the next book. I also liked Christina and Will and, assuming their both alive, might enjoy Insurgent more if they had a larger role.
To conclude, I think this book has been vastly over-rated. I recommend it in the same way I would recommend The Selection: with caution and to people looking for a fun, fluffy read. This one has more darkness and violence, but is ultimately satisfying to me in precisely the same unhealthy way.
Throughout the book I was uncertain what to think, the kind of dystopia it was confused me greatly for most of the story. Was it the kind that I found in Matched or Giver, where everything was so controlled and any kind of imperfection was either eradicated or unknown by the general populace. Or was it that kind found in 1984 where the government purposefully made an underdog group to keep those who were in the upper groups in line. Eventually I figured it was actually neither, in fact the resemblance was more closely tied to our own world than that of most dystopian's I have read. However, this close resemblance is not a chilling cry to change our ways as 1984. Instead it seemed more like it was grabbed from our time and changed around a bit and plopped into the story to create the political intrigue and corruption in government of today, with a slightly dystopian twist.
If any of that made sense to anyone, I congratulate you. I barely made sense to me and I am still slightly confused as to what I think about it. I think it worked, I enjoyed the book a lot, but it confused me a lot too. As is evident. I guess in the end I just stopped trying to understand the world and just enjoyed the story.
Despite my confusion, I did really enjoy this book a lot. The only thing that kept it from getting a five star was my confusion, and a few other minor things.
Tris was an excellent protagonist; she was flawed and imperfect and every action she took made sense in relation to her character. The author didn't just change the character to fit what she, or the readers might have wanted. I know there were quite a few times that I got really annoyed and mad at Tris, but I loved every minute of it because really, is there anyone you know who you spend a lot of time with that doesn't annoy you at least a little bit from time to time? In that way Tris reminded me of Katniss, which is perhaps why so many who liked Hunger Games liked Divergent, because despite the huge enormous differences between Katniss and Tris they are in a roundabout way written the same.
As for Four(haha for four!) at first I had some trouble getting over the fact that he was her instructor, that seemed kind of underhanded and gross. Also I couldn't get over how mean he was to her, it seemed unlikely that anything would happen. But then I remembered he was not too much older than her, and that he would only instruct her for a couple weeks and then they would be members together. And when he started being sweet to her and going out of his way to explain things to her I began to see that their romance could work and be really sweet and adorable. Which is basically what happens and I adore it! Four....errr Tobias, is awesome. Just so everyone knows. :)
About halfway through the book I stopped liking/caring about Christina, Will, and Al. I found them annoying and not real friends, it was totally realistic and I'm sure that was the author's intention, but I stopped liking them. I loved Uriah and co. the whole way through however, they were epically awesome!
As for Peter and his friends, throughout most of the book I kept thinking how unlikely it was that someone could be so consistently mean with no redeeming qualities. Then I remembered a girl in my sister's class throughout most of her school years. In all the time I knew her she was that consistently mean, and as far as I know she has no qualities that I would consider good. In fact, she reminded me a lot of Peter in how she treated my sister, once I remembered her, I realized that Peter wasn't that far-fetched of a character. Still I think it would have been intriguing to see if he does change his ways or have some good qualities hidden deep inside of him, perhaps that will be explored in the next book?
Plot talk. Despite all the action and awesomeness, it was slow. How does that work?!?!?!? Well, the actual over-arcing plot doesn't get started until the last 100 or so pages. There are hints given throughout the book and slight advancements but overall it happens in the last portion of the book. Did I mind? Not that much, the rest of the book was compelling and interesting and important, but I was confused(again) about the plot. I had no clue what it was and I was almost done, I kept wondering if I was missing something important, or if the plot of the book was just her initiation into Dauntless. Eventually I realized that the plot was happening just in very tiny increments and was probably going to jumpstart after her initiation(hint: I was right). Like I said though, I didn't mind how the plot went, it just confused me. I don't like being confused. :P
I loved the idea behind the factions though! I thought it was incredibly unique and was really interesting to read and learn about. I found that at the end it would have been incredibly interesting to read about a bunch of different characters going through different initiations into the different factions. Except for maybe Abnegation, which sounds incredibly boring. But other than that it would be so interesting! It also made complete sense in the end that they would become corrupt, because obviously humans are flawed and can't maintain the perfect ideal of a character trait forever. I think the way things are going down is intriguing and I can't wait to see what happens in the coming books.
Characterization, especially for Tris and the general idea with the factions
This book is a fun read, as long as you don't take more than five minutes to think about it
This book had very good action, and I liked how the prose was effective without drawing too much attention to itself.
With that said, I never felt like I was fully invested in the book. I read the first 100 pages online, and only decided to read the rest because I was somewhat curious to see what would happen.
This book required too much suspension of disbelief. The very idea of "factions" is more of a crazy "what if?" than a critique of society as it really exists. Some people claim that this book criticizes society's obsession with labels and categorizing people. In my experience, however, society DOESN'T have an obsession with labels. On the contrary, it's fiction writers who have a tendency to put people into boxes. Take high school cliques: In fiction, you have your jocks, snobby cheerleaders, nerds, goths, burnouts, etc. These easily defined cliques do not actually exist in the real world.
A lot of the events of the book felt contrived. For example, I didn't buy Al's sudden transformation. Out of all of the Dauntless initiates, I found him to be the bravest. Take the part where he was cheering on Christina, or the times when he'd purposefully lose a fight so as not to hurt anyone else--he stood by his principles, even though he knew he would risk becoming factionless. I found it impossible to believe that he would team up with Peter and risk hurting Tris just because of a few nightmares.
I also thought that the use of technology destroyed any potential this book could have had. Being able to overcome your fears in what you know is a virtual reality simulation is NOT character development. Nor does it draw the reader in, because we know it's not real. Aside from that, I felt that Beatrice's "divergence" was nothing more than a handy gimmick given to her and a select few other characters. (Yes, I know it's supposed to be because "Abnegation are strong-willed," but honestly, Beatrice's ability to beat simulations and avoid mind control just felt like a cheap trick.)
And seriously, how does having a flexible personality relate to having stronger willpower? That just doesn't make sense.
Also, the villains felt far too one-dimensional. Most of them are either power-hungry maniacs or complete sociopaths.
Divergent, though at times a heart-pounding, adrenaline pumping thrill ride, was slightly overwhelmed by poor world-building, lacklustre characters and the inability to persuade me that this future was possible.
Imagine a world where society is divided into five factions, each which represents a particular virtue - Candor (the honest), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), Erudite (the intelligent) and Abnegation (the selfless). A little simplistic, but with a slight suspension of disbelief, still plausible. Tris originates from Abnegation, a faction she never truly felt connected to. Having reached the wise age of sixteen (please note the sarcasm), Tris must now decide which faction she would like to commit the rest of her life to. This was the first issue I had with Divergent. How can a sixteen-year-old be expected to understand the implications of a life-changing decision? I still struggle with the question of what I want to be when I grow up, and I know had I been forced to choose at sixteen, I would be regretting that decision now. I did admire that Tris was brave enough to follow her heart and choose Dauntless - knowing that she would be removed from both her parents and the home that she grew up in - but the fact that she deviated from the expected path after watching her brother do the same made her bold statement seem less courageous.
Having now pledged her allegiance to Dauntless, Tris quickly learns that the Dauntless have earned their reputation of thrill-seekers - her first task, after jumping on to a moving train, is to jump off of that train on to the roof of a building. Throughout the book we watch Tris perform these "brave" feats, but the more I watched her hurl herself off of something moving or participate in a fight with another Dauntless initiate, the more I felt like the actions of the Dauntless weren't done out of bravery, but out of stupidity. And Tris (along with the majority of the other initiates) just accepted that by performing these stupid acts, she would become brave and thus gain acceptance. This was my second problem with Divergent - the holes in the world building. I just can't fathom a world where this would be seen as a plausible solution to whatever issue we got ourselves in to. How does risking your life in order to be transported from one location to another accomplish anything? (Although I must admit, it would look pretty cool to watch on the big screen!) Maybe if there had been any explanation as to how the world had reached this point, I could have understood the reason behind all of the theatrics. There was also never any explanation as to what existed outside of the walls of Tris' society - had the rest of the world also divided itself into factions? And what was the point in having the factionless? If someone wasn't fit to be a part of any faction, why were resources wasted on their survival - why weren't they outcast into the world beyond? It just didn't make sense to me to label these people as outcast, and then worry about their well-being.
The characters, though enjoyable, also fell a little flat for me. I enjoyed watching Tris progress through the various Dauntless initiations, but I never truly connected with her. Her success seemed to mostly come from her divergence, which limited how much courage I could attribute to her actions. Was she persevering because she was truly brave, or because her divergence made everything easier for her? Her actions throughout the book became more and more self-centred, which I'm attributing to her acceptance of her Dauntless nature and the release of her old Abnegation habits, but it still surprised me. I did enjoy the development of her relationship with Four, as it progressed slowly and didn't feel forced, but because I didn't connect with Tris, I didn't feel the deep connection she told me she shared with him. I loved Four and watching him work at overcoming his fears, which was one of the only moments of true bravery that I saw in Divergent. The other characters were all necessary to move the plot forward, but not particularly memorable.
I do wish the fear behind divergence had been explored more, since the concept being underdeveloped had me wondering what all the fuss was about, and there were times when I felt the level of violence was unnecessary - again, many Dauntless acts seemed more like stupidity then bravery. But, that being said, I really enjoyed reading Divergent. It was a fun, fast read and it kept me fully entertained from start to finish.
I enjoyed Divergent. I really did. The way the author wrote and approached her story was fresh. I loved her take on a futuristic, dystopian society in which everyone lived according to their philosophical views. However, I felt like the author was… well, I felt like she left out on some things, and that the details weren’t fully fleshed out. It’s like building up something, then leaving it with just the structure, and no decoration. It works, but it feels a little empty. Was I the only one who felt a little lost and confused upon finishing this book?
First, the mirror. Maybe this is just me, and I’m just too nit-picky. But I did recall that Trish wasn’t supposed to be vain. Thus she doesn’t look into the mirror unless she’s cutting her hair. But why would she look into the mirror if she wasn’t supposed to be vain? Why would she care about the final look unless she was at least the slightest bit vain, which her faction doesn’t allow?
What do the factions do? We’re told that Abnegation runs the government. Okay. What about the others? Does those of the Amity just sit around all day? Do the Dauntless just… jump off buildings and fight each other all day? Do the Erudite really just sit with their faces glued to the computer for the rest of their lives? What happens? What do they do? Honestly, I have no clue.
Why are the sorted into factions, anyways? What happened that made them all break off into groups based on their philosophical views? The story only slightly brushed this topic, and I still have no clue of the back-story to this. Why is this world the way it is? Why are there factions? What happened? Who decided on it? To this, I don’t have an answer, either.
What about the train? Where does it go? Who runs it? Why is it there? Nothing’s really explained. With the train, it’s just kind of… there. You don’t know why – it’s just there. It’s just this train that happens to conveniently be there for the Dauntless to ride and jump off of, and then it continues to the magical land of ‘It’s Here For The Characters’ Convenience.’ And the girl – the first girl to jump when they’re heading to the Dauntless headquarters. No one’s there to catch her. How does she land?
The overall structure and planning that comes with this story has holes in it. Large, gaping holes that, evidently, the author didn’t bother fixing. Large, gaping holes that are now filled with question marks.
And, of course, a story’s never complete without our heroine falling in love. So that’s where Four comes in. Sexy, bad-ass, but *gasps* he has a totally soft, vulnerable heart with a wall built around it, closing himself off from the rest of the world – a result of childhood abuse. A good-looking, tough guy with a soft heart. And, of course, they’re both infatuated with each other. Here’s where I can bring in the cookie cutters, and show you countless other YA books with the exact. Same. Romance. Story-line.
Needless to say, Divergent was a major disappointment for me. I did enjoy some parts of it, namely the action scenes and how Tris didn’t double back immediately after each punch. You don’t know how many times I’ve seen that sort of thing happen in books – the main character just doubles back after being punched in the gut, as if she/he’s perfectly okay. That sort of thing really hurts though, and I’m glad the author took that into account. It made everything seem all the more intense and real. However, with only a half-built world, cookie-cutter characters and an infatuation between two characters that made me grimace, this really wasn’t the book for me.