Thursday, July 7, 2011

YA book review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (May 3, 2011)
Summary: In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

Review: Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games series has been dethroned in my list of top YA dystopian novels. Well, almost. No other dystopian novels have impacted me more than the Mockingjay trilogy. Delirium tried. Matched, EnclaveWithered and Blood Red Road made inroads. Incarceron and Birthmarked got close. Still, Katniss and Peeta held strong in my heart. Until Tris and Four in a debut novel entitled Divergent came along. I've already returned the book to the library and still Veronica Roth's richly construed world with their various factions and theologies combined with a vivid cast of characters has remained with me, refusing to budge. It's not often I hand out five stars. This novel demanded them.

From the slow opener I had a feeling this book would become one of those books--something special. Engrossing. Captivating. Unforgettable. I don't usually gush on and on about books (do I?) except for the ones which grab me, confine me, and keep me lost throughout the entire duration. Beatrice, a quiet sixteen year old girl on the cusp of adulthood is preparing for  her Choosing Ceremony. Every kid her age picks one out of the five factions which incorporate their world. This faction will become their new home where they'll live for the rest of their lives. But before the ceremony, each individual must endure a 'test'--a simulated test. When Beatrice's 'test' encounters some bumps, her tester warns her to be quiet about being different--about being 'divergent'. The reader knows--like we did when Katniss takes her sister's place--that Beatrice's journey has just begun. 

Oh, what a tumultuous, gut wrenching, emotional journey we witness. When our heroine mutters "Dauntless" and exchanges her nondescript Abnegation grey clothes for black garb, her transformation is underway. Yet we already know she is no regular kid. Not from the way her mind works, her need for knowing, for questioning. Some may have been surprised what happens when the initiates are faced with their first task (and I won't spoil it). I wasn't. Beatrice has a yearning--for life, knowledge, existing, breathing--she's multi-facted inside the petite frame of what many misconstrue or simply write off as girlish or still a child. There's a saying about great things come in small packages and Beatrice is its poster girl.

In her new life, Tris has to endure physical and mental challenges, gets beat up, shot by arrows, laughed at, publicly embarrassed, even has her life threatened, and doesn't give up. Deep down inside, she wants to but decides against it. Inside is where she keeps her feelings hidden, alongside her supply of determination, bravery, intelligence, and many of the other traits which endear her to us. Reading this in first person present tense offers us a unique interpretation and a sense of immediacy. We know all about Tris and this futuristic shell of a land once called Chicago, simply because she shows us everything: we know how she feels about her bunk mates Al, Will, and Christina, her first true girlfriend; we know she grows to hate the mean threesome who habitually seek her out, especially Peter; and we are privy to the way her heartbeat skids and jerks around her instructor, Four. 

What I really enjoyed about Divergent was Tris' journey from meek to thoughtful teen, from small bodied to big minded, from follower to seeker of truth. She doesn't morph into some powerful otherworldly creature with massive muscle mass that everyone adores or has to be around with. Tris grows up because she made a choice to be one of the dauntless which holds repercussions. Watching her grapple with her thoughts and feelings throughout her story made me like, understand and respect her more. The Mockingjay trilogy still remains in first place on my list, while Divergent has taken second. Not everyone may like this violent futuristic world as much as I did but readers should experience this novel at least once. I patiently wait for the second book.

Favorite excerpt: ""I don't want to say this," he says, "but I feel like I have to. It is more important for you to be safe than right, for the time being. Understand?"

His straight eyebrows are drawn low over his eyes. My stomach writhes, partly because I know he makes a good point but I don't want to admit it, and partly because I want something I don't know how to express; I want to press against the space between us until it disappears.

I nod.

"But please, when you see an opportunity . . ." He presses his hand to my cheek, cold and strong, and tilts my head up so I have to look at him. His eyes glint. They look almost predatory. "Ruin them."

I laugh shakily. "You're a little scary, Four."

"Do me a favor," he says, "and don't call me that."

"What should I call you, then?"

"Nothing." He takes his hand from my face. "Yet."" (page 287)

Rating: Loved it. Must. Get. Own. Copy. Now.

Cover comment: I'm glad the magic was contained inside the pages and not on the cover. I'm also glad the art department didn't put Beatrice/Tris on the front cover in a prom or wedding dress. They kept it real. Thank you. (Upon second thoughts, I do see a small similarity to a certain Mockingjay logo, that's where any comparisons end.)

Book source: Library


  1. I'm glad you loved this book. I have it on my shelf and I know that I need to get around to reading it sooner rather than later. Thank you for the awesome review, although I don't think you are waiting "patiently" for the next one lol. :)

  2. Love/loved this book too; I can't wait for the sequel!! eeep, i want it now!!!