In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago, life is split into five factions. When Beatrice is sixteen, she must choose a faction forever. Should she stay with her family, or should she choose a challenge? But Beatrice’s Aptitude Test shows that she isn’t really suited for a faction at all… she is Divergent. And that’s a dangerous thing to be.
I must say, I loved the premise of this book. I’m a huge fan of science fiction, and most dystopian books I’ve read have been intriguing. I expected fast-paced action from this book, and that is what I got.
What I did not expect from this book was, first of all, the loss of plot. Roth lays down some clues as to what’s wrong with this seemingly-perfect dystopian world, and they got my expectations up for what was going to happen next. Detective work, perhaps, with Tris being the one to discover the corruption and put down the rebellion? Wrong. Instead, the book was swallowed into the romance. When I read young adult novels, I always expect them to contain even just a tiny bit of romance. It’s so common in YA books these days that I sometimes feel as if the author forgot something or the book is for younger readers if the romance isn’t included.
But for a book not sold in the “romance” isle, this book had a little bit too much romance in it for my taste. I believed the romance would add to the plot, as romances in YA books tend to do, but it instead swallowed the plot completely, leaving me completely confused when the book finally returned to its plot.
My other major problem with this book was that it put down intelligence. Erudite, the faction of people who valued intelligence, were those who became corrupted, and were therefore at fault. Though there were plenty of Erudite on the good side of the war, the plot could be easily misunderstood, and could convey to some teens that knowledge and intellect is a bad thing.
Something I must praise, though, was the clarity and identity of each of the character’s voices. Roth’s characterization is amazing, and I could easily identify which character was speaking, even if the character’s name was not listed after what they said, and as long as it made logical sense in the context. As a writer, I struggle with characterization, and, if not the plot, the characterization swept me off my feet.
It was also very clear what was going on at all times. Although the reader forgets a little bit of the plot in the midst of the romance, once Roth gets back to it, she explains what has occurred and what is now happening very fluidly. I can’t recall a point in this book at which I was ever confused by what was going on or by what was happening.
The writing quality was pretty good, but it was nothing amazing. Some people I’ve talked to find Roth’s sentences too short, which they say makes her narrating style choppy. I wasn’t troubled by this, but found the word choice to be a bit lower than I expected it to be for a novel of this age group. The writing is definitely engaging, and the start is intriguing, but the first line doesn’t tell the reader a lot about the story. For example, the first line is, “There is one mirror in my house” (1). While the line is memorable, it doesn’t tell you that this girl will soon be involved in a war, or lives in a dystopian society, and identifies as something dangerous.
I gave this book 3.5 out of 5 stars. Would I recommend it to a friend? Yes, I would. In fact, I did, after I read the book. The ending was literally explosive, and while some things at the ending were cliché, other things happened which I did not see coming. While the characterization, content clarity, and believability were all well-done, the plotline was disrupted by unneeded romance, the word choice could have been elevated, and the sentence structure less choppy.
The Divergent movie released on March 21, 2014. Divergent is part of a trilogy by Veronica Roth also containing the books Insurgent and Allegiant.