In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, 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 alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are – and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating 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 unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, Tris also learns that her secret might help her save the ones she loves… or it might destroy her.
Warning: Spoilers ahead!
Honestly, I’m surprised I was able to read this book in February – a lot of other people requested Divergent from my library because the movie will be out in less than two weeks. But somehow I got a copy, so here I am reviewing it.
Recently I’ve begun dividing my reviews into chunks with a main point / topic sentence / whatever you want to call it, and then supporting parts after each point. I really like this format because it helps me stay on-topic better, so I’m going to use it here and probably for some other reviews as well. But not necessarily for all of them.
Anyway, the review. Here are my thoughts about Divergent.
Tris is not one of the better female protagonists of YA dystopian fiction.
Quite frankly, she’s a bit bland. She’s not annoying, though. She’s just – I don’t know. She doesn’t have anything incredibly defining about her. She’s kind, gutsy, intelligent, et cetera, but there isn’t any personal quality that just amazes me.
For example, the last book I read – Rick Riordan’s The Son of Neptune – has more interesting characters who aren’t even protagonists. They’re minor characters! Reyna is very commanding and an excellent leader and a bit aloof until you get to really know her. Octavian is clever and sneaky and a bit creepy. I’m sorry to start fangirling about Heroes of Olympus in a review of Divergent, but it helps me make my point: it shouldn’t be that hard to define a character.
So yeah, Tris isn’t my favorite female protagonist of YA dystopian fiction. That honor goes to Katniss or Cinder or Cress.
I can relate to Tris.
Tris is bland and yet, I can identify with her better than I can with Katniss. Or with a lot of characters, actually.
I’m not calling myself boring. At least, I wasn’t trying to. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I don’t look at Katniss and see myself. I’m not as withdrawn as her, or as snarky, and although I am enthusiastic about archery, I am an utter failure at the sport. I am not Katniss.
But I can see myself in Tris. I can see myself struggling through Dauntless initiation, ranked nearly at the bottom. I can myself being scared.
Four is awesome.
He’s probably one of my favorite male characters ever – I love how he is alternately tough and vulnerable. He’s smart and determined, but not invincible and so macho it’s overwhelming.
And he gets some of the best lines, the ones that really define what the whole book is about: “We’ve all started to put down the virtues of the other factions in the process of bolstering our own. I don’t want to do that. I want to be brave, and selfless, and smart, and kind, and honest.”
I don’t think Tris and Four make a good couple.
I love Four, and can deal with Tris, but somehow I don’t like them together. I would prefer them to be just friends – or Four could be like a surrogate brother to Tris, since her real one joined another faction and she doesn’t see him often.
I don’t like how Four treats Tris. Sometimes he’s nice, but other times he seems rather harsh, manipulative, or just plain rude. Also, Tris thinks their age difference – two years – is a big deal, but I don’t think it is. Instead, I think it’s weird that one’s basically a teacher and the other is their student. There’s a weird power dynamic between them, and if someone tried to intimidate me that often I definitely wouldn’t date them, no matter how cute they were.
I could clearly imagine the setting of the story.
I’ve been to Chicago loads of times and while I certainly don’t know it like the back of my hand, I have been there often enough to generate a good idea of where Divergent takes place. I went, “Oh! I know where that is! Yay!” numerous times while reading the book.
That was nice, because I usually do my own thing when it comes to picturing the setting of a story (which may be one of the reasons that I didn’t like the Harry Potter films – nothing looked “right” according to my weird, nitpicky imagination).
I think Divergent will be better as a film than as a book.
I think some of the “deep” parts of the book, like Four’s quote from above, might be lost in translation – but I think the action scenes should be amazing, and there are certainly plenty of those.
I felt that most of the action scenes just, well, lacked action. The characters would do something scary or intense or whatever, something that would really increase their adrenaline, and I would think that Veronica Roth didn’t do a good job of translating that excitement into words.
But on screen? Divergent should be awesome. All those scenes that involve heights? I think they will be spectacular.
Especially because one of my fears is heights.
All in all, I enjoyed Divergent, but there were definitely some parts that needed improvement. It was a solid story, yet lacked that little something. That little thing, whatever it is (maybe it changes with each story) that tips a book into the “absolutely awesome” category. Basically, sure, I’ll go see the movie, but I’m not so interested in it that I want to see it on opening day.
Also, I want to fangirl about the upcoming film’s music so I’ll keep that short and sweet: Ellie Goulding wrote a pretty credits song for it and Hans Zimmer composed the score. I don’t like the beginning of the first song (“Beating Heart”) but the chorus is awesome. And Zimmer is EXACTLY who I would’ve chosen so I am such a happy geek right now.
Have you read Divergent? What did you think of it?