Review: Divergent by Veronica RothRating: YES, I finally read it, and YES, I loved it just as much as you said I would. I'm not sure I would even dare criticize this book if I didn't, though, since you all would probably eat me.
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, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.
I'm not sure how to write a review for a book most of you have read and almost all of you have heard of. If you haven't heard of it, yay! Welcome to Earth! That thing up there is sky and those down there are rocks. Don't eat them. (Just kidding. I have a friend who only just found out there was MORE THAN ONE LORD OF THE RINGS MOVIE, and I'm still on speaking terms with her, so clearly I don't judge.) Also I'm feeling particularly lazy today, so I'm just going to put a bunch of gifs in here to tide you over
I will admit, I had such a hard time starting this book. Because it came with EXPECTATIONS, you know? So many people told me I was going to love it that I almost became sure I wouldn't. Because there was no way it could be as good as everyone said it would, and who wants to read things that are popular, I mean ew and it's becoming a movie how mainstream, blah blah hipster. And when I read the first couple of pages, I thought my fears were being confirmed. I didn't get it. I thought Beatrice was flat and her parents didn't have personality. I thought I might be dystopia-ed out. I was... unsure.
And then Beatrice hopped a train.
Beatrice makes the choice that will change the rest of her life. She throws over Abnegation to become Dauntless, changes her name to Tris, and leaps off a building into a whole new life. And that, my friends, is when I got why everyone was talking about this book. Here was the action. Here was the drama. Here was Tris being a completely awesome and brilliant YA heroine on par with Katniss and Katsa. And it was here, in the dangerous and dramatic underground Dauntless compound, that I met Four. Oh, Four.
I mean, I don't dare say much about him, lest I spoil it for the six people who haven't read it yet, but I'll take one in every color, please. He's strong. He's handsome. He's complicated. And he sees more in Tris than anybody ever has. I was just in awe with how deeply he got her, especially when it came to understanding how powerful and resilient she was. Not once did he think of her as a victim, or weak, or vulnerable, even when truly awful things were happening to her.
Tris decided to be Dauntless, which means she's basically training to join the Marines. And it's the worst. It's a dog-eat-dog world in the Dauntless compound, since only a handful of the initiates will make it, and those who don't will be Factionless, a fate worse than death in Tris' world. Which is handy, as it's likely a bunch of the initiates will die. No pressure, or anything. Tris' journey in Dauntless is basically her learning how to be the total brilliant badass she's meant to be. She really comes into her own, going from:
|Ummm I'm from Abnegation so I don't really know how to|
OH MY GOD you want me to jump off a building are you high
|Let's go kick some |
To say she's strong is an understatement. This is a girl that never breaks, no matter how far she's pushed. She's always the agent of her own story, meaning it's her choices that drive the narrative. Tris is never a passenger in her own story, never merely reacting to what goes on around her. She's the smallest in her initiate class and no one thinks much of her, but the beauty of Tris is that she thinks a lot of herself. She knows she can beat them. She knows she will.
Of course there are all the usual ingredients of a dystopian. Big Bad Trouble is Brewing amongst the factions, there's political blah blah and tension and villains and so. I was nervous about how all that was going to be pulled off, considering Roth had to balance all that with Tris' training, her romance with Four, her developing badassery, her dealings with the eeeeevil Peter, and her competitive friendships. High concept dystopians are so tricky. I really connect with the characters, but I'm sold by the execution. I don't care how good your concept is if you can't execute it. Thankfully, Roth's execution is pretty much:
The ending is so satisfyingly climax-y, and even though I think I saw it coming, certain aspects of it DEFINITELY stunned me. Also, I'm totally glad I own Insurgent and was able to transition into it immediately, because if I'd had to wait a year, there would have been blood. I gobbled this book up in about a day. It wasn't perfect, but it was so bloody entertaining, well-written, emotional, and fast-paced that I literally couldn't put it down. If you're not on the bandwagon of this particular YA phenomenon, by choice or by ignorance, I'd say get on it, at least so you'll know why I think Shailene Woodley is beyond awesome casting for the movie, despite the fact she's too tall to be the Tris in my head.
|What say you? Do you see Tris?|
For the record, I would most decidedly NOT be Dauntless, because I'm not particularly fond of beating the life out of people and I tend to cry when I get too high off the ground. Seriously, I get dizzy and panicky on escalators. I'm convinced that falling off one is how I'm going to die. No way would I be Abnegation, because I'm a selfish brat who's quite fond of mirrors. Candor would be THE WORST because I'm a lying liar who lies and no way would I want to know what everybody else is thinking all the time. Erudite I could do in theory, since I'm a fan of all the booking and the learning and the science-ing, except they're kind of all complete assholes over there and I have a little issue with that. Which leaves me with Amity, the Hufflepuff of the Divergent world (Cedric: Hufflepuff are particularly good finders! Dumbledore: What the hell is a Hufflepuff?). I guess I could see myself being okay with Amity, singing kumbaya and playing the banjo and eating cupcakes for the rest of my days. Or at least until I snapped and punched someone just for something to do.
Which I guess is part of the point of the world Roth has created. Human nature is so vast and varied that it's impossible to conform to one archetype. The Divergent society is lovely on paper as a kind of utopian intellectual exercise, but it falls apart in practice because it fails to take human nature into account. And it fails to recognize that the strongest among us are the ones who can be brave, selfless, truthful, intelligent, and kind, sometimes all at once, sometimes only at the right times.
So tell me: if you lived in Tris' world, meaning you had to squish yourself into one of the metaphorical Faction boxes on your sixteenth birthday, which would it be? Dauntless, Abnegation, Candor, Erudite, or Amity?