Divergent (Divergent trilogy book 1) Review

Book: Divergent

Author: Veronica Roth

This book is another book that has been hyped up a lot this year, with the release of the Divergent film and usually I am wary of books that have received a lot of hype as I find they disappoint me (The Fault In Our Stars which I reviewed earlier this month is a prime example of this). It’s another futuristic novel set in dystopian Chicago (as you can probably tell by now, I’m a big fan of dystopian fiction) and I found that this novel actually was as good as I was told it was. It follows a female heroine (as most of these dystopian books seem to do-I have only read a few that follow either a male hero or have multiple lead characters of different genders) Beatrice Prior who is 16 years old. She lives in a society where people are divided into factions that each follow different virtues-Abnegation who are selfless, Amity who are peaceful, Candor who are honest, Eridute who are clever and Dauntless who are brave. At 16, you have to choose which faction you wish to belong to for the rest of your life (although it’s not quite as simple as that, you have to pass an initiation test before you can be accepted as a member and if you don’t then you are left factionless-homeless essentially) and most teenagers choose to stay with the factions that they were born into. Here is a synopsis of the book:

In a society divided into factions all are forced to choose where they belong. And the choice Beatrice Prior makes shocks everyone, including herself. During extreme initiation tests, Tris must determine who her friends are and whether she can trust the man who both threatens and protects her. Because Tris has a deadly secret. One that might save those she loves….or destroy her.

Beatrice (or Tris as she is known later in the books) makes the rare choice of choosing to change faction from Abnegation to Dauntless. Tris has very unique qualities that means she doesn’t fit neatly into one faction-therefore she is known as a “Divergent” which is very dangerous for her as the leaders of her faction would kill her if they knew what she was-they like everyone to fit into one faction as people can be more easily manipulated that way. The book does have some similarities to The Hunger Games, but the story is different enough that it’s an interesting and exciting read and doesn’t feel like you are reading a replica of The Hunger Games with different characters. The premise of the different factions intrigued me, and I would like to see more of Candor and Amity in future books as we mainly see Eridute, Dauntless and Abnegation in this book, but we are introduced to characters from all and the qualities of the factions come through very clearly in the characters. The first half of the book is a little slow, but the pace definitely picks up, in fact Tris’ transformation from meek and mild to strong and tough is a little rushed if anything but I did much prefer her when she was tough because that’s the sort of heroine I like in a book.

The idea behind the factions is that they are supposed to keep the peace which means that the ending of the novel is a little predictable particularly if you have read dystopian fiction before as most follow a similar sort of formula and there are other parts of the novel that I found a little predicatable as well (but I won’t say what because I don’t want to give spoilers). It’s also a little unbelievable that the instructors of Dauntless are so close in age to the initiates as you would think the people training the intiates would be older as they would have more experience being part of the faction but this is a minor detail and doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of the book. There were some parts with Tris and Four (her instructor) that were a little too teenage chick flick for me but the romance in this book was more sweet and chaste than in most teenage novels so it wasn’t too bad, and the romance was intertwined with the action rather than overshadowing the action and I liked that in this one respect Tris was still vulnerable as that’s quite relatable to a teenage girl. The book’s plot really only starts towards the end, it’s more of a character build-up and romance and introduction of the factions and the training for most of the book but it has enough action packed scenes to keep you engaged and wanting to read the sequel. I could have used a little more description of the world that Tris lives in though-I didn’t find I could imagine it as well as the worlds in some of the books I’ve read and the history of how factions came about is not explored as much as I would have liked-in The Hunger Games we know exactly how and why the Hunger Games occured whereas Divergent doesn’t really give many details as to how and why the factions occurred.

Four as a character was great-he was kind of a mix of everything, sweet yet tough and brave and mysterious and I look forward to learning more about him-we have a glimpse into his background but not much-that was something else I found with this book-I didn’t feel like I knew the characters very well by the end of it even Tris and some of the characters that I felt like I was starting to get to know were killed before I found out more (I won’t say which ones though). There is also no love triangle in this book which was a big plus since a lot of dystopian fiction has love triangles in them so that was refreshing!

Tris is far from perfect, she’s insecure and she questions who she is and what she is throughout the novel which is great because no one wants to read about the perfect girl, I like to read about characters who are flawed, but who you ultimately root for and it was nice to see her discovering new experiences in Dauntless that she was unable to have in Abnegation-I particularly like the part where she has a hamburger for the first time-I thought that was cute. I like the idea that the book questions whether one quality can define us and the nature of fear is also examined-the section with Tris’ fear landscape was one of my favourite parts of the book. I found the factions a little confusing at first and had to keep flicking back to see which one was which but I did get into it after a while.

I’m honestly not sure which faction I would choose if I was in the Divergent world-if I didn’t know how twisted they were I’d probably say Erudite because I love to read but since they are twisted I’m not entirely sure which one of the others I would fit into. I could see how Tris’ decision was difficult but it would have been more shocking if she had chosen Eridute, Candor or Amity than Dauntless as it is clear from the beginning that she is intrigued by the Dauntless. I also didn’t find it that obvious that it was Chicago where the book was set, maybe that’s just because I haven’t been there before.

Overall this book was quite a good read, with a lot of action and relatively good female heroine even though the plot is lacking for a considerable portion of the book. I will read the sequel but I would like to see more character development and world development and a better plot for the next book Insurgent.

My next book review will be of a book called Breathe by Sarah Crossan.

My Rating: 3/5