Monday, January 20, 2014

Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent by Veronica Roth
Divergent (Divergent #1)
By Veronica Roth
Publisher:
Katherine Tegen Books
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased

To Sum It Up: As the day approaches when Beatrice Prior must decide whether or not to remain with the faction she was born into, she worries that she does not possess the selflessness that embodies Abnegation. When the time arrives to make the choice that will determine her future, Beatrice opts for a life that is vastly different from the one she knew. Now calling herself Tris, her initiation is grueling, and she carries an extra burden—a secret about herself that is so dangerous, it could get her killed.

Review: Heavily hyped books bring high expectations, and Divergent is one of the most talked about titles I can think of in recent memory. I am extremely late to the Divergent party, despite the fact that I purchased a copy of the novel not too long after its release, having been persuaded to do so by said hype. I always get a little nervous before reading books with massive fandoms; I know it’s silly, but when an ├╝ber popular book doesn’t work out for me, I think, “But everyone else loved it!” Unfortunately, Divergent left me questioning what I missed that so, so many other readers adored about it. So if this happens to be one of your favorite books, you might want to skip the rest of this review.

At first I found the social structure of the world intriguing; there are five factions, each associated with a particular attribute: Candor (honesty), Abnegation (selflessness), Amity (peace), Erudite (intelligence), and Dauntless (bravery). I also thought it was interesting how faction members could be identified by how they dressed (plain gray garb for Abnegation, for instance). As I continued reading, however, I found myself looking for more depth to the world-building than clothing descriptions and the characters acting a certain way depending on their faction (Abnegation willingly give up their seats on the bus, Dauntless jump on and off moving trains, etc.). The world never seemed fully fleshed out, and I also had a lot of trouble buying that it ever came into existence in the first place.

The more I thought about this society, the more its plausibility bothered me. The formation of the factions has supposedly resulted in years of peace, and I struggle to see how that’s possible. I just don’t think it’s so easy to compartmentalize people like that. Tris’s conflict is that she doesn’t neatly fit into any one faction, and it kind of boggles my mind that this isn’t a much more common occurrence. I can’t imagine my life revolving around a single trait, and maybe that’s why I couldn’t wrap my head around the way this world operated.

Beatrice/Tris presented another problem for me; her character seemed all over the place, sometimes lacking confidence and other times arrogant. I never felt any sympathy for her troubles; I never connected with her, period. I thought the book tried too hard to portray her as a badass heroine, and I’m sorry, but it takes more than getting a few tattoos and leaping from a rooftop to convince me that you’re a badass heroine. Something that I think contributed to the distance between Tris as a narrator and me as a reader was the prose. It just sounded choppy in my head, and it was almost as though the book had an aversion to using contractions, not so much in the dialogue but in Tris’s narration.

Some of Tris’s fellow initiates, like Christina and Will, fared slightly better in the character development department, but in the end, none truly stood out. Tris’s attitude toward them sometimes really annoyed me; one minute she’d consider them her friends, the next she’d be thinking not-so-friendly thoughts about them. As for the famous Four, he has a rather compelling backstory, but like the rest of the characters, he just didn’t make an indelible impression.

I will give Divergent credit for some intense action scenes, especially during Tris’s punishing initiation. Those were quite engrossing to read; if only the rest of the novel had been that engaging. Overall I was not wowed by this, as much as I tried to give it a chance to awe me the way it has its legion of devoted fans.

All in All: At last I can say that I’ve read Divergent. It didn’t go as I’d hoped, though, and at the moment I’m really hesitant to continue the series.

12 comments:

  1. I had the same issues with the world building..the explanation later is even less plausible imho!

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    1. Uh-oh! Now I really don't think this series is for me . . . .

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  2. Divergent has received so much hype that I don't know if it really deserves. That being said, I enjoyed the book a lot because the plausibility issues didn't bother me too much. The world was just fascinating to me, and I loved the action scenes. I can't wait to see how they translate in film. Great review though! I'm sorry you didn't like it that much.

    -P.E. @ The Sirenic Codex

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    1. I did think the action scenes were well done; I just felt like their momentum didn't carry through the rest of the book. I admit to being a little curious about the movie, though I'll probably wait for the DVD.

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  3. I remember reading this one fresh off of Hunger Games on a HUGE book hangover and just blasting through it. I needed the adrenaline fix and this certainly did the trick. Then I read Insurgent and it was something of a letdown. I remember rating it favorably but the more I thought about it, the more I fell out of love with the series. Since then, I've read a few reviews from trusted bloggers like you who really didn't buy into the world building at all. I honestly wonder at this point if I read it now for the first time, would I love it as much (or even at all)?! I'd certainly be curious to read your thoughts on Insurgent but I can definitely understand your hesitating to go on with the series. I am planing on finally getting into Allegiant soon, so we'll see how that goes hehe Lovely review ^^ and I'm sorry this one didn't live up to the hyp for you!

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    1. I'll be watching out for your Allegiant review! I've been seeing some rather mixed reactions to it, but I don't know if I can make it through Insurgent to see what put some readers off about Allegiant. And I can totally relate to loving a series when I first read it and then looking back and realizing that maybe it wasn't as great as I'd originally thought.

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  4. I haven't read this one yet either though I've had it for the longest time. I am feeling the same anxiety that you did towards the hype and being let down. I feel like it would be really hard for me to wrap my head around having to fit in one 'type' as well. I will eventually read it because I really want to know what it's all about. Great review! Jaclyn @ JC's Book Haven.

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    1. I overthink everything, even non-bookish stuff, and maybe that's why I encounter difficulty with accepting dystopian worlds in particular sometimes. When you do get the chance to read this, I'll be curious to see what you think.

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  5. Wow. I wouldn't have expected this but you make great valid points. I had a hard time with this one to start, mostly due to the odd choppy writing style but ended up really loving the story. Though, I've yet to finish the series. Maybe never will. Have I ever told you I love the way you think? You disentangle books like none other.

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    1. Aww, thanks! :D I'm glad I'm not the only one who noticed something was up with the prose; the dialogue was ok, but the way Tris's internal thoughts were written just didn't flow on the page. I was really surprised by how I felt after reading this; I didn't go into it figuring I'd automatically love it, but I also didn't predict feeling so let down by it, either.

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  6. I entirely agree with this review. I was expecting something spectacular when I read Divergent - I fall into hype so easily. But it really wasn't. Tris felt "off", as you mentioned, plus I couldn't fall in love or feel anything for the characters. Which was a huge let down.

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    1. I can't help but pay attention to books that have huge followings, even though I should know better by now, lol. Tris was an inconsistent character to me, and that was always at the forefront of my mind as I read. I really grasped to find something about this book to love, but ultimately, I just couldn't.

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