Sunday, May 1, 2011

Review: Divergent

Hmm, where to start with Divergent . I got my hands on an advanced copy of this book about a month before it was released, and even then, the hype was pretty huge. Everything I read was insanely positive, and I had high hopes that this was going to be something more than a weak Hunger Games copy.

At the start of the book, though, I had a hard time caring all that much. Beatrice lives in a society where everyone is split into one of five factions based on personality traits: Abnegation (selflessness), Candor (honesty), Erudite (intelligence), Amity (peacefulness), or Dauntless (bravery). As a teenager, everyone chooses their faction, but it is rare that anyone leaves the faction in which they've been raised (presumably because those traits would be so hardwired into them by then). Beatrice quickly learns that she is a Divergent (although she doesn't really learn what that means), and she must decide whether to stay in Abnegation or choose another path.

Wouldn't be much of a book if she stayed in Abnegation, now would it?

I really wanted to like this book from the very beginning, but the strictness of the faction traits kept getting in the way. I kept wondering (probably aloud) to myself how this society could reach a place where everyone was so one-dimensional and how it could continue to stay like that. It wasn't until about halfway through the book when anyone within the book seemed to ask these same questions (coincidentally, this is about when I started to enjoy the book).

Also, a majority of the book was something of a training montage, as Beatrice (Tris, now) learns the ways of another faction. If (should I say when?) this gets made into a movie, they would be well-served to make this a total of five minutes. Thank God for cut scenes. I didn't need to read about every instance of her learning to be less selfless.

But like I said, about halfway through the book, the story really starts to pick up, and I found myself as captivated as I had hoped I would be. Tris' burgeoning romance picks up (don't worry, moms, it's very clean and tasteful), and she also starts to learn that maybe the factions aren't as clear-cut as she thought. I finally found myself in her shoes, and I couldn't wait to see where the story was going.

The climax of the story comes along quickly - almost too quickly, considering how much time was wasted on the aforementioned training - and I was left with an ending that did nothing but set up the next book. The story arc's conclusion felt too brief for a book that is almost 500 pages. Of course, I'm still interested in what happens next and will be waiting for the next book, but there could have been a better sense of closure.

Final thoughts? It's an interesting concept for a dystopia, and Roth's writing is strong and compelling. If it were a little shorter, though, it might have made for a stronger story.

4/5 stars

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