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30 June 2014

Book Review: Divergent


Divergent (Divergent, #1)Divergent by Veronica Roth
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Dystopian future stories intrigue the heck out of me.  Even dystopian present stories intrigue me; stories about how the world would be if we gave in to our worst selves.  Stories like "The Most Dangerous Game" and 1984 and Anthem.

The new generation of these stories was officially kicked off with the Hunger Games trilogy, which I found to be readable and, of course, intriguing.  So of course I had to read Divergent

I liked it.  The factions were, um, intriguing.  I did question their odd names, though a Q&A with the author in the back of my edition explains, "...I did intentionally choose unfamiliar words, for an assortment of reasons.  One of them is that I wanted to slow down comprehension of what each faction stands for, so you learn as much by observing as by the name of the faction itself.  Another is that the definitions of the more obscure words are more specific, in interesting ways.  And a third is -- since I'm being honest here -- that they sound cooler."  However, moreso than their odd names was that they didn't match; Candor, Abnegation and Amity are all nouns.  Dauntless and Erudite are both adjectives.  This little "lack of detail" bothered me.  Then I got to the end of the book and realized that the "doing" factions, the ones who are the most active in trying to change the world, whether for good or bad, are adjective factions.  If that was a conscious choice, bravo Ms. Roth.

I found Roth's writing to range from passable to effective.  She's telling an action story, after all, so there isn't much room for reflection.  But the few moments of authorial insight into the human character she gave us made me wish for so much more.

When recently-removed-from-Abnegation Tris reflects, "I guess I haven't really had a friend, period.  It's impossible to have real friendship when no one feels like they can accept help or even talk about themselves."

Or after Edward's violent injury when Tris reflects, "I don't want to cry for Edward--at least not in the deep, personal way that you cry for a friend or a loved one.  I want to cry because something terrible happened, and I saw it, and I could not see a way to mend it."

Or when she's falling in love and she thinks, "And even though it seems impossible that he could feel something for me, given all that I'm not ... maybe it isn't."

I'm eager to continue this story.  I'm hopeful that there will be lessons about how human nature must contain portions of all these factions, and many more, in order to create individual balanced lives, which creates a balanced society.  I'm hopeful that lessons like the one that sticks with me most from the Harry Potter books ("We've all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That's who we really are.”) will be the overarching moral of the trilogy.

But if this does not come to pass, at least I know it will be a darn good adventure read.


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