Review: Divergent

Review: DivergentDivergent by Veronica Roth
Series: Divergent #1
Published by Katherine Tegen on April 25, 2011
Genres: Adventure, Dystopian, Romance
Pages: 487
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
one-half-stars

In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, 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 to determine who her friends really are--and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating 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 a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

First Sentence: “There is one mirror in my house.”

Review:
I set out on this review carefully, and in hopes that people will not hate me too much for it. I did not love Divergent; in fact, I wavered between a rating of 2.5 and 3. Part of the problem, I suspect, is likely the hype. The fandom did such a good job of convincing me that this dystopia was flipping awesome that I bought it at full price without having read it, something I pretty much never do…for good reason, apparently. To my mind, Divergent does not deserve the crazy amounts of hype, and definitely is not one of the better dystopias I’ve read.

My problems, though, are much more widespread than just expectations set to high because of the blogosphere’s immense love for this book. Let’s just go in order as I experienced my big three issues, shall we? First off, there’s the writing. I realized on the first page that Roth writes in the stereotypical YA style that I loathe: short sentences that are rarely compound, mostly simple words, and lots of dashes. The writing in Divergent is only marginally better than the writing in Twilight. I make this comparison not because it’s common to compare every YA book to Twilight, but because that really is the book Roth’s writing reminded me of.

Next up is the world-building. Maybe it’s just me but this society does not make one lick of sense. You probably know, if you follow YA fiction at all, that this world is divided up into five factions based on a personality trait: Erudite (intelligence), Dauntless (bravery), Abnegation (selflessness), Candor (honesty), and Amity (kindness). Lol whut, right? How did this happen?

“‘Decades ago our ancestors realized that it is not political ideology, religious belief, race, or nationalism that is to blame for a warring world. Rather, they determines that it was the fault of human personality—of humankind’s inclination toward evil, in whatever form that is. They divided into factions that sought to eradicate those qualities they believed responsible for the world’s disarray.’”

Right. Because the obvious way to remove disarray and prevent people from fighting is to break them up into groups. They’ll be separate but equal. In fact, each faction is responsible for a different aspect of making the society run. Abnegation, since they’re so selfless, run the government and mete out resources. Amity farms. The Erudite think things and make technology. Candor run the judicial system. The Dauntless defend from any possible external threats. Am I the only one who thinks this is the worst idea ever? Who would ever have agreed to this plan?

Not only that, but a big part of being in a faction seems to be hatred of certain other factions. How is that healthy? To eliminate evil, we will separate into groups and resent one another. This is supposed to come off as a recent development, I think, but I really can’t see how it could ever be any other way, since certain personality types just won’t necessarily mesh well. If this were the real world, the Dauntless would probably have overthrown everyone as soon as they were unhappy with a governmental decision, since they’re THE ONLY ONES WHO KNOW HOW TO FIGHT AND THEY HAVE ALL OF THE GUNS.

Oh, and I need to say a little bit more about those factions they developed. I’ve heard the factions in Divergent compared to the houses in Harry Potter, but that’s not what I thought of as I read about them. I like to think of the factions as ‘fratorities,’ a word I made up to describe a gender neutral fraternity or sorority. At the age of 16, the kids of this world have to essentially rush a faction/fratority. Then they go through initiation, and if they don’t pass they can be kicked out. Just like the fraternities and sororities on my college campus, each of these has a different mentality: the friendly ones, the partiers, the smart ones, the trustworthy ones, the ones that do community service for their job applications. Perhaps it was because we so few older individuals in the book, except for some parents, but there was a very childish, fratority feel to the whole thing.

The other nigh insurmountable issue with Divergent to my mind is Tris. At the best of times, I just could not believe that she’s particularly special. At the worst, I wanted to throw her off the cliff more than Peter did. Since she was divergent, she was supposed to basically fit into each faction equally, but I just didn’t see that. She did not strike me as especially brave, honest, kind, intelligent or selfless, despite all the attempts to prove her so. She struck me, in fact, as very average. This is fine and could have been a good thing, except that I was constantly told how unique and amazing she was. I feel like is she’s divergent, than probably about half the population should be.

The other thing that really bothered me about her was her inability to be a good friend, and how incredibly mean she was. The perfect example of this is in her treatment of Al. On the very first night in Dauntless, she’s in her cot, trying to sleep and resisting the urge to cry. Then she hears Al crying and thinks: “I should comfort him—I should want to comfort him, because I was raised that way. Instead I feel disgust. Someone who looks so strong shouldn’t act so weak.” Wow, really, bitch? It would be okay if he was an itty bitty girl like you, but big, masculine men aren’t allowed to cry? This just makes me so incredibly angry. She later befriends Al, but always secretly thinks of him as a wussy baby. This is not okay.

However, you may notice that I went with a 3 rating, so I didn’t hate it, even if I did flirt with a meh. Well, the 3 is because I think I will be reading the next book, because I would like to know what happens next. I do kind of like Four, and I hope he’ll have more of a personality in the next book. I also liked Christina and Will and, assuming their both alive, might enjoy Insurgent more if they had a larger role.

To conclude, I think this book has been vastly over-rated. I recommend it in the same way I would recommend The Selection: with caution and to people looking for a fun, fluffy read. This one has more darkness and violence, but is ultimately satisfying to me in precisely the same unhealthy way.

Favorite Quote:

“‘I like to think I’m helping them by hating them,’ she says. ‘I’m reminding them that they aren’t God’s gift to humankind.’”

30 responses to “Review: Divergent”

  1. KM says:

    Okay, you are SO right about the Greek life/sorority/fraternity thing! Hah! I never thought about it that way before. I haven’t read this book yet because I’m not a huge dystopian fan; it’s been sitting on my shelf for a LONG time. But I think you just have to get over the fact that the worldbuilding doesn’t make sense to actually enjoy it, you know?

  2. I read this book when it first came out and I suspect that’s why I loved it. I sort of beat the hype, so there was no room for me to be let down. I recognized that it wasn’t the best-written thing in the world, but it was one of those books that was just plain fun to read. I didn’t expect you to love it, though – the world building leaves something to be desired.

    • Christina says:

      I can overlook one major flaw, but when it’s major flaw backed up by other things I’m not a fan of, it’s hard to recover. Hype doesn’t help, though. I read the first three Twilight books before the fandom really took off, like I don’t think there were t-shirts or all that jazz yet (or maybe I just hadn’t noticed them), and I enjoyed them. Had I read the first one in full knowledge of the fervor with which people view that series, I probably would have loathed it, because I would be expecting that something so beloved had major literary awesomeness. Ditto Cassie Clare.

    • Ugh, I really want to read City of Bones, since there’s a movie and stuff, but I’m so scared to. I bought a copy a while ago, but there’s just SO MUCH hype, I’m sure I won’t like it. Is sad.

    • Christina says:

      Yeah, I don’t think you’re going to like it much. They are ENJOYABLE, but they’re the kind where you HATE yourself for getting any joy from it, because there’s suspected incest and awfulness.

      Seriously, her books are like drugs. Bad ones.

  3. i gave this book 3 stars 🙂

  4. Lilian says:

    HALLELUJAH! Finally someone who isn’t head over heels with it!
    (I am surprised it took you this long to review it though)
    I thought it was over-hyped too, and I gave it a C rating even though often I feel I was too harsh with it and want to change it to a B–.

    The world bothered me because–well, it didn’t seem to “dystopian.” Nothing was “wrong” with this society, unless you end up factionless I guess. People naturally break up into little cliques in high school too, big deal.
    And, I didn’t think they needed to break into factions (however interesting the concept is), if you don’t like certain people or have violent thoughts against them…DON’T HANG OUT WITH THEM. Not that difficult. You don’t need a government to make it happen.

    I saw Tris’ plain as well. And I don’t know if the way they are nurtured changes them, but I expected a whole lot more “Divergent” people. Even if they are Divergent, so what? What’s the danger? You will like the cute guy in the other faction and make more divergent babies?

    Honestly, I’ve never thought of Tris as a friendly person. It’s also why I don’t see how Four would pick her.

    ON the other hand, the thing that bothered me most was the ferris wheel scene. So you climbed up this gigantic thing on a whim…only to find out you can’t get down? WHAT THE HECK? Stupidity?

    Lilian @ A Novel Toybox

    • Christina says:

      Yay! I’m a grump! Wooo!

      I don’t think C is too harsh. C means average, right? Unexceptional.

      Eh, I think there was a lot wrong with the society, but it’s hard to quantify since it feels so completely unrealistic. The big problem is how much like high school the world feels. Why have fratorities taken over? How does anything really get done? It doesn’t feel like it would. Why are the factionless necessary? Sigh.

      I also think it might have made more sense if there were more separation between the factions. For example, why are they all in Chicago? They should be further apart, and only come together to get their latest crop of people. Oh, right. That’s because they divided up the labor amongst the groups, meaning that they have to work together, even though they hate each other, because they’ve cultivated mistrust and prejudice against other factions. There is no way this society would function.

      Yeah, I don’t know if the Divergent people are a big deal either. I mean, it’s not like Four had done anything with it or that Tris would have. The only reason it ended up mattering was because people were attempting a hostile takeover. If they didn’t tell them they were Divergent and then do evil things, this would never have been an issue. Just stick them in a faction, telling them that’s where they placed, and they will fall in with their bigs.

      Tris is the WORST.

      Bahahaha, she’s like a cat in a tree. And it didn’t seem like the ferris wheel climbing helped really at all.

    • Lilian says:

      EWWWWW, I accidently clicked something and my comment for erased! Now I have to type it again! NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!
      *pouts*

      Well, the thing is: I think I ought to like it more. Everyone else does…I did think was an easy read. Even if the world-building, Tris, and the romance made me want to flip a table.

      The factionless are there to make people scared of not being accepted perhaps?

      “why are they all in Chicago?”
      Obviously, it’s because nobody else in any other city wanted to use this ridiculous module. It’s not like the plan even works–obviously it doesn’t stop evil dictators from planning world (ok, city) domination. And promoting suicidal train/building jumping? You might as well promote mandatory novel reading..then I’d be happy. Especially if it came with a gigantic blue bean bag chair and a nice cup of milk tea.

      Really, the Dauntless and the farmers (Amity I believe?) have the upperhand. They have guards and food, anyone else is just extra.
      And the Dauntless–I don’t know what’s stopping them from slacking off, it’s not like they have national pride. They could be like “ehhh…I don’t feel like defending the city today, I will just sleep.”
      And because they are physically stronger than everyone else (I assume they have exclusive access to weaponry) nobody could defy them.
      You could withhold food, but then they can just raid the food rations.

      Actually, even the factionless have an upperhand as sewage cleaners and garbage collectors. Not sure how long people would last living amongst their trash.
      And the factionless as bus drivers? What’s stopping them from crashing the bus in rage?

      The ferris wheel drove me crazy. ESPECIALLY WHEN THE THING ACTUALLY RUNS AND SHE DIDN’T HAVE TO CLIMB IT IN THE FIRST PLACE. ugh.

      Lilian @ A Novel Toybox

    • Christina says:

      I HAVE DONE THAT BEFORE AND IT IS THE WORST.

      Oh yeah, it was an easy read. That’s why the rating isn’t lower. It’s also why I might still read Insurgent. Just to see. And because I’m obviously a masochist. I mean, reading it went super fast, but there was a ton of facepalming involved.

      Yeah, but…ugh. There will hopefully be more development of that later. It just seems like a system built on cultivating a homeless population is inherently flawed.

      Haha, if I were a dictator, I would totally require people to read for like four hours everyday. MANDATORY. Literacy would be the foundation of my society. Literacy and logic. And…la la la lemon. Right.

      Well, as far as I can tell, the Dauntless just SAY they’re guarding the city, but actually spend all of their time jumping off of things. I mean, what dangers are their OUTSIDE the society. I have seen none. All of them are INSIDE. #notthebestwaytobuildasociety

      AND since the Dauntless hate Abnegation, I do not believe for a second they wouldn’t have overthrown the government for a laugh already. They’d be drunk and like ‘hey, guys, let’s show them and jump off some trains!’ and that would be the end of that.

      MAKES NO SENSE.

      Oh yeah, I FORGOT about that. Well, and, the whole point was to be sneaky and that alerted everyone to where they were. *headdesk*

    • Lilian says:

      I will read Insurgent..sooner or later. WHOO! WE ARE BOTH MASOCHISTS!
      I don’t facepalm I only whack the book against a wall to vent my anger.

      Let’s see if we can make your mandatory literacy society a dystopian! Maybe people will have bad eyesight and have too many cramps?

      Maybe if she was a bit more erudite in her “divergence”…*sigh*

    • Christina says:

      Pretty much. I would totally be an erudite. Yay for being the smart fratority!

  5. Steena says:

    I’m going to need the fratorities broken down into Lord of the Rings races.

    Also, this has nothing to do with the book itself, so much as book descriptions, particularly from Goodreads. Why are debut authors always “BURSTING” onto the scene or “EXPLODING” into the genre? For the love of God, can we have one debut author who just…debuts? No combustion necessary?

    • Christina says:

      Combustication is ESSENTIAL!

      The Goodreads descriptions are generally the same as the ones on Amazon/from the publisher. They like to make everyone sound super epic, particularly for dystopias. It’s just not true. Although if anyone exploded, it was Roth, because her fandom rose up quickly and crazily.

  6. Kayla Beck says:

    I read this book, didn’t love it, and then completely forgot that I read it. Thanks for reminding me – I should probably go write a review. *snickers* I never forget books, but this was so underwhelming. I tend to love audiobooks because the actors can salvage so much. That wasn’t the case here. I really didn’t like Tris, and the whole government thing did not make sense at all. Hell, I didn’t understand the “world” in general. That being said, I still recommend it to people at the library, and they always love it. I just wish they would read Pure when I tell them to do it. >.< As for reading the sequel, I said I was going to do that (since I read Divergent when Insurgent released), but I forgot. I probably won’t be bothered to do it anytime soon. *shrugs*

    • Christina says:

      Oh yeah, I’m sure I’ll recommend this book to people, but I was not impressed myself. That’s why I rated it a 2, which mostly means not for me. I know that this is just the kind of book other people love to read, but I couldn’t get past all of the things.

      I’m not sure if I’ll read the sequel or not.

    • Kayla Beck says:

      The more I review, the more I see how much world-building means to me. I seriously believe that is the most important thing about a book to me. This one just did not have nearly enough of it. *sigh*

    • Christina says:

      The most important thing for me is characterization. If I love the characters, I find it a lot easier to suspend disbelief on some things. If I don’t love them, I pay way more attention to world building and writing. You generally don’t want that.

    • Kayla Beck says:

      I guess I spent too much time in Xanth and Narnia as a little kid. I suppose I’m always looking for a new world to hide in when this one goes all cruddy.

    • Christina says:

      Xanth? Never heard of that one.

      I mean, ideally, I would like the world building to be spot on, but I can live without it. Ex. The Hunger Games, Dualed, etc.

    • Kayla Beck says:

      It’s some hardcore fantasy. I think I told you about the author (Piers Anthony) once upon a time. Or maybe it was someone else. *shrugs* Xanth novels were the only non-school required books I read (and reread more than I will ever admit) until I was probably fifteen. I’ve tried to go back and reread them as an adult, but the magic is mostly gone. Other books have put ideas into my head and made me snobby.

    • Christina says:

      It’s the saddest when childhood favorites lose their shine in adulthood.

    • Kayla Beck says:

      After living in a brown, dull cardboard box for so long, it’s hard to love it other than sentimentally after seeing the bright colors of other worlds. 🙂

    • Christina says:

      Awww, well, they were there for you when you needed them, so at least they earn a loving space in your collection for all time!

  7. Heather says:

    You already know I agree completely, though it was a solid two star read for me. I do, however, have Insurgent on hold at the library because I remember having questions at the end of the book that I really wanted answers to, so we’ll see how I feel about it afterward.

    • Christina says:

      It was also a solid two star for me. Just didn’t like it. Sigh. Yeah, I may be curious enough to read more, but I may only bother if a copy of the book falls in my lap.

  8. vintagevixen says:

    I actually really enjoyed this book but I can definitely see your points. Quite often I wondered about Tris’ humanity but fell in love with the book despite that. Couldn’t exactly explain why if I tried.

    • Christina says:

      Well, I’m glad that you enjoyed it. I can see why people do, but I just couldn’t get past all of those issues in tandem. Were one not bothered by a couple, I bet the book is awesome.

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