“Divergent” by Veronica Roth: a book review

So, where faction are you? The Honest, Selfless, Brave, Intelligent, or Peaceful?

Though not all the world’s virtues are represented here, these are the factions that a futuristic Chicago is divided into, making the society in DIVERGENT”  ripe for discussion: which faction is more important? Or is it more important to find a balance of them all within ourselves? And do people fit into just one or a few? Can we be made to conform? Should we?

Choices, choices, choices.

However you feel about that set up, rest assured the book is great, which is better than “good” but not “excellent.” People will either like this or love it, I wager. Is it better writing than the Hunger Games Trilogy? Yes. Is the overall story better and more addicting? That’s arguable; and honestly remains to be seen. With the sequel, Insurgent, coming out in just weeks, May 2012, the jury is still out.

It might be unfair to compare every book I’ve been doing lately to Hunger Games, but it is: (a) the book everybody knows about right now; and (b) is a dystopian-adventure, coming-of-age told in first-person present tense. This is the hot genre right now, and luckily for me, I like it. Full of parallels between the fictional world and our world, young adults from 14-21 can learn about oligarchies, dystopias, checks-and-balances, social issues, sympathy, empathy, bravery, and more. Plus, these kinds of high-energy books have really connected with tens of thousands of teenage readers over the past few years — we’ll say since about 2006.

Expect a lot of these to be made into films between 2013 and 2020, including “Matched” and “Blood Red Road”, maybe even “The Forest of Hand and Teeth.”

A lot of first time and second time authors are getting some big breaks into the industry by being at the right place at the right time, and I can honestly say that they are not just riding on coattails completely. (Of course, a bit.) But they are all bringing something slightly different to the table (if you ignore the usual romance sub-plots and the unconfident female protagonists who blossom into confidence). Some things are just “staples” of the genre. Tried and true.

But rest assured, Divergent, the first novel by Veronica Roth, has as much or more death, groping, kissing, and definitely brings more socio-political ethical questions than the Hunger Games. Less survival, more brain. Equal in violence, but somehow more raw.

The writer and editor here are clearly a better team than Collins and her editor, and I’m optimistic that Roth’s trilogy will do what the Collins’ trilogy could not: deliver on big ideas about family, love, and virtues, show some real love and not be so virginal/chaste/asexual, and more deeply consider the politics of society. Plus, Roth’s work flows better and delivers more fluent action paragraphs. Honestly, I give Collins’ trilogy a 7/10. Divergent is on course to be an 8.

Criticism for Divergent: the book could have been fifty pages thinner, chopping every other sentence out of the middle 100 pages. But beyond that, it’s believable; except for a choppy, sudden stumble into the third act, because, well, it’s time to get to that part of the story…. I guess…. Right? But the last 50 pages makes up for any minor grief. Great, deafening, realistic, heart-breaking, hopeful ending.

Lose some, gain, some, move on. This is just the beginning of something HUGE.

Unlike the one-dimensional hierarchal vagaries shabbily explored in the Hunger Games, the Divergent Series is likely to touch on something more than just being weary about those in power, but how we should be living our lives — period. Through a war of virtues and finding where we belong and what is the best way for a government to represent the whole, Divergent could almost stand as a precursor to the Hunger Games series, showing what happened during the war 75 years ago when the “factions/districts” rebelled.

If any of this interests you, this is a book worth reading. It might very well be the next big series. Also, look out for The Maze Runner and Legend – two other dystopian Young Adult novels by first time authors that are supposed to kick major ass if you like fast-paced, me-against-the-world, danger books.

At 480 pages, I killed Divergent in three days. It’s a good book to talk to friends about, especially if you think this kind of government could ever work. Why or why not? Read with a friend!!!

Rating: 4/5

MH

p.s. an interesting reviewer youtube v-log “the readables” is silghtly more critical here, but well supported — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XWa0KPgMgEQ&feature=relmfu

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11 Comments

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11 responses to ““Divergent” by Veronica Roth: a book review

  1. Thanks for your review of DIVERGENT. I bought the novel and have been wary of it because it hasn’t received as many good reviews as other books I liked. It’s refreshing to find a book review as in-depth as yours. I appreciate it!

    • thanks. LOL. i try to write something more than two paragraphs, like: “OMG, this book was super good.” that tells no one anything of value. I try to get to the heart of the books, about how we can take something away from them. Comparisons to other books always help to so people know what it is like and not like. Please check back as I will be doing more cool YA books in the coming weeks and months, and check out some of the Young Adult Books I mention in the post. 🙂 Matt H — writer, librarian, musician

  2. lian92

    Sorry but thats a matter of opinion i think Hunger games are much more raw and explores the world better you cant say the Hunger games are werse writen than Divergent as if its a fact because for people like me Divegent had slopy unrealistic worlbuilding.

  3. lian92

    and i dont think sex is important to show the point of the book and Spoiler i found the sciene with Tris almost getting raped was just included so that the author coud be cold brave i found it complitly unnesisery and Hunger games has more shoking deathes in my opinion nothing is more terrifiying than a 12 yearold child diying especially in such horrifiying surcumstanses if you want grafhic violent sex read Battle Royale the manga. Sorry for mistakes in edvanse.

    • Besides the fact there are three periods between both your comments blocks and over ten misspelled words, I will retort to your claims.

      Though you can’t create coherent sentences, I think it’s great you are reading. A lot of teens don’t. The fact is, this is all opinion, but my claims are strongly supported. First of all, both books are guilty of weak “world” building. They both describe setting and cities pretty well, but neither explain what is going on with the rest of the world. Both authors had the chance to explain what was really going on in the country at large and both failed. That is something no one can argue.

      Don’t forget, both of these books had strengths and weaknesses, and I think in a few years when the “Divergent” trilogy is complete, it will be easy to compare it to Hunger Games and tell which one was better written. Hunger Games was “raw” and “shocking” but only follows one girl and a corrupt government, but Divergent made me think more philosophically than the Games. It made me think about how mankind can be in any century, not just how ruling powers could abuse people.

      And as far as the sex thing goes: come on, it needs to at least be discussed or thought about with a tiny bit of detail. Collins’ Hunger Games never gives even one full page to Katniss’ thoughts on how she feels about the boys. It’s so dry and not honest to how teens are.

      i’m saying Hunger Games was like chocolate — it’s nice but you need more than chocolate to live. Divergent was the vitamins, minerals, and meat and potatoes that satisfies. I bet you the sequel, “Insurgent”, is a better meal than “Mockingjay” by a long shot.

      Good day, no hard feelings, and keep reading, my friend. Also, take your time typing and check your spelling. Man, oh man.

  4. lian92

    Well the thing is im from Russia so i cant have your perfect grammar not to mention im disleksic but thats for a different time, still doesnt make my opinion any less valid. And as you said evrything is an opinion for you Hunger games are the chocholate and Divergent the vitaimins, for me the same but if you swap them plases, i found Hunger games a lot more understanding and not insulting how come being a bus driver shoud be so bad in the future and speaking of sex have you actually read Catching fire and Mockinjay remember what hapened to Finnick any way thats your opinion and you have a right for it but i had a feeling that you presented it like a siantific fact and so im stupid for disagrieng with you. And again sorry for mistakes .

    • Very good points. I am sorry, also. I thought your spelling mistakes were because you were a dumb 12-year old American teenager. LOL. You type very well. Keep reading and always fight for your opinion. All opinions matter. Have a good day.

  5. lian92

    On another note i was sirius recomending Battle Royale the book was great not so much the movie and i have a feeling you might injoy it

  6. lian92

    yeah the book is like a 100 times better and though i had trouble with translation and some plot holes, i still liked it especielly the humour of the writing surprised me in a good way which is strange considering the primis. Im glad we cam to an understanding books are to injoy not fight over.

    • of course. some people on the internet are super asses. they fight and argue just because they cant see each other and dont know each other. Because of people like that, I always try to be extra understanding and friendly. I try to make “digital friends.” LOL. The internet has allowed people to connect in wonderful ways, but so many people don’t use it for kindness. People can be really dumb on the internet, even people who are usually nice in real life.

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