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.
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!!!
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