Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Divergent by Veronica Roth

This first book of Roth's series felt like Harry Potter's Sorting Hat on crack. In a high school aptitude test made up of various scenarios, your life is decided by where you are sorted in various virtue-centered factions. 

If you're brave or smart you belong in Dauntless or Erudite, respectively. Or you may belong in Abegnation or Candor, if you're selfless or honest. And, there's Amity which is pretty much forgotten about because it's about peacefulness.

But if you don't belong in any faction - which holds more value than your own family - you will belong in Divergent. As a citizen in futuristic Chicago, one girl Beatrice Prior falls into the factionless category and discovers deadly government plans. Members of this group means the government can't control them. They live on the outskirts of color-coordinated sections of Chicago where they are homeless, jobless, and without any respectable place in society.

As an original resident to Abnegation, Beatrice grew up selfless with her parents on the faction's council. Citizens in this faction wear grey, keep their heads down, and serve everyone around them no matter how they feel. After the aptitude test, each student of each faction can choose to stay within their own family, or one of the other factions they scored highest with. Since Beatrice didn't score with any other group, she can feel free to choose.

Beatrice chooses Dauntless, the group of the brave. She changes her name to Tris to begin her new identity. Herself and other initiates travel around the city hopping on moving trains, are forced to physically beat each other to a pulp, train with knife throwing, perform through hallucinatory tests where they experience their greatest fears, get tattoos...and so on.

Told in first person from Beatrice's point of view, the entire story feels blurred together. Despite the grave personality differences, I couldn't tell one faction from another. Fellow Dauntless initiates Christina (from Candor) sounds like Al (from Candor) who sounds like Will (from Erudite) who sounds like Beatrice. They try to be "brutally honest" with each other, yet are just throwing melodramatic insults and comebacks back and forth. Their tones rarely vary nor do their sense of humor or emotional responses.

And, there's also Beatrice's love interest - Four. In this new surprising world of pulling knives on each other and getting drunk (a lot), Four is the brooding mysterious leader of the initiate's training. Tris feels a connection to him yet can't pinpoint if he really likes her or not. She becomes his undoing of not playing everything close to the chest anymore, and he wills her to be strong enough to take care of others and lead a revolution. Same old, same old.

Why Divergent is so dangerous binds the book for nearly 500 pages (486 to be exact). A mysterious unrest within Erudite is slowly unraveled. Its leader is raising an army of sorts. Honestly, I was interested in reading this book because of the summary. Once I started, I found out that my deep love for Kate Winslet and her part in the film adaptation is what kept me going.

Her character Jeanne has perfected a microchipped serum which has been injected into the people of Dauntless. Besides turning them into mindless drones who commit a violent killing spree against Abegnation in Chicago's streets, I couldn't find much of a villain.

The climax is bloody and violent, but the antagonist came off as more of a control freak on a rampage instead of a government leader with a master plan. Because of the brutal violence, everyone pretty much becomes factionless. Characters die like sacrificial lambs, and the fear about being Divergent comes true.

Roth is admirable for creating a series that has hit it big. While reading Divergent, I began to question which faction I would fall into naturally and which one would I choose to be apart of. On the same level of Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, her book has a unique level of interactivity between the words on the page and the reader.

Overall, looking at the writing, I found it to have poor world building, cliche prose, and a mix of popular aspects that worked for other series. I felt like the book was trying to push this idea of a personality divided society with very little to go on about why we should care about Abegnation, Amity, Erudite, etc. besides their individual traits - which made it hard to relate to the characters.

Perhaps if this book was the second of the series, where the first developed a relationship between the people and their factions I would've been more intrigued. Otherwise, it all feels a bit forced and not a very strong debut novel considering it's a big literary young adult phenomenon. I think I'll be waiting for the movies to find out what happens.

Rating: ★★☆
Have you read Divergent? What did you think?

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