July 4, 2012

Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent by Veronica Roth
Published: 2011, Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins
Series: Divergent, #1
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian Fantasy
Source: Library book

I feel like someone breathed new air into my lungs. I am not Abnegation. I am not Dauntless.

I am Divergent. And I can’t be controlled.

Just when I'm starting to wonder if YA dystopian novels are becoming a bit overdone, I read something like Divergent. Veronica Roth's first novel is creative, fast-paced, and fun and features a strong female heroine and heady romance. I powered through this book in a few days and found myself bemoaning the need to stop in order to fulfill other obligations like work.

Divergent is the story of a dystopian society formed out of the ashes of Chicago. In this particular dystopian society, the people have divided themselves into five factions based on the values they believe will help their society prosper and avoid future conflicts. There is Abnegation for the selfless, Dauntless for the brave, Erudite for the knowledge-seekers, Amity for the peaceful, and Candor for the honest. Although birth determines which faction each child grows up in during his/her childhood, during his/her sixteenth year the city holds aptitude tests and the Choosing Ceremony, where children can decide to either remain in their faction or become part of a new one. Their faction becomes the most important and distinguishing factor of each person, which allowed for the commonly accepted idea of "faction before blood." I thought this was a really interesting premise and hope that Roth continues to examine the impact and implications of the creation of the different factions in the following novels.

Beatrice has grown up in Abnegation, but has never fully felt a part of this society. Being selfless does not come easy to her. After an unexpected result on her aptitude test, Beatrice is even more unsure of how to proceed. Does she engage in the ultimate act of selfishness and leave her family and faction, or does she fake selflessness once again - this time with life-long consequences?

From Beatrice's initial decision to become Tris, a Dauntless, to the training and preparation she must undergo as an initiate, this novel does not slow down. I loved Tris; she's strong and believable and through her training comes across some important truths about bravery and selflessness. And I loved the romantic relationship she forms over the course of the novel. Roth does a very good job of slowly crafting a friendship and then gradually shifting that into something that is so much more.

I loved how many layers Roth had within the novel. And yet at its heart it is still basically a coming-of-age story. Tris' society is unlike our own, yet she still struggles to find her place in it and figure out her own personal beliefs. The story is about Tris finding out herself, but along the way we as readers get to see a completely new type of society, young love, and the stirrings of a rebellion against a repressive regime. I think there's a little bit of something for everyone within this novel, which made it that much more interesting to read.

There are a few issues that I had with the novel. Some of the character development seemed a little flat. I find it hard to believe that youths who spend their lives immersed completely in one culture are suddenly able to overcome all their life experiences thus far to fit the mold of a new culture. This is especially true in Tris' case. I know Roth tries to explain how Tris never really fit in with the Abnegation mindset, but even so I don't think the emotional toll she'd have by going through a complete culture shock was really there. Same with the other transfer teens.

In general I also feel like the supporting characters could have been more developed. Tris and Four are the only ones I could really connect with on an emotional level. In comparison, Tris' friends seemed rather flat and one-dimensional, as did the villains. And I really, really wish we either had more time to read about Tris with her family, or else Roth utilized flashbacks to better explain Tris' family dynamics. Near the ending of the novel, I feel as though I was not given enough to care about her family relationships in the way that Roth expected me to feel.

I also wish that there had been some back-story of the society. Readers know the location and the main factions created out of the ideals of the people, but we are given no explanation of what happened to cause the creation of the dystopian society. Roth alludes to wars, but there needed to be something more there for me to understand how the descendents of the survivors could completely polarize themselves based on what moral values they think will save their new society.

Despite my desire for a few things to be more fully examined within the novel, I really enjoyed reading this book and I can't wait to get my hands on its sequel. 

A note: I read this book back in April of this year, but I wanted to include a review of the first book in the series on my blog before I reviewed Insurgent.
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Amanda loves few things better than sitting down with a cup of tea and a book. She frequently stays up far too late, telling herself she just needs to finish one more page. When she's not wrapped up in the stories of others, Amanda works as a children's librarian in a public library.


  1. Fantastic review! I have yet to read this one myself, but am planning to as soon as we near the release of the final installment. I appreciate that you discuss its weaknesses along with its strengths, and I'm genuinely excited as I feel this is one of those dystopians that can break through the pile and still be enjoyable for me. This is easiest to do when it does hold a real story, like coming of age, but I do get perturbed when we don't have history on a society.

    1. Thank you, Heidi! It is definitely one of the better hyped-up YA dystopian books out there and I encourage you to read it. I actually finished Insurgent this weekend and there starts to be a little more history on the society, and there's the promise for a lot more in the final installment. :)

  2. Great review :) I cannot wait to read this! It's been sitting in my room patiently for awhile!
    New follower!

    Leah @ Uncorked Thoughts

    1. Thank you! I'd definitely recommend getting around reading this book sooner rather than later.

      Thanks for the follow and finding my blog - I'll definitely check out yours!


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