Monday, July 25, 2011

Debut YA Author Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

All year long, I've been reading the new and debut YA releases, looking for a book that would get me genuinely excited again. For seven months, I was disappointed. And then I found DIVERGENT.

Oh my god. I love this book.

The story goes like this: in Beatrice Prior's future Chicago, the population is divided into five factions, each built around a different virtue. These are Candor (the honest), Dauntless (the brave), Abnegation (the selfless), Erudite (the intelligent), and Amity (the peaceful). At age sixteen, everyone must choose which faction they'll belong to for the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the choice is whether to stay with her family or be who she really is - she can't have both. So she makes a decision that shocks even herself.

There are so many good things to say about it. The world-building is amazing, the plotting is both intricate and riveting, the characters and their conflicts are sympathetic, and the deaths - when they happen - are absolutely heart-breaking. The themes - about destiny, free will, selflessness and courage - are well-established and really hit home, and the writing, while not exactly lyrical, has a strong voice and is very engaging.

(I would, however, like to point out that Tris's society is actually not a dystopia. It's an unusual and creative form of government full of flaws and moral gray areas, but it's neither repressive nor draconian; at least, no more so than any modern society. Each faction governs its members in its own way and, from what we get to see, only the Erudite really fall under the definition of dystopia. It is, however, hinted to be post-apocalyptic, and I'm interested to see what the world is like outside of the inclusive Chicago area.)

Still, everyone else has sung this book's well-deserved praises left and right, so there's much that I can really add, except for this: I love the opening scene.

See, Divergent is a very action-packed book. There's a lot going on, a lot of characters to juggle, a lot of fights to get into, and a lot of world to establish; still, it opens with a slow, emotional scene of Beatrice, our narrator, looking at her reflection and allowing her mother to brush her hair.

This simple scene - which, like the rest of the book, is beautifully written - establishes the character of Beatrice, her relationship to her mother, and her connection to the Abnegation faction, all in a beautiful, calm, and emotional way. These three things are vital to the overall theme of the book, and the opening scene does a wonderful job of bringing us right into Beatrice's heart and her world before we even step out of her house.

And that's the heart of the matter really. Divergent is not just another copycat dystopia trying to capitalize on the Hunger Games and Uglies popularity. Ms. Roth understands that a good high-concept story still needs a strong grounding in the heart of our main character,and that's exactly what Divergent gives you, from beginning to end.

Seriously guys, do not miss this book.


  1. I keep hearing great things about Divergent. I have it on my To Read list; now I just need to catch up. Thanks for the review.

  2. Sounds interesting, the premise sounds very similar to another future dystopia book, Francis Stevens's "The Heads of Cerberus," where the future society is run by men and women called the Superlatives, the most and best at something, like "Cleverest" and "Strongest."

    It was a very, very cynical book, which made it one of the most unusual science fiction novels published in the gee-whiz 1920s.