I was wary about another dystopian YA series. Maybe it was because of how much I love Suzanne Collins’ THE HUNGER GAMES and maybe I didn’t think anything could live up to what she did. But the endless previews, ads, and other press coverage of the recently released Divergent film made me curious enough to give Veronica Roth’s DIVERGENT a chance.
I don’t think it’s quite as good as THE HUNGER GAMES, in the grand scheme of things, but it is absolutely amazing in its own way.
I should say before I go any further that this review is only of the first book in the trilogy, DIVERGENT.
I’d bet that unless you live off the grid or under a rock, you’ve probably seen some promotional things for the book and for the movie. You probably have a general idea of what the plot is and who the main characters are. I’ll save us both time and work any plot summary into an accounting of what I liked and what I didn’t like about the book.
I liked the characters, and I’m focusing Tris and Four, very much. Tris comes across as someone who doesn’t want to be a wallflower and manages, by switching to another faction, to find out that she is not, in fact, a wallflower. She’s a strong, powerful young woman who can embody the quiet, selflessness of her old faction at the same time as she can be the firmer, still as selfless leader of her new faction. She’s still a young girl, too, who falls for the “bad boy” and doesn’t quite trust herself to love. Four is the “bad boy” but it quickly becomes apparent that’s mostly a front, set up to protect himself. In that way, he’s more… real, I suppose, than any of the lead male characters in the recent YA series that have spawned movie franchises. Four is, for lack of a better word, vulnerable.
There’s a thing in the story called the “fear landscape” and I absolutely love that plot device. I never, ever want to go through a “fear landscape” but seeing Tris and Four face their fears, by force and by choice, gives me as the reader a chance to see a part of the character that I wouldn’t otherwise get to see. It’s very personal, more personal than I’ve read in a long time.
That being said, one of the best ways Roth uses the “fear landscape” is to let the reader be a part of the character. The book is entirely from Tris’ perspective but when she gets to see Four’s fears, something only he and the higher powers in the Dauntless faction have ever seen, it gives a window into him that greatly enhances the story.
A week part of the story would be that Tris’ perspective is a little too narrow to get the largest picture possible of the city and how it got to be the wasteland that it is. She has interactions with all five of the factions and their purpose in society is explained through that but, to be honest, I’m pretty sure I’d read novellas or some short accounting about all the factions – maybe focusing on one person who lived through the same things as Tris does as a Dauntless initiate.
After I finished the book, I scanned reviews on Goodreads and Amazon and saw that some people claim the scope is too limited and there aren’t enough details. Maybe that’s true, maybe the scope could be bigger and there could be a few more details in places. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a great book, not to me.
After all, I finished it in four days.
Now to go see the movie before it leaves theaters…
(this review is cross-posted on my Goodreads account)