Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Amazon usually hits me with movies or books I might like by using what I've already bought. Divergent by Veronica Roth is one of those books.

I saw a trailer for the movie and, after reading the book I have one thing to say. The actress playing Tris is not at all how I pictured her. She is too tall, too obviously female, and not at all like the Tris described in Roth's words. I pictured her more like my little sister Beanie who is short, and though 49 years old, still looks a bit like a 12-year-old boy when she's dressed in jeans and t-shirt and a baseball cap. She is exactly how I see Tris. And she is blonde, though her hair has darkened with age.Having said that, I will get to the point of this post and that is reviewing the book.

Veronica paints a spare landscape using Chicago as the home of the factions: Abnegation, Erudite, Amity, Candor, and Dauntless. It is a world where the five factions are intertwined, each with their own place in their world and each with governance of one facet of their lives.

The story is told from Tris's point of view, or rather Beatrice Prior's. She changes her name when she chooses to leave Abnegation and become Dauntless. Tris doesn't feel she belongs with her family in Abnegation because she is selfish not selfless. She has a desire to live, to be free of the restrictions placed on her by the rules of her faction. She chooses with the specter of being Divergent, someone whose brain is wired so that she can do what has been thought impossible; she shows aptitudes in the simulation tests for 3 different factions: Abnegation, Dauntless, and Erudite. Being Divergent is dangerous and Tori, her examiner, tells Beatrice that she must never let anyone know or it will mean her death.

From the beginning Roth keeps up the pressure, first from Tris's rare difference to disappointing her parents because Tris doesn't think she's good enough to be in Abnegation and then on to the tough initiation in Dauntless where she pushes herself to the limit, and often beyond. Despite Tris's confusion about where she belongs, there is no confusion in the reader's mind that she is a complex young woman who has more value than she realizes, no matter how tough and fearless she acts.

Add attraction to Four, her initiation instructor at Dauntless, to the confusion already rampant in Tris's mind and her inexperience and fear of what the closeness she craves with Four means, and the action and emotion go right off the scale.

Roth adds complication to complexity as she slowly peels the layers of this closed society and the struggle that results from the Erudite leader's greed for power and control, and Jeanine's fear and loathing for the Divergent she works so hard to get rid of because she cannot control them with her science, and yet Roth never veers off the true, keeping the pressure and the focus on Tris and her fearless -- and selfless -- drive to sacrifice herself for what Tris believes is the greater good. There is also a note of selfishness in Tris's struggle to be fearless and selfless at the same time and it seems she has a death wish once her parents die in the struggle with Erudite over control of the government and everyone in it.

Roth's writing is very accessible and the story speeds along at a break-neck pace. The characters are complex and the world Roth builds complicated and simple at the same time. Divergent is the first of a trilogy, and an adrenaline fueled and emotional ride into a rigid world of compartmentalization torn by greed and intellectualism without morals or feeling for humanity. Although written for a YA audience, Divergent will appeal to everyone. I would give Divergent 5/5 for a thrill ride I will not soon forget, especially since I've moved on to Insurgent.

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