DIVERGENT by VERONICA ROTH (Divergent #1)
A REVIEW by ALEXA DUNCAN
In some ways, this feels like a silly book to write an “In Case You Missed It” review on. Writing about missing Divergent is sort of like writing about missing The Hunger Games or Twilight. Divergent may not have quite reached those levels of fame, but it was still incredibly popular. If you did happen to miss it the first time, however, this review is for you. Maybe you were out of the cultural zeitgeist at the time of Divergent’s release, or maybe you didn’t care. Or maybe, you were like me, and only read the first fifty pages of the book then put it down until years later when you were bored at work and looking for something fun to read. Seven years after its initial release, I can safely say that I’ve read Divergent, and I have plenty of thoughts about it to tide me over until I decide to read the next two books.
As you may or may not know, Divergent follows the story of sixteen-year-old Beatrice “Tris” Prior in a futuristic, dystopian version of Chicago where everyone is divided into factions modeled after certain personality traits. These factions all have jaunty names like Abnegation (selflessness), Dauntless (bravery), Erudite (intelligence), Amity (friendliness), and Candor (honesty). I guess it wouldn’t sound very cool to come from the Friendliness Faction, so Puritanical Amity will have to do. Anyway, Beatrice is from Abnegation, but she’s not very good and being selfless. She never really felt like she belonged there (because she’s Divergent, meaning she doesn’t neatly fit into any of the factions) and when the day of the choosing ceremony arrives, she decides to switch to none other than Dauntless. Beatrice becomes Tris and our plot jumps off from there.
When I tried to read Divergent for the first time, I was just graduating high school and was still obsessed with The Hunger Games. I picked Divergent up thinking it would be another super-fast read, It wasn’t. The beginning is very slow and I got bored within fifty pages, so I put the book down and moved on with my life. I did watch the movie, though, and I wasn’t all that impressed, either. The 2018 version of myself decided to power through my misgivings and I read Divergent in about four days. After the initial slow start, it picks up the pace quite a bit. Triss grows from being a meek, almost timid character to a much more ruthless character who is willing to do what it takes to survive. I enjoyed seeing her arc throughout the course of the novel. I also enjoyed the character of Four, Tris’s mentor and love interest. Four has your typical brooding looks and troubled past, but he respects Tris’s agency and doesn’t treat her like she’s some weakling from Abnegation who can’t hold her own. The rest of the supporting characters are fun as well, but they don’t get nearly as much screen time as Tris and Four do, so it’s hard to really care about or like them.
My one quibble with Divergent—and this is always been my quibble—is that the world building doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. The factions don’t make sense, this new version of Chicago doesn’t make sense, and the science involved doesn’t make sense. People—especially Americans—aren’t just going to fall in line and categorize themselves because the government tells them to. Maybe we get answers to this kind of thing in the next two books, but in this first book, it annoyed me enough to mention.
Divergent is a fun book, and it reads very quickly. It’s nothing revolutionary and the characters aren’t all that exciting, but it’s still worth a read. If you’ve been putting Divergent off like I did, go ahead and give it a read. You can pick up a copy at both libraries!