Sunday, 19 February 2012

Book Review 9 - Divergent by Veronica Roth

Amazing cover, isn't it?
OK, so this one is a bit late in coming! I got Divergent as a Christmas present but only recently got around to finishing it because I've been so busy. I'm also a little late in joining the bandwagon (which is practically overflowing by now) but I prefer to think of it as waiting for all the  kerfuffle to die down so I can write an objective, decisive and detailed review based on my own opinion and enjoyment, not the hype crated by others.

In a future Chicago (Read: virtually unrecognisable, probably even if you live there right now) 16-year-old Beatrice Prior must choose among five predetermined factions (or groups of people centred around standard values: bravery, intelligence, honesty, kindness and selflessness. Once you have chosen one of these virtues as the most important in your life, you are placed into a community of like-minded individuals who will then become your only friends, peers, colleagues and the pool from which you will select your husband/wife) to define her identity for the rest of her life, a decision made more difficult when she discovers that she is an anomaly who does not fit into any one group, and that the society she lives in is not perfect after all.

The book is out-and-out, general YA market dystopian. And why I add the 'general' bit is because for the first half of the book, there is no great tragedy or violence, save for the niggling thought that 'hey, these people really should be able to choose their own lifestyle, lifepath and other stuff!' However, don't get me wrong; there is a rush you get when reading the second half of the book that most people haven’t had since Katniss entered the Hunger Games and turned our worlds inside out! The characters, setting, plot, pace and narrative were well blended to produce a highly action packed novel that I’m sure will captivate a huge audience. It already has.

Tris' unsuitability even for the faction she grew up in proves threatening for those controlling this perfect society because as a Divergent, she can’t easily be manipulated. What comes next is a continuous reveal of hidden agendas and power plays. I loved to see how Tris evolved in the story. In the beginning, we get hints of her courage and intuition, but sickeningly, it has to stay hidden, and I hated that, because there’s nothing I love more than female characters that can kick some serious ass! But I digress. I loved many of the characters; her brother Caleb tore my heart out in such a lovely way at the beginning, and Four...well, there aren't really any words to describe him. *swoons*

However, there were some serious faults with this book. I almost wish I hadn't received it and had waited to get it at the library instead. That's the thing, when you become so swayed by the trends and the buzz; you forget your own personal preferences. I have never been a huge dystopian fan. It gave me apocalyptic  nightmares. The Hunger Games was a haunting turning point, but Divergent isn't the Hunger Games, and it's not nearly as gripping, thrilling, or heart-wrenching. That is why I try to stay neutral when I recommend books I have only read a small portion of, in case I pass that pain onto others. It's not fair to impose your own opinion on someone else unless they ask for it, and I think this is important to bear in mind if you're considering buying Divergent. You really need to ignore the cover, the title, the author's name, the hype, in order to get a true sense of the story and its flaws as well as its positive features.

For example, I love teen books with just a little smattering of romance mixed in with the other plot points. Divergent appears to have this, but hello?! - you don't kiss when you are bleeding all over and about to be executed. That is not normal human reaction. There is no way a boy you barely know's kiss can erase that fear! And much as I loved him, I just wanted Tris to turn back into that brave, but not emotionless, girl she was, and what happened throughout the book was that she was either too much of one or too little of the other, and I didn't quite believe her. I also think that despite the fact I loved the first few chapters, after that I started to get bored. The book is drawn out (about 500 pages of drawn out, to be exact), and though I adore detail I really wish there had been some more action early on in the book. Scatter the history here and there if you must, but at least do it in a way that advances the future of the story, not drags us back so you can't get interested in what's happening right at that moment.

Don't get me wrong, the writing was amazing, considering how young Veronica Roth is and how it was written in the present tense. That was one almighty challenge for her to set herself - and that, I think, is the motto of this story. The bar was set too high and the fall was way too hard. Still, it was an impressive debut and I will tentatively be trying to find Insurgent when it appears so I can see if anything improves.

Writing: 4.5/5
Characters: 3/5/5
Plot: 4/5
Impact: -3.5/5 (i.e. it impacted on me negatively.)
Re-readability: 2.5/5
Overall: 3.5/5
In less than five words: dystopian, well-written, detailed, slightly violent

You know, I'm not even fussed about getting an excerpt of this or anything. :(


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