Monday, February 6, 2012

Divergent - a review (kind of)

Divergent - Veronica Roth - 496 pages

I don't want to be one of those bloggers who outright bashes a book, so hopefully I don't go into that territory with this "review" of Divergent. I thought there were good elements here and bad ones; I know that some people really enjoyed this one as it has appeared on numerous top ten lists for 2011. With that being said...

Warning: This might contain mild spoilers.

Divergent is about a teenage girl who switches factions; from Abnegation to Dauntless. Dauntless is full of fearless warriors who live to fight; Abnegation is full of selfless individuals who only live to serve. So when an Abnegation girl (Beatrice) switches to Dauntless everyone is a bit shocked. See, it's weird for people to switch factions from the one they grew up in, and it's even weirder for someone to switch from Abnegation to Dauntless.
Can't sense a conspiracy
involving the ENTIRE empire.

Here's the kicker, though: Beatrice is Divergent. She doesn't know what that is but if you own a dictionary you can look up the word and find out right away. Beatrice is a little slow on the uptake, obviously (number one problem with the book right here). She can't figure out the obvious conspiracy around her. Kind of like how Yoda in Revenge of the Sith never notices that every Stormtrooper is about to turn on the Jedi despite his abilities to see the future.

I'm guessing that being Abnegation kind of makes Beatrice blind to what's going on around her, because she leads a plain boring life and is new to the life of Dauntless. But she questions everything and gets all shocked when it turns out she's right even though the reader has already figured it out.*

There's also the issue that this first part in Roth's trilogy is 80% setup. She's introducing characters and the world of Divergent (it's dystopian Chicago and everyone is sorted by personality type). The rest is breakneck action.

There are several things I liked about Divergent: Beatrice's transformation from meek to bad ass, Veronica Roth's ability to kill more characters in 50 pages than Suzanne Collins, and characters getting what they deserve (like getting shot).

There's this part in Kill Bill Vol. 2 where Uma Thurman's character is trained. She's beaten and taught karate and weapons training and how to rip out a guys heart (ladies, you can do that with the words "You're like a brother to me.") It was neat to watch Beatrice go through her training, but not when it's a majority of the book. The last 20% really saved Divergent for me. I look forward to the second installment since it might contain more action and less setup.

Full Disclosure: I bought this.

*Here's a spoiler. And the part that bothered me the most. Beatrice's mother shows up at Dauntless headquarters and knows her way around, and about how initiation for Dauntless works (which is supposed to be a secret). Beatrice wonders how her mother knows so much about life at Dauntless. Then later--about 100 pages later--Beatrice realizes that her mother switched from Dauntless to Abnegation. I facepalmed at this point.

23 comments:

  1. OH THIS BOOK. I was not a fan of it, mostly because it was just SO MUCH set up and violence that, I get it was initiation or whatever, but it didn't really do anything to move the plot forward. And the very end of the book didn't save it enough for me to read the second installment, even if I did become a little obsessed with deciding what faction I'd belong to.

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    1. I took a test. Turns out I'm Dauntless. I do plan to read the sequel, though. I think had I known the book was basically a setup for the next one then I would've been happier with it. But I went into this one blind.

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  2. Haha ok.. I'll agree with you that the whole mother bit was pretty dang obvious. So was the OTHER bit (Four & his true beginnings). However - I thought this book did a superb job of basically saying how someone can live such a naive, sheltered life because it's what they're "suppose to do". Yet, it's a huge wake up call when they're forced in to a whole other realm of the world & realize, oh people are different? people are mean?

    I think if you go in to this story knowing it's only the beginning, you're far better warned.

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    1. I don't even want to get into Four. I did not like him.

      I agree with you there. Had I known I might've enjoyed it more.

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  3. I enjoyed this book, with similar reservations to yours, Adam. Also, given my obsessive personality, I spent far too much time worrying about the probability of this political set-up ever really existing. It felt forced to me, not organic. Most readers probably won't feel that way, though. (Another dystopia trope that feels unlikely to me: outlawing or medicating away love. I can't even make myself read those. [THE GIVER doesn't count.])

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    1. You know, I didn't touch on that but I did feel it was a bit forced. You would think that the factionless would rise up against their overlords. But that's like expecting the Proles in 1984 to organize and rebel.

      I have been holding off on my reading of Delirium for some time now because of this.

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    2. Oh, no, I can easily believe the factionless would feel powerless (I'm betting they're going to show their noble, independent side soon) and anyway, they're meant to be in the minority. I just recall that as I was reading it was hard for me to accept that any society would decide that the way to solve strife and war would be to codify factions that hate each other. Talk about creating instability. Perhaps it's turning out that the system was forced on them by the one faction, though. I should go back and review before I read INSURGENT.

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    3. I actually didn't like Delirium that much either, though I did enjoy Divergent. I can see what you mean about the lack of action though. Hopefully Insurgent will be better for you.

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  4. Um, it was good. But it didn't make my big list at the end of the year. There were things I liked about it but mostly I just felt left out of a big party because I didn't feel the hype OR the buzz. I was hoping that somebody would have a dissenting opinion before I read it, but I never really found anyone that didn't like it. (True, I didn't spend much time trying.)

    I just think it is VERY YA with no crossover at all, and while that is okay, with dystopian books I really love some depth and, well, crossover.

    I do appreciate my library buying it because I requested it, though. That was kinda awesome of them.

    Sidenote: I skipped your thoughts on TFiOS. I've managed to make it this far without knowing anything at all about the book, including what it's about. So, yeah.

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    1. I tried to make my TFiOS review as spoilerless (is this a word?) as possible. But I understand.

      Yeah, I didn't experience the buzz. I just noticed that it made a lot of lists and wanted to give it a shot. I wasn't expecting it to be great or to be bad; I guess my experience with it is "Meh. The next one will probably be better."

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  5. OK so even though I haven't read this book, the whole storyline feels like the last airbender (which was horrible) to me. It sounds like it could be a good concept for a movie but would be hard to keep my attention as a book. The same goes for kill bill though. As much as I enjoyed the movie I think the training section would have taken up too much room.

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    1. I have not seen The Last Airbender but I can see how the caste system and warfare can be compared to Divergent.

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  6. This was my number #2 favorite book of 2011... :( I'm sad you didn't like it. I loved Four and I see that you didn't, I kind of want to cry right now. I didn't think anything was really predictable, but that's just me. I probably was sucked into reading and liking the story I didn't notice.

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    1. The last 20% of the book was awesome. I really enjoyed that last fifth, so it will lead me to read the sequel. Since the world and the characters have been introduced to us already it should be a better read than this "set up novel" as I'm calling it. I can't entirely get behind the concept of the book either. It just didn't mesh well with me, unfortunately.

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  7. I've heard such great things about this book, but have been really concerned I wouldn't/couldn't buy into it. Like so many other super-hyped-but-fall-far-short-of-gold books I've read lately.

    Love your review. Thanks for the honesty and for making it as spoilerless as possible :)

    Unlike Asheley, I skimmed through your review of TFiOS--just enough to know what to expect. My wife is a HUGE JG fan, me only so-so. But, she thinks I'll like it. Based on what I read of your reivew, I think I will, too. I've read a little bit of it, and so far so good...

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    1. Thank you for your comment, Richard.

      I don't blame you for skimming TFiOS review. I didn't even know what the book was about until I read it. I had to avoid a few reviews of it myself (your efforts will not be in vain).

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  8. I get your points and can see them, but man, I LOVED this book (and have a mega crush on Four). I'm glad that the last part saved it for you & you're willing to give Insurgent a go! I can't wait to read that one. I did think it took her a bit long to realize her mom used to be Divergent, but that's how I thought she knew Four, not that he was Ab.

    OMG! The "your like a brother" line made me laugh. Sorry. :(

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    1. It's true. If you think a guy is into you just use those words. I have seen my guy friends get crushed by those words.

      I'm not getting why everyone liked Four so much. Maybe I'm missing something? I found him to be a general YA novel male; mysterious, daring, and dark hair.

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    2. To me, Four is THAT guy. He's hard and tough and fir, but when it comes to that one special girl, he's a complete softie.

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  9. I've been debating on whether to read this. It initially didn't grab me, but all the hype has gotten me curious. I can be rather fond of books where a lot of characters get killed, oddly. At least I'll be going into this knowing that a bunch of it is setup. I'm not sure how I'll respond to that.

    One of my guy friends recently got told that not only was he "like a brother" he was also "her best friend." That poor guy.

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    1. It is a lot of setup, I think knowing that means that you'll enjoy the book more and won't be as disappointed when you finish it.

      Oh gosh, that can really damage a guy!

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  10. As for Yoda, there were multiple times leading up to Order 666 that Yoda mentions how the Dark Side is clouding his view of the future. However, he did know enough to defeat the ones that tried to kill him.

    Anyway, great review. Doesn't sound like the book lives up to the hype. But maybe it wasn't written for men. Also, I laughed out loud at, "You're like a brother to me." Classic.

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    1. Yoda is always clouded by the Dark Side! Always!

      I think Roth did attempt to make this one for guys as much as she could. There's plenty of action and a bad ass male lead, but it is all from the perspective of a girl. So maybe not.

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