The Ninjabot

Choose Your Faction! Divergent Book Review

Posted on August 28, 2013 at 3:53 pm by Amanda Andonian

divergent bookA few days ago, we posted a Divergent trailer and infographic that introduces the world of the series in preparation for the upcoming movie. Since none of us had heard of this young adult series, I decided to take a look since we’ll no doubt be covering the news on the movie for a while.

“Faction Before Blood”

Written by Veronica Roth, Divergent follows the story of Beatrice Prior, a sixteen year old girl living in a post-apocalyptic Chicago. In her society, everyone is separated into five different factions based on their personality type: Candor (honesty), Dauntless (bravery), Erudite (intelligence), Abnegation (selflessness), and Amity (peacefulness).

After turning sixteen, you take an aptitude test that helps determine which faction you should serve in for the rest of your life. No matter what the results of the test, you can either decide to stay in the faction you grew up in, or transfer to a new one. If you transfer, you’re essentially cutting ties with your old life, and you’re expected to serve your new faction as if your family no longer exists.

Surprise, surprise, it turns out that Beatrice doesn’t fit into any one faction, finding out that she’s actually “Divergent.” Unsurprisingly, being Divergent is extremely dangerous, but the test administrator takes pity on Beatrice and warns her never to speak of it to anyone ever again. She can’t tell Beatrice why, only that her life depends upon telling no one.

Although Beatrice grew up in Abnegation, she’s never felt selfless and has always had a difficult time living that life, toying with the idea of transferring to Dauntless when she turns sixteen. Taking her Divergence as a sign, she decides to transfer to Dauntless, renaming herself “Tris,” and begins the initiation trials, which are brutal, deadly, and frightening. It takes all of her strength to survive in Dauntless, and not a little help from her dark and brooding trainer, Four. Guess who our heroine ends up falling for!

Teenage Angst With a Twist

The novel is mainly concerned with themes of belonging, understanding yourself, and coming to terms with who you are as a person—all things that any teen would be able to relate to. Why this story needed to be set in Chicago isn’t very clear to me; I honestly believe it could’ve taken place in a whole other world for all that Chicago lends to the story. I presume that’ll be a more impressive note in the movie when they show a crumbling Chicago skyline, but I digress!

Honestly, there’s nothing very special about this novel. It’s reasonably entertaining, Tris has an okay character arc, and the other major players are believable if bland. Although trite, it’s still relatively engaging, and I can see why this book was optioned for a movie since it fits perfectly into the post-apocalyptic future fiction that The Hunger Games has ushered in. No doubt the studio will make gobs of money from it.

A Lost Opportunity

Roth’s writing is perfectly okay, though I personally am not a fan of first-person narratives. Since everything we see is from Tris’ point of view, we don’t really get much of an understanding of the greater world around her. Similar to Dave’s issues with The Hunger Games, there’s so much going on behind the scenes that could be really interesting, but since Roth doesn’t stray from the first-person narrative at all, we’re restricted only to what Tris sees and feels.

Additionally, Roth teases some of what happened to the world to make it like it is now, but then doesn’t really follow through. There’s very little information given on why the factions exist, or what happened to the rest of the country. Amity grows their food, Erudite conducts research and controls learning, Abnegation runs the government, Dauntless protects everyone (though from what, no one knows), and I have no idea what Candor was supposed to be doing. Other than that, this is all we know of the factions.

The lack of information is odd since Tris often refers to random things she learned in her “Faction History” classes, so she should know more about her world than she seems to. Aside from vague throw-away lines about how society decided that humanity would be better served by being separated into factions, we get pretty much nothing about how the world actually works.

Overall Impressions: B-

My issues with her world building aside, Divergent is a pretty okay beginning to Roth’s trilogy. Judging by the end of the novel, the rest of the series will be concerned with Tris trying to find out more about the inner machinations of the society she used to trust, and also learning about what it really means to be Divergent.

If you want a fast read, enjoy this type of genre, or are a teenager, then by all means pick up Divergent. Just don’t expect it to blow your mind.

You can follow Amanda on Twitter at @reiko516 for more geek news.

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