Sunday, August 14, 2011

REVIEW: Divergent (If The Giver Bought the Hogwarts Houses a Drink, Nine Months Later This Is the Book a Stork Would Deliver to YA Readers' Doorsteps)

Roth, V.  (2011).  Divergent.  New York:  Katherine Tegen Books.

487 pages.

Appetizer:  In the future and in the remains of Chicago, people choose factions to devote their life to:  Candor for those who privilege honesty, Abnegation for those who value selflessness, Dauntless for the brave, Erudite for those who devote themselves to intelligence and Amity for those who focus on peace.  There are also an unlucky few who are faction-less, who live in poverty.

At the age of sixteen, people are tested and then choose their faction during a ceremony.  Raised by abnegation-ist parents, Beatrice--or Tris--faces a tough choice.  She has never felt like she truly belonged with her selfless parents.  The results of her test complicate matters further.  Beatrice learns she is divergent--she could potentially belong to three of the factions--a fact she is told to keep secret as she faces the choice between betraying her parents' hopes for her and pursuing her own dreams.

Divergent is an interesting concept.  It's a blending of the sorting into Hogwarts houses with the Hunger Games and The Giver.  The execution of this story, however falls short of the blogger and insta-movie deal hype that I heard about this book.  It also falls short of the stories I'm comparing it to.  Although Tris's struggle to make her own choice for herself is engaging--and is a central struggle for any young person who is contemplating making choices that his or her family disagrees with--it falls short when compared to Katniss sacrificing herself for her sister in The Hunger Games.

The deadly challenges Tris faced while being initiated into the Dauntless faction were hard to believe as permissible in the society.  While logically, I knew that Roth was constructing a world different from my own and was critiquing the hostile and horrible environments that the Dauntless characters live in, I just couldn't quite believe the world she was creating.  Wouldn't a brave person speak out against the injustice and suffering they see around them?  I found myself mumbling "lawsuit" repeatedly as the Dauntless initiates were required to jump onto or off a moving train or leap off the side of a building with no support, safety nets, training or proper instruction.  I repeat, lawsuit.

Maybe I'm just not "dauntless" enough to believe in this world or maybe I've been too sheltered all my life/too lucky to ever experience a group dynamic with such a competitive and dangerous mentality.


As a reader, I also needed to feel a clearer threat to the society or to Tris.  The Dauntless train hard to protect what remains of human society...from what?  While there are hints that Denmark Broken-Chicago is a kind of stinky place within the first 300ish pages, I needed a real threat sooner.  I also needed to understand why being divergent was dangerous sooner.  Basically, this book could have--and should have--been 150 pages shorter.

But having said that, there were some moments in this book that really captured my attention and engaged me.  Whenever Tris faced injustice at the hands of her fellow initiates or at the hands of the Dauntless leaders, I wanted her to come back and kick a-- *ahem* ...and kick bum-bum.  (And she was a tough character who wanted to do just that.)  I also found some of the subtle tensions and themes very engaging; such as the propaganda the erudite faction was creating against the abnegationists or the way Tris had to accept the idea that some of her friends were also her competition.

Overall, this is another one of those books that doesn't seem to meet the hype, but is still enjoyable.  Recommend it!  Just don't imply that it's the best thing in THE HISTORY OF THE UNIVERSE/SINCE SLICED BREAD/IN THE WORLD OF YA LITERATURE as you do.

Dinner Conversation:

"There is one mirror in my house.  It is behind a sliding panel in the hallway upstairs.  Our faction allows me to stand in front of it on the second day of every third month, the day my mother cuts my hair" (p. 1).

"Today is the day of the aptitude test that will show me which of the five factions I belong in.  And tomorrow, at the Choosing Ceremony, I will decide on a faction; I will decide the rest of my life' I will decide to stay with my family or abandon them" (p. 2).

"People who get this kind of result are..."  She looks over her shoulder like the expects someone to appear behind her.  "...are called...Divergent."  She says the last word so quietly that I almost don't hear it, and her tense, worried look returns.  She walks around the side of the chair and leans in close to me.
"Beatrice," she says, "under no circumstances should you share that information with anyone.  This is very important" (p. 22).

"I realize that the decision might be simple.  It will require a great act of selflessness to choose Abnegation, or a great act of courage to choose Dauntless, and maybe just choosing one over the other will prove that I belong.  Tomorrow, those two qualities will struggle within me, and only one can win" (p. 37).

Tasty Rating:  !!!

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, I completely agree. the book was definitely flawed, but still entertaining.



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