Jillian -always aspiring-'s Reviews > Divergent

Divergent by Veronica Roth
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May 07, 12

bookshelves: dystopian-worlds-hells-and-cesspits, 2011-reads, could-have-been-better, should-have-loved-it-but-didn-t, left-me-feeling-drained, left-me-with-mixed-feelings, left-me-feeling-conflicted, failed-the-re-read-test, reviewed
Recommended for: Readers who like action, morals, and ambiguity in their dystopias
Read from April 24 to 26, 2011, read count: 1

(Cross-posted from The Book Lantern)

In the YA book world, 2011 is definitely shaping up to be the year of the dystopia.  With the popularity and acclaim of Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games trilogy, the young adult publishing world seemed to explode with all kinds of ideas for dystopias about oppression and chaos -- and publishers were all the more willing to oblige them due to the proven success of The Hunger Games.

One of the more hyped offerings, Divergent by Veronica Roth, has been gaining more and more pre-publication buzz each day, especially since the news that Summit Entertainment had optioned the book for film adaptation even months before the book's release date.  Never mind that a mere peek at the Goodreads page for the book shows a bevy of four- and five-star reviews. Divergent just seemed to need to be read to be believed -- and read I did.

Truthfully, I don't think the quick comparison to The Hunger Games does Divergent any favors except to build hype and expectations among readers. However much it's a great tactic for marketing, I personally don't know if this book should even be referred to as a dystopia since the label hurts more than helps it, giving the idea of one thing to the readers and offering something a little bit different with the story itself.

Let me explain:  I have a set idea as to what, for me personally, a dystopian novel is. YA dystopian novels seem to have an identity crisis at times (something Vinaya spoke about here) where they're just so intent about illustrating some kind of suffering or shock factor hook that they lose the true meaning of a dystopia: a world that has descended from order to chaos, one where what once were nightmares and dark musings of past times (i.e. usually our own modern days) are now common pieces of society, even to the point where rights or privileges of the people have been abolished and replaced by 'what is deemed right and fair.' 

Now, back to the case of Divergent:  yes, it certainly has hints of dystopian tenets. . .but strip the layers of the story away and what do you have?  Is it really a true dystopia, the kind that makes us fear for our own world because we see the problems and warnings present in our own time and place?  Or just an action thriller with dystopian elements? Honestly, Divergent is an adrenaline-kick, shock-factor-enthusiast, and action-centric kind of book first and foremost; the dystopian undercurrent is mostly for show, at least in this beginning installment to the trilogy.

For being labeled a dystopia, the world-building behind the story leaves a lot to be desired.  Though we are told that the five factions resulted from a 'great peace' following a devastating war, the nature and state of the world as a whole is a big unknown.  Chicago is the focus, front and center, but any reader must wonder, "What about the rest of the United States?  And the world itself?" Roth describes her world sparingly, giving only some modern downtown Chicago landmarks scene time to ground her world; one must wonder if the sparseness of setting is a sign of intentional withholding of information or lack of planning and fleshing of the story's world.  (Personally, I hope it is the former.)

But all of those concerns of mine started to fade into the background as I continued to read.  Though the flaws are many (the length, unfortunately, being one of them), Roth doesn't fail to draw readers into her story and make them feel compelled to keep reading just to see what happens.  The first one hundred and fifty pages were a struggle for me, no lie, but then it got easier to accept the book for what it was instead of wishing for more of what I thought it could be.  The most discernible problem for me was Beatrice, who was a difficult heroine to grow to like since she started out so judgmental and harsh to the point that she was a bit unrelatable.  Then her 'change' seemed to come much too soon, but I was glad for it since she eventually became a bearable (though, at times, still not particularly likable) heroine.

The novel's plot doesn't start to come together under the last one hundred or so pages, but I have to appreciate the character relationships that grow within the story.  However much I was ready to ride them off in the beginning, the characters grew on me (sometimes in spite of myself), and I really started to care about what was happening to them and around them.  When I start off with questionable feelings towards a book, I don't often change my mind. . .but, with Divergent, I eventually found myself swayed.

In the end, what struck (and stuck with) me most about the novel overall is this:  the underlying theme of morals and their importance in the story.  The factions themselves are representations of things valued and praised within the Bible:  selflessness, bravery, honesty, knowledge, and peace. (I am not taking liberties by assuming Roth used the Bible as inspiration for her world; she herself has not hidden the fact that she is a Christian.)  Honestly, I was pleasantly surprised by the moral aspect of the novel, and it gave the story some of the depth I had been craving all along.  Let it be known that, at its core, this novel is about choices, priorities, and beliefs. This tendency isn't a flaw in the story, however; rather, I think it helps to enhance and differentiate a book that would otherwise have been lost in similarities to its popular predecessor.  

(I will also give Roth credit in this respect: she could have easily had her factions act forever positively in regards to their specific traits, but instead she does not shy away from casting all the factions in gray lights.  All the characters are ambiguous figures, mostly neither hero nor villain but rather 'flawed human,' and that in itself is refreshing in a YA landscape of 'goodies and baddies.')

Though this novel contains a rocky and lengthy start that takes away a bit from the impact of the novel as a whole, the story does eventually 'get there' where you're invested (even if only to see where everything is going).  It took a while for me to care, but other readers who are more action-oriented than I am may look at this novel with more patience and appreciation.  As it is, I'll be reading the sequels to see how the story continues, but I stand by my words that this novel is much more appealing when it is showing off its games of ambiguity and morality than its plays at brutality and violence.

My conclusion: Divergent is a free-for-all book dependent entirely on a reader's specific tastes and expectations.  There's just no way to go other than reading it for yourself and deciding your own stance on it.  Like it or dislike it, you will definitely be able to admit one thing, at least:  it's a book that's going to lead to a lot of interesting discussions among readers.

(Note (May 7, 2012): I know I'm in the minority with this book, but I thought a re-read might help me to warm up to some of the things I had disliked the first time around. However, I just couldn't finish reading it a second time. Most novels I liked can at least hold up during a re-read...but not so with this one. Thus, I felt the need to detract a star from my original three-star rating.)
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Reading Progress

04/24/2011 page 0
0.0% "This book looks surprisingly long. . . I'm starting to think the only books that should be long (meaning over 400 pages) are ones that contain stories that actually are worthy of such length. I hope this book will prove worthy of its length, but I'm uncertain." 1 comment
04/24/2011 page 7
1.0% "The Dauntless prove their bravery each morning by jumping off the top of a moving train. Diving off a moving train isn't a sign of bravery; it's a sign of stupidity. And why wouldn't they look like soldier-types if they're protectors? They sound as if they look like rebellious punks to me. I already don't understand these Factions, and I'm not even ten pages in." 9 comments
04/25/2011 page 7
1.0% "Okay, I was going all Hellion on this book last night. For some reason, this book is containing things that irk me every few pages, so. . .yeah, the status updates may become a bit of a chronicle unto themselves."
04/25/2011 page 12
2.0% ""Never met a curious Abnegation before." Tell me: if Abnegation is supposed to be about a lack of self-interest and more of a focus on the needs and feelings of others, then why wouldn't Abnegation be curious about others? Thus I don't understand the above sentence since it seems that curiosity about other people would come with the territory. Am I wrong?"
04/25/2011 page 22
4.0% "Of course the heroine is Divergent. Of course she is special enough not to fit in just one category. Of course. That is the name of the game in YA. *rolls eyes*"
04/25/2011 page 25
5.0% "Well. Judging by the text, I should gain this message at least subtextually: if you don't 'find your calling' (i.e. In this case, complete the initiation into the faction that truly suits you), you are doomed to a life of poverty and misery. That's lovely. (I know that sounds critical, but dystopians ARE supposed to mean and represent something below the surface of the story and text.)"
04/25/2011 page 29
6.0% "Oddly, I'm not buying the fact that the heroine will greatly miss her family if she goes to another faction. She seem too self-absorbed to care that much about anyone, really."
04/25/2011 page 30
6.0% "I want to know this: why is Beatrice so uber-fascinated and allured by Dauntless? I'd really like to know. It might make me like her more as a character if it were a good, deep reason."
04/25/2011 page 33
7.0% "Well, that sounds potentially idiotic: a ruling council made up of fifty people from the same faction. Red flags, red flags!! And nothing is incorruptible, Beatrice. If you're so shrewd (which you seem to be in other areas), why don't you mention this disconnect at least as an aside to your thoughts?"
04/25/2011 page 33
7.0% "I honestly don't see how all these factions resulted from some 'great peace.' Logic tells me that great conflict is even more likely when there are factions with such vastly different sets of values."
04/25/2011 page 35
7.0% "You know. . .this surprises me: for being so supposedly selfless, the Abnegation faction sure doesn't seem very empathetic or compassionate."
04/25/2011 page 39
8.0% "I've figured out what I don't like about Beatrice: she's a character who doesn't feel like a real person but the idea of a real person. Like certain other YA heroines, she's written in such a way that the typical YA reader (usually a teenage girl) is meant to insert herself into the heroine's shoes easily as if she the reader is living the story. It doesn't feel genuine because of that."
04/25/2011 page 42
8.0% "Wouldn't you think that dividing a society into factions, each of which has their own ideas about which qualities need to be 'eradicated' in humans for there to be order and peace, would only lead to more problems down the road, subverting the idea of peace?"
04/25/2011 page 42
8.0% "Isn't it strange that our heroine is so against Erudite (knowledge) and Candor (honesty)? That's very telling of her character (and ust be part of the reason why I dislike/don't respect her)."
04/25/2011 page 45
9.0% "Huh. I think this book might have been better if it had focused/centered on Caleb, Beatrice's brother, since at least I, the reader, can understand the decision he just made and the likely reasons for it. As for Beatrice. . .I really *don't* understand her much at all."
04/25/2011 page 47
9.0% "It's sad that the only reason the heroine ends ip choosing for herself is that she sees others do so before her. It's just another form of peer pressure in a way, and it makes you as the reader doubt her decision. She just seems weak and impressionable as a character."
04/25/2011 page 51
10.0% "Geez. Someone just became factionless -- akin to the worst life imaginable in this world -- and no one bats an eyelash? This book needs some more emotional response in the characters, honestly!"
04/25/2011 page 52
10.0% "This whole thing with the factions is starting to remind me of an extreme, wide-scale, and dystopian version of the Hogwarts houses in Harry Potter. (Except Dauntless, the would-be Gryffindors, are definitely not as genuine when it comes to bravery, passion, and integrity -- or so it seems to me right now.)"
04/25/2011 page 53
11.0% "Here we go again with the 'bravery'/stupidity of jumping off trains."
04/25/2011 page 54
11.0% "Empty? Who are you, Beatrice, to judge that the factionless are empty? You're just spouting out things you've heard. The factionless may be lost and desperate, maybe, but empty? They don't cease to be people just because they didn't fit into some puzzle in your big, bad dystopian world, Beatrice."
04/25/2011 page 55
11.0% "Well. That says a lot about this heroine that she turns away and feels next to nothing when facets with a dead body. Sure, I understand about not falling apart when you're being judged every moment because of this initiation practice, but feel something meaningful, deep, and raw internally, at least!"
04/25/2011 page 56
11.0% "This story's world is apathetic to the max."
04/25/2011 page 65
13.0% ""The chasm reminds us that there is a fine line between bravery and idiocy." Sorry, Dauntless, but I really feel that your 'bravery' is usually idiocy."
04/25/2011 page 74
15.0% "And now Beatrice is judging how a person should feel and act because 'someone who looks so strong shouldn't act so weak'? You feel disgust towards him? I feel disgust towards you."
04/25/2011 page 75
15.0% "Huh. Four is really rather intense -- but I like him more than Beatrice, at least."
04/25/2011 page 82
17.0% "Unsurprisingly, Beatrice is against PDA too. She just seems a judge of anything and everything."
04/25/2011 page 86
17.0% "*groan* Another heroine who doesn't think she's 'pretty.' She's the type of character whose personality says she really couldn't care less either way if she were pretty or not, but I guess my assumption isn't correct. (I guess it's a mandate that 90% of YA heroines don't find themselves attractive at all.)"
04/25/2011 page 94
19.0% ""I like to think I'm helping them by hating them," she says. "I'm reminding them that they aren't God's gift to humankind." - Uhh, okay. I have issues with that statement, but all right. . ."
04/25/2011 page 101
20.0% "Why doesn't anyone speak up against any of these cruel acts or atrocities? The silence (and thus akin to acceptance) from the characters is coming off less as fear and more as apathy."
04/25/2011 page 114
23.0% "Well, well. Someone has a crush on Beatrice. I did not see that coming at all. *sarcasm*"
04/25/2011 page 115
23.0% ". . .and, in typical 'winning heroine' fashion, Beatrice ruins it with, . . .I could not be attracted to anyone that fragile. What a reason not to like someone. I would think that not being afraid to show emotions displays a certain depth. In fact, being open about emotions isn't fragile; it's healthy."
04/25/2011 page 118
24.0% "A part of me just wants to be done with this book (even though, percentage-wise, I'm almost a fourth of the way through), but I will trudge on. . ." 3 comments
04/25/2011 page 242
49.0% "I have trudged forth and have reaped the benefits from it. . .or maybe I'm just laying it on a bit thick. Seriously, though, the book does get better (even though the first 150 pages are a bit muddy) -- but this book is much too reliant on the factors of shock and action. It takes even more away from the story already a bit low on the emotion and sympathy factors."
04/26/2011 page 339
68.0% "Okay, I am finally starting to 'get' this book. . .and, even though it's far from perfect, there's something compelling about it once it really starts rolling and making sense and gaining heart. Here's me being honest: I would rather read a book that I dislike at first only to end up warming up to it than one where I just feel blasé, neither liking nor disliking it, the whole time." 2 comments
04/26/2011 page 458
92.0% "Well, I'm almost done, and I am feeling conflicted (which is actually a *good* thing)."
05/05/2012 page 62
13.0% "Re-reading because (1) I have a copy of Insurgent waiting for me, (2) I remember next to nothing about the first book other than what I wrote in my updates a year ago, and (3) I read that that there's next to no recapping in the sequel. Do I think I'll like this better the second time around? Probably not," 2 comments

Comments (showing 1-33 of 33) (33 new)

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Anna~nose in book with a jealous Husband~ let me know how this one goes!


message 2: by Eve (new) - rated it 4 stars

Eve Davids Lmao @ all the bookshelves this fell into. I suppose now you see why it's a three star. It could have been better no doubt.


message 3: by Eve (new) - rated it 4 stars

Eve Davids Unfortunately, I never really connected with Tris. I suppose its because I didnt really buy the horrors of being factionless so her motives didnt move me.
I dont think the world building will improve since that's what people usually use the first book for. I will probably read the other books in the series too, but I wont be standing in line for them.

Have you heard about Pure by Julianna Baggott? That has taken Divergent's place in my heart. I'm psyched for it.


message 4: by Eve (new) - rated it 4 stars

Eve Davids Yes, Roth is indeed a christian. And perhaps I am biased but that's why I gave this book three stars and didnt bash it. Let me rephrase, I like that she added christian values but it didnt feel preachy like she was shoving it down our throats. Also, its really hard not to like her and have a sense of pride that someone so young is accomplishing so much when you read her block.

The thing I hated the most about this book where the trails and how Tris became a bad ass within weeks. (With Katniss, we knew she's been doing that for several years before the story starts.)
It felt too create the action pumping of THG (and of course I realize this could be completely coincidental.) When the big guy died, I also really hated listening to Tris's thoughts. They just seemed very callous to me.
I keep saying I dont want to criticize this, but every time I speak, I do. I think deep down there were some things that really irritated me about this book because of the high expectations I had for it. Let me remind you, when the book was sold they said it was THG meet Matrix! Close your eyes and try to imagine what a thrill ride that promises ... And so I went into slut mode to nab an ARC, and it was like really? What on earth did the Matrix have to do with this now?


message 5: by Eve (new) - rated it 4 stars

Eve Davids I know criticism isnt a bad thing, but sometimes I feel bad when I criticize a novel that wasnt too bad itself because I know its insanely hard to write one.
But you are right.

Wow, I didnt put that matrix thing together I guess. The truth is the simulations in Divergent were so meh to me, my brain didnt even take it to the level of the Matrix. At least now I see where her agent was going I guess.

If THG games does really well, I bet you Summit wanting to cash on quick, will turn this into a movie.
Regarding THG movies, I think its a little dangerous that the budget is $60 mil, since its always going to be compared in terms of profit to Twilight which was like $20 mil. Do you think the movies will be as successful as Twilight?


Caitlin No. Well, I would want them to be, but I honestly don't think so. Summit has a track record with...okay...not fabulous films. I can only think of one, The Hurt Locker which actually won best picture.(It's the anomy out of all Summit films actually) But I cant think of any other successful, well produced movies that came out of Summit. Sorry but Twilight doesn't count in my books.

And if it comes out after THG then it might be taken less seriously. It would look like a rip off of the THG movies.

But this is all speculation and I could be totally wrong. It could end up amazing and the biggest franchise since Harry Potter. :D


message 7: by Eve (last edited Apr 26, 2011 09:13PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Eve Davids Jillian and Caitlin, you both make good points.

I dont know if THG will more successful than Twilight considering, that Twihards probably went to see that movie at least ten times in a month just to get their Robert Pattinson thing on.

The director will have to come with his A game big time to make a compelling pg 13 movie out of THG. In my opinion, that might really limit things. And none of the male interest in THG are exactly swoon worthy, although the guy cast as Peeta has potential.

I suppose what I am trying to say is given Summit's record, and other factors, I dont have too much hope that the director will turn THG into Oscar worthy material.
The other angle which might play the movie to teens (Twihards), that is True luf, and really hot male interests, are also not going for this movie.
Because while it might be interesting to read about kids put in Arena to kill themselves, how interesting will this be to watch when we have cheap knock off movies showing us kids in more menacing scenarios?
Also the characters they have cast, dont exactly look like kids, which takes away some of the good shock value and emotional attachment the book makes one feel.
Anyway, its all thoughts. All we know, the director will turn out Oscar Worthy material.


Steph Sinclair You are correct Jillian. Lionsgate has THG. And I do think it will be pretty successful. I believe THG will appeal to a broader audience than Twilight.


message 9: by Caitlin (last edited Apr 26, 2011 10:00PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Caitlin Oh! I thought we were talking about Divergent in movie form, not THG. My bad. I kinda went off on a tangent before. Heh.

I actually believe THG will be successful. Gary Ross has proven to create some great films and I have faith in him. As for the Box office, well, it's supposed to be released in March, spring break time. Perfect timing. About the boy/girl factor, I think it will attract to both. The main character is a girl and if they chose to hint at a romance in the previews (which I'm sure they will) that may help the count increase. Boys, well, give them action and they'll be drawn in.

You're right about the guarantee of millions. I mean, THG movie news and rumors is all over the place. The industry is buzzing with it so they're going to really throw it into the media and project THG to the public as soon as they can.

So to answer the "More popular than Twilight" question, yea. THG should attract more people just because of the plot and familiar faces and names. Twilight didn't have any of that. Only it's fans and advertisement. When it did hit theaters the reaction from the fans interested the general public and they were left to be the judge. HUnger games on the other hand, just has a broader appeal. It's not all romance nor is it plain killing. Plus, the series as a whole is about a revolution. THG really fits well on the big screen and usually if it fits well, it does well.

But that doesn't always happen.


Steph Sinclair Wait...Divergent has been optioned by Summit?


Caitlin Yea. Veronica Roth (that's her name right?) posted a blog about it.


message 12: by Eve (new) - rated it 4 stars

Eve Davids Jillian, sorry you are so right about that.

Caitlin, I have to disagree with you on the Twilight thing, in that Twilight had a way bigger fan base and had probably sold ten times THG currently before that ridiculous movie came out.

Guys, without a doubt it will make money! Come on! If I am Number Four can make money then certainly THG will!
It's the Twilight comparisons thing per box office that i know THG will suffer from. That is, people will keep comparing it to Twilight. Which I believe was that successful because Twihards each saw the movie at least ten times.
Okay, I will stop hating on twihards.


message 13: by Steph (last edited Apr 26, 2011 10:16PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Steph Sinclair Wow. The book hasn't even officially released and it's already been optioned.

I had never heard of Twilight before the movies came out. I believe Twilight became ridiculously popular *after* the movie. It was given an awful budget. Some of the actors wore their own personal clothes in the movie. Not that doing so is a bad thing. But it just goes to show you how little money they had.


Caitlin Yea, but THG fan base is growing day by day. By next year, it will be twice it's size (Okay maybe I'm exaggerating, but a girl can dream, right?). Plus, unlike Twilight, THG actually has freakin' Hollywood on it's side. Twilight didn't have the budget, director, actors and support THG has.

Hell, I'll go see it fuckin' ten times if I have to. Take that you damn twihards.


Steph Sinclair Caitlin wrote: "Yea, but THG fan base is growing day by day. By next year, it will be twice it's size (Okay maybe I'm exaggerating, but a girl can dream, right?). Plus, unlike Twilight, THG actually has freakin' H..."

A-freakin'-men!

When they started shooting New Moon, the cast was overwhelmed by all of the twihards that stalked the sets. They said no one stalked the Twilight set.


message 16: by Eve (new) - rated it 4 stars

Eve Davids Stephanie wrote: "Caitlin wrote: "Yea, but THG fan base is growing day by day. By next year, it will be twice it's size (Okay maybe I'm exaggerating, but a girl can dream, right?). Plus, unlike Twilight, THG actuall..."

Stephanie, this is actually wrong. I know that for a fact because Catherine Harwicke as well as both the cast members talked about how people stalked them in Twilight but it was more peaceful, nothing crazy as it got for New Moon and the other rubbish.


message 17: by Eve (new) - rated it 4 stars

Eve Davids Caitlin wrote: "Yea, but THG fan base is growing day by day. By next year, it will be twice it's size (Okay maybe I'm exaggerating, but a girl can dream, right?). Plus, unlike Twilight, THG actually has freakin' H..."

I also think the movie will escalate the books too. Unfortunately the romantic in me, wishes they play up the romantic angle up a bit too. *fangirl*


message 18: by Eve (new) - rated it 4 stars

Eve Davids Jillian -always aspiring- wrote: "Everything is better with romance, I always say. :)"

I have a feeling S.C might not be a romance fangirl though seeing the way she went hardcore in Mockingjay. Hehe.


Steph Sinclair TheDuchess wrote: "Stephanie wrote: "Caitlin wrote: "Yea, but THG fan base is growing day by day. By next year, it will be twice it's size (Okay maybe I'm exaggerating, but a girl can dream, right?). Plus, unlike Twi..."

Oh, my mistake!


Erica (daydreamer) Fantastic review Jillian, as always :)


Caitlin Just what I was anticipating from this book. A mixed bag.

As always, great review.


 Kendall [Kenny] You got it done. :D Yay!


Milly Awesome review Jillian!


message 24: by Anthi (new) - added it

Anthi Really nice and interesting review Jillian and you are right, dystopian is the new vampire.


April*procrastinator and proud* D: JILLIAN! Nooo! only 3 stars! *pulls out her shotgun*


Cassi aka Snow White Haggard Great review. I've heard some mixed opinions but you summarized why so very well.


Tatiana Jillian, I believe many people would reduce the star rating of this book if they ever reread it. The initial attraction of this book was in its frantic pace, but if you read it the second time, all the flaws get illuminated, especially the ones related to world-building.


message 28: by javiruchi (new) - added it

javiruchi Hear, hear! Very critical...


Ronyell Awesome review Jillian! I agree that there were some things in this book that were a bit confusing to get through.


message 30: by Kat (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kat "Is it really a true dystopia, the kind that makes us fear for our own world because we see the problems and warnings present in our own time and place? Or just an action thriller with dystopian elements?"

YES. THIS. YES YES YES. I tried to write something to this effect in my review, but I couldn't quite get the wording. I was looking forward to sinking into a fun YA dystopian world, and--for me--it completely failed in that respect.


Derrick I totally understand where you're coming from.


message 32: by Amber (new) - rated it 1 star

Amber It's got nothing to do with the book (which I didn't like, by the way, due to the unlikable protagonist and shoddy world-building) but I have to say that I LOVE your profile picture. I love Frozen, and I love Anna, and let's face it: the face she's making in the photo is adorable. :)
Oh, and great review, by the way.


Polly Lodato I love Frozen


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