Stephen's Reviews > Divergent

Divergent by Veronica Roth
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May 02, 12

bookshelves: 2011, audiobook, ebooks, science-fiction, ya, world-in-the-shitter, romantical
Read from January 16 to 19, 2012 — I own a copy

This book’s sobriquet should be "the comeback kid" because its final rating of 3 solid stars required it to overcome a seriously frustrating first half that had me ready to do great violence to it.

Before I expound on the redemptive, grace/face/rating saving virtues of second half of the book, I need to rant vent a bit regarding what turned my hackles all red and puffy.

THE SIN:

I am a SF dystopian connoisseur and I love a well-conceptualized “world in the shitter” set up. I am happy if the author wants to make the dystopian vision the narrative centerpiece and explore the subtle nuances of day to day life throughout the story (e.g., 1984, The Jagged Orbit or The Windup Girl). I am also just fine if the author wants to simply grab our attention with a dystopian world and use it as a springboard for introducing us to the story they “really want to tell” (e.g., Sea of Glass, Genesis, Native Tongue and Parable of the Sower).

For me these dark, distorted mirrors of our present do not need to stand up to nit-picking dissection or rigorous extrapolative analysis. It just has to be sufficient to allow my sense of disbelief to see it, smell it and give it a once over before kicking its feet up and suspending itself for the rest of the story.

Houston…we have a problem….my disbelief wasn’t ameliorated.

It rolled its eyes, squinched its nose, got up and packed a suitcase and then went fishing…leaving me in the precarious position of trying to read the novel while banging my head against the wall trying to help the world-building maneuver in past my logic circuits.

Twas a painful failure as this was not a believable dystopia. I remember having a similar problem with Shusterman’s Unwind, but, in that case, the premise was so darned intriguing that I was able to run with it anyway. Here, the central world-building concept is…..completely….and utterly….and (almost) unforgivably…horrendous. It felt desperately silly and poorly thought-through. The dystopia’s premise didn’t pass even a drive-by smell test.

In essence, the author simply replaced one set of arbitrary and ridiculous divisions with another. Thus, rather than people being irrationally and stupidly being divided by social lines, ethnic lines, racial lines, religious lines, familial lines, political lines, wealth lines, geographical lines, educational lines, …Roth created a brand new but even MORE arbitrary division that makes even less sense than the original and doesn’t even allow for “cross-over” appeal by making each faction exclusive. Therefore, by their very existence, these group are inherently laden with friction and must, by definition, clash with one another which guaranteeing the fomenting of further discord and the creation of an even shittier world.

The logic escaped me and this was a major, major failure..

Worse, the dystopian element was not even bizarrely interesting (as it was for me with Shusterman’s Unwind). Thus, in addition to be nonsensical, it lacked the “grab you” factor that might have allowed me to tell my brain to pipe down and just go with it. So, for a dystopia-lover like me, this was a steep hill to climb.

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Now, on the average to good side, the writing was fine. It wasn’t lush or pleasing enough to make reading the words in themselves fun, but it certainly wasn’t clunky or distracting to the story either. I would call it invisible which is just fine for a story like this and I felt the same way while reading stories like The Hunger Games. Good, solid prose and doesn’t make a nuisance of itself and creates an environment conducive to good story-telling.

THE REDEMPTION:

It starts with Tris who, like Katniss and Anaximander (from Genesis) before her, wormed her way into my heart and smote it with her buckets full of awesomeness. She was smart, confident, courageous and an ass-kicker extraordinaire. My kind of heroine. She picked up this struggling story with an ill-formed back-story, looked me in the eyes and said, ‘Stephen, I’m gonna make you like this story anyway because I…am…simply…that…cool.’

She was…she did…I did.

As Beatrice during the first half of the book, I was mostly under whelmed, but I fell hard for Tris once she entered the picture and she made me forget, by and large, my earlier misgivings. Insecure scared and questioning yet decisive, brave and loyal. Plus a volcanic temper that was just terrific. She was well-drawn, well shaded and felt very, very real.

As good as Tris is I don’t want to pin the entire comeback on her sack-squelching shoulders. The story itself ramped up and really gained momentum in the second half when the various pieces started to fall into place. I loved the “big reveal” and was impressed with how the scope of the plot slowly but inexorably grew until we had a story that was truly epic.

CONCLUSION:

Had I not been so off put by the “sins” of the early part of the book, I think this would have been a strong 4 star effort. As it is, I think the second half of the book was excellent and sets itself up very well for the next installment. Add to that a truly engaging, endearing character in Tris that the reader can fully connect with and I think this series has the potential to be very strong going forward.

3.0 stars. Recommended.
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Comments (showing 1-48 of 48) (48 new)

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message 1: by Anthony (new) - added it

Anthony Chavez This is one I have wanted to pick up for a while... just too many books to read.


Emily <3 I would want to see your review about it. :D


Jonathan Any good?


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

Lou Snap I am listening to this on audiobook no lie just didn't add it yet as currently reading.


message 5: by Lou (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lou These words repeated on and on and on... Dauntless abnegation, candor and oh yeah DiVergent.


Stephen Jonathan wrote: "Any good?"

Yes...I ended up liking it after struggling through the first half of the book. Good main character and an exciting second half.


Stephen Lou wrote: "Snap I am listening to this on audiobook no lie just didn't add it yet as currently reading."

Looking forward to hearing what you think about it.


message 8: by jo (last edited Jan 19, 2012 12:36PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

jo mo there's really more bad than good in this review that you pointed out, i'm actually really surprised you didn't give it a (max.) 2 star rating ..

(i know i was pretty underwhelmed with divergent, just saying)


Stephen I think if the first half had been really good and the second half disappointing, I might have been in 2 star territory. However, for me, it ended on a high note and came to really like Tris and I enjoyed both the second half action the big reveal. These were satisfying enough for me to warrant the 3rd star.


Stephanie The library is holding this one for me, may get to read it this weekend. Looking forward to it!


Stephen Stephanie wrote: "The library is holding this one for me, may get to read it this weekend. Looking forward to it!"

I hope you like it. If you don't have issues like I did in the first half, I think you will have a lot of fun with it.


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways The dystopia’s premise didn’t pass even a drive-by smell test.

Your later crush on Tris aside, this kills the book for me. Nuh-uh.

I went back and sobbed a little because you were mean to me on Scalzi's Fuzzy thread. *sniff*


Stephen Richard wrote: "I went back and sobbed a little because you were mean to me on Scalzi's Fuzzy thread. *sniff*"

Never! *indignant chest thrust* I was merely commenting on your gangsta/CIA posting style.


message 14: by Anne (new) - added it

Anne Great review. It seems more entertaining than the book. :P


Stephen Anne wrote: "Great review. It seems more entertaining than the book. :P"

Thanks, Anne. The book is actually one I would recommend as it has some good things going for it and potential going forward. I just thought the dystopia premise was weak and the first half was hard to engage with as a result.


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways Stephen wrote: "Richard wrote: "I went back and sobbed a little because you were mean to me on Scalzi's Fuzzy thread. *sniff*"

Never! *indignant chest thrust* I was merely commenting on your gangsta/CIA posting style."


...I think I tore something laughing...


message 17: by Lisa (new) - rated it 2 stars

Lisa Great review. Unfortunately it didn't redeem itself for me by the end. Will still read the second installment though.


Stephen I saw that you were under whelmed with this one. Based on the end, I think this is set up to get better in the next installment. *fingers crossed*


message 19: by Anne (new) - added it

Anne Yeah, it can be frustrating when a book with such potential is hard to engage and is poorly thought through. But since you already went through the worst part of it and liked it anyways, i am hopeful that the second book will be better. If not, i will be ready to laugh with your next review. :)


Stephen FREEBIRD wrote: "YES. THANK YOU. I feel like everyone just ADORED this book, but I could barely chalk up three stars for it. Although, ironically, the first half was what saved it for me rather than the last half..."

Thank you, FREEBIRD. I am very glad you enjoyed it.


Jason Hah, great review as always and great responses. I however, was one that adore this book, both the first and second half. I found the dystopian world to be remenicent of old medieval times. Class bred class, bakers bred bakers and royalty bred royalty. A caste type system with a kick ass heroine.


Stephen We definitely agree on the kick ass heroine, Jason. I was a fan of Tris by the end of this one. The dystopia just did not work for me, but I did enjoy how it worked up to the big reveal.


message 23: by Jana (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jana I just recently read this book also & thought a few things definitely could have been better, but I loved Four & Tris, so I felt that was worth the time I invested. I'll read the next book for sure.


Stephen I will read the next book too, Jana. Overall, I thought Roth did a good job. Ilked Four as well, even though he didn't make my review. He should have.


Anne  (Booklady) Molinarolo Good review, but again I reserve to read it for myself and see if I agree with your assessment. Stephen, you are often on the mark about a particular book, I just am deciding to go into the book with an open mind :)


Stephen Anne (Booklady) wrote: "Good review, but again I reserve to read it for myself and see if I agree with your assessment. Stephen, you are often on the mark about a particular book, I just am deciding to go into the book wi..."

Thanks, Anne. You should absolutely give this a try. We all have different likes and dislikes and a lot of people really love this. I hope you do.


Crystal Starr Light Excellent review, and I agree, the dystopian element was definitely hard to buy. I had so many questions of how our world would change to embrace something so divisive (isn't this culture just BEGGING for them to fight amongst themselves?). I am hoping that Roth will answer some of the questions and make the dystopia a bit more believable in Book 2.


Stephen Crystal wrote: "Excellent review, and I agree, the dystopian element was definitely hard to buy. I had so many questions of how our world would change to embrace something so divisive (isn't this culture just BEG..."

Thanks, Crystal. I'm glad I'm not the only one who felt that way.


Erika I don't know, i think I'm starting to forget things about this book but i'm not sure what you mean with the "big reveal"... somehow i can't remember something major at the end (view spoiler)

your reviews are always awesome :)


Stephen Erika wrote: "I don't know, i think I'm starting to forget things about this book but i'm not sure what you mean with the "big reveal"... somehow i can't remember something major at the end."

Thanks, Erika. As for the big reveal, I was referring to (view spoiler). I thought that was pretty cool.


message 31: by Erika (last edited Jan 20, 2012 12:52PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Erika Oh right!... damn, i think when the second book comes out I'm gonna have to re-read the first one as i seem to be forgetting it :P


Trudi I agree Stephen that the dystopian set-up in this one is pretty thin. This is popcorn dystopia, not genuine sci-fi dystopia. I likened it more to an allegory about the trials and traumas of fitting in and finding your place and voice in the world ... something teen readers can certainly understand. To be "outcast" ... is there a fate worse than that when you are young and unsure?

I also enjoyed the tests and competitions. I thought that was great action. I would not want to uncover and face my deepest fears in this way. Not even maybe!!! no matter how cathartic.

And yes, Tris is great though not quite a Katniss or Saba. Though my FAVORITE heroine of late is Karou from Daughter of Smoke and Bone :)


Stephen Trudi wrote: "This is popcorn dystopia, not genuine sci-fi dystopia. I likened it more to an allegory about the trials and traumas of fitting in and finding your place and voice in the world."

That is a really good point, Trudi. I like the term popcorn dystopia. I guess I found it too flimsy to pull me into the story, but the book still redeemed itself in the end. I really like the action and the "fear" tests. I own "Daughter of Smoke and Bone" and will have to check out
Blood Red Road based on your fondness for their main characters.


Laura Anne Thank you for this review. Everyone seems to love this book but I am having a hard time getting through the first half. You summed it up...I just don't quite buy the world Roth is building and yet there is nothing really wrong with the writing..*picks book up again for the 100th time*..I will push through!


Stephen Anne wrote: "Thank you for this review. Everyone seems to love this book but I am having a hard time getting through the first half. You summed it up...I just don't quite buy the world Roth is building..."

Thanks, Anne. I hope the second half redeems it for you as it did me. I thought the book really picked up momentum heading into the finish.


LenaZombieSlayer Great review! I tried to ignore the flaw of an unbelievable dystopia. I thought maybe it was just me being too critical, but after u explained it I felt less judgmental and more validated lol u explained the weakest link perfectly. Regardless still an entertaining read :)


Stephen Thank you...I'm glad I'm not alone in that observation. I agree it is still an interesting read and am looking forward to book 2.


E.V.Franzmnn E.V.Franzmnn How is the audiobook recording??? Any good?


Stephen Yes, Elisandra. I thought the narration was very good and the production value was excellent.


message 40: by Reem (new) - rated it 5 stars

Reem Awesome review! But I have to say this is one of my favorite books equal to the Hunger Games with me. I think the thing is with me is that I just try to enjoy the book I didn't really pay attention to how realistic their world was because its fiction and I didn't really expect it to be. Call me stupid but I saw it as sorta realistic I mean it wasn't so fake I imagined it as something that a while later might happen somewhere. And it was really unique! Which I loved a lot! I think it was a fun and an extraordinary book, but I'm 17 so that might explain some things lol.


Stephen Reem, I'm glad you enjoyed the book, and I think your approach/reaction to the book was just fine. There's nothing dumb about loving any story. Despite my issues with the book, I ended up enjoying it and am looking forward to book 2.


Jonathan Stephen I too am very much looking forward to book 2. By the way as a fellow Marvelite and a man who apparently loves all manner of awesome you must get yourself to a screening of The Avengers at some point. Very, very cool.


Anne  (Booklady) Molinarolo Good review. I am still debating on whether to read this one sooner rather than later. Working on my review of The Sisters Brothers now.


Stephen Looking forward to your review, Anne.


Stephen Jonathan wrote: "Stephen I too am very much looking forward to book 2. By the way as a fellow Marvelite and a man who apparently loves all manner of awesome you must get yourself to a screening of The Avengers at s..."

Very much look forward to the movie, Jonathan. I will see it soon.


Ronyell Awesome review as always Stephen!! I just loved this book!!!


message 47: by Li (new) - rated it 1 star

Li I really have to disagree about Tris. I find her incredibly unlikable and, worse, inconsistent. She's only a "badass" when it suits the author's fancy; at other points, she's a whimpering mess of self-esteem issues that put her in the running for Bella Swan Wanna-Be of the Year. Bleh. Not a person, not even a character; just a contrivance.


message 48: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie I've decided to stick with it on your recommendation because it's been a bit of a drudge getting past the first 10 chapters. Thus far, the prose seems a little too spartan and lacking in personality, the Dauntless appear too absurd to be real, and like you, I found it difficult to believe a society could be constructed in this way.


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