Wendy Darling's Reviews > Divergent

Divergent by Veronica Roth
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3.5 stars Any book that arrives heavily hyped usually has a ton of marketing power behind it. Sure, there are critical reviews to consider, but these days consumers are more aware than ever of the dollars at stake behind book and film negotiations. Which means that there's a lot of pressure riding on any book to live up to its promise, particularly one that comes from a 23-year-old author who has already landed a 3-book deal and signed away the movie rights.

After so many big dollar and wearisome projects such as Halo or Matched, it's a pleasure to find that every once in awhile, there's a good reason behind the fanfare. Divergent is the fast-paced, action-packed story of 16-year-old Tris, who comes from one of the five factions in a dystopian Chicago. She must choose one of the factions--Candor (honesty), Abnegation (selflessness), Dauntless (bravery), Amity (peacefulness), or Erudite (intelligence)--to live in and serve for the remainder of her life. Tris makes the decision to leave her old faction, Abenegation, in favor of Dauntless, and the majority of the book focuses on the dangerous trials that the new initiates must endure in order to find out whether they qualify to stay. Failure means living a factionless life--or death.

The very concept of the novel, however, asks that readers accept a fairly rigid framework for the story. This idea that human beings would sublimate their natural instincts to live in a society where a single virtue is promoted is pretty farfetched; it reminds me of various Star Trek alien races known for a single prevailing characteristic, but at least they are also usually presented along with certain instincts and behaviors that made sense. The division between the factions here doesn't really serve much of a purpose, and is simply explained away as people who chose a lifestyle based on differences in philosophy. Even within the factions, the doctrines don't really hold up under scrutiny--members of Dauntless, for example, are forever indulging in reckless, pointless exercises that are more about posturing than about testing their mettle.

But the thing is, the book is really fun to read. Most of the trials are pretty well thought-out, with scene after scene of nerve-wracking physical and mental tests. I liked the interplay between Tris' fellow initiates, who cautiously bond with each other but also have to look on each other as rivals, and I liked the mysterious and attractive Four, as well as the way her family members' characters eventually revealed themselves.

Tris herself I had a harder time connecting to, as she's physically very capable but mentally and emotionally it's more difficult to say whether she belongs on my "butt-kicking heroines" shelf. Some of her actions also ended up being more self-centered than I expected, mostly because I think the author was trying to show the change in Tris' morphing from Abegnation to Dauntless. But she and Four also make a huge tactical error at a crucial scene late in the book, which negates both Dauntless' philosophy and their training. I'm also not sure that several of the deaths later in the book had the appropriate emotional impact, though there were several other scenes that made me yelp. Let's just say that I gave my knife some pretty fishy looks at the dinner table last night. (view spoiler)

Still, I had a really good time reading this book, and there's a lot to be said for books that are just plain entertaining. Many of my fellow readers have major issues with the world-building and the plot holes, and I can't say that I disagree with most of the criticisms I've seen. It's certainly not in the same category as The Hunger Games; it's closer to light entertainers such as Blood Red Road or Legend, but I think we often do ourselves a disservice when we endlessly make those kinds of comparisons. It's always important to read with a critical eye--and it's true that with more attention to detail, this book might have been even better--but I don't feel that getting hung up on criticism or comparisons should get in the way of enjoying a book when so many of the other elements do work well. For me, the positives of this adventure outweigh the negatives and in the end, Divergent is still loads of fun to read. I'm looking forward to seeing where the story goes next!

This review also appears in The Midnight Garden.
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Reading Progress

May 4, 2011 – Shelved
September 20, 2011 – Started Reading
September 20, 2011 –
page 73
14.99% "Well, no wonder she left her faction. If I couldn't have a hamburger, I'd leave, too."
September 21, 2011 –
page 357
73.31% "Still enjoying this quite a bit. There's a lot to be said for books that are just plain entertaining."
September 21, 2011 –
page 397
81.52% "Ooooooooooooo. :-O"
September 21, 2011 –
page 401
82.34% "Okay, you can't just wound them. You have to KILL them! Sheesh."
September 21, 2011 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-50 of 107) (107 new)

message 1: by Reynje (new) - added it

Reynje Eagerly awaiting your verdict :)

Wendy Darling I've been really curious about this one, Reynje! My friends' reviews are all over the place. We'll see. :)

message 3: by Reynje (new) - added it

Reynje I'll admit that I have read it (pre-GR joining) but I could just never decide on a rating. Perhaps I should re-read and see how I feel :)

Wendy Darling I hope you will rate/write a review! I know we are newish friends, but my ears always perk up when I see you in my feed.

message 5: by Reynje (new) - added it

Reynje Aw, thanks Wendy :) I have to say, its nice to be amongst the "bookish people" here. Also: laughing out loud at your update thread. Home Alone references FTW!

message 6: by Jo (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jo Oooh, I keep seeing this and wondering. WONDERING.
I await your thoughts....

Laura haha...I loved this book and world.
Looking forward to your updates! :)

Wendy Darling I was the same way about this book, Jo! I decided it was time I found out for myself. I'm really enjoying the book so far, Laura. :)

KJ Shadows I already reviewed this one =) It was a fun read. I have to say for some reason I like four, even though she kinda described him as freaky looking lol

Wendy Darling Freaky looking? I don't remember that, KJ!

Elena Looking forward to your review! I agree with a lot of the worldbuilding criticisms I've seen, but for me the plot and characters totally overrode those issues. I <3 it.

KJ Shadows In one of the reviews there is a transcript of what he looks like...she says something along the lines of his bottom lip puffs out more then his upper lip and his eye lids are droopy? i was like umm? lol

Wendy Darling Huh. I remember the lip thing but not the droopy eye thing...that is a little weird, KJ. But Four still comes across as pretty cute, I can see why so many ladies like him!

And yeah, I thought this was a pretty fun book, Elena. I don't disagree that there are a lot of details that don't really hold up under scrutiny, but I was entertained.

KJ Shadows lol I love four too. But I think its in the first description. I think he's just suppose to be like a harder kind of cute :D which is fine

HєllyBєlly I really, really liked this one (as you can tell from my grading), but I know there are some serious flaws in the world building, missing vital information and inconsistencies. However, I could not stop reading it - it was addictive. I'm totally with Elena there, the plot and characters made it possible for me to ignore those things.
Looking forward to reading your review!

Wendy Darling Thanks Helly! I agree that the story is extremely readable and fun, and that's what ultimately won me over despite its flaws. I'm also pretty impressed that this is a debut from a 23-year-old author. I can see why it's been getting a lot of attention.

message 17: by Masako Lin (new) - added it

Masako Lin Agreed! It ain't perfect but it's one heck of a fun read :)

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

Dija Can't wait for your review, Wendy! :)

Wendy Darling Later today, hopefully. :) And if it's not posted, it's due to nothing more than sheer laziness on my part.

Heidi I am anxiously waiting to!

Nafiza I had a LOT of hopes for this one. It disappointed me. A lot. :(

Wendy Darling It's up, it's up! I definitely liked this better than you did, Nafiza...but at the same time, I agree with most of your points. Go figure. :)

message 23: by [deleted user] (new)

(view spoiler) ...and I think I want to know where the story goes next, but I try to imagine something interesting that could happen with this story and my mind is blank every time. Here's hoping Roth is more creative than me I guess. I'm glad you liked it! It is fun!

Wendy Darling I know, Kate! And that scene happened so quickly. :( I was disappointed that there wasn't more to that, given how much time was spent on the relationships between the initiates.

My fingers are crossed for a good sequel, too. Hopefully she has a plan. :)

message 25: by K. (new) - rated it 4 stars

K. Ugh, I went from 4 stars to 3 stars. Now after reading your review, I'm back to 4. I just had a really hard time with their system but like you said, its so much fun!

Stephen Wonderful review, Wendy.

message 27: by Reynje (new) - added it

Reynje This is brilliant, Wendy! I read your review nodding along in agreement the whole time. While I don't think the premise bears up under too much scrutiny, I did find the book hugely entertaining and I think Veronica Roth's writing style suited the book.

Wendy Darling I went back and forth between 3.5 and 4 stars too, K...I tipped it up for the sheer entertainment factor.

Thanks Stephen and Reynje! And I agree, the writing style was great for this particular book.

message 29: by [deleted user] (new)

Good point the speed of the scene made it even worse. and one more thing..(view spoiler)

Giselle I agree that the world is a bit far fetched, but it's really a fun ride so I just ignored the world building issues :) Great review Wendy.

Nikoline I'm surprised to liked this, however, I'm glad you did.

Maja (The Nocturnal Library) "Okay, you can't just wound them. You have to KILL them! Sheesh."

Somehow, in all the confusion, I didn't see this update. You definitely need to show it to anyone who (view spoiler)

I completely agree with your review. The world really lacked logic, but I didn't mind so much because it was fun. Tris, however, bothered me a little more.

I'm leaving now. In fact, I was never here.

Wendy Darling Hee hee. I'm nice. But I bite. :D

Despite its faults, I thought this was extremely readable and fun--it's always good to be surprised by a book you're not sure about. Fingers crossed that the next book is more complex, is a little more fulfilling emotionally, and forms Tris' character a little more solidly as well. (view spoiler)

Kate, I think you might be right about your prediction as far as Christina is concerned. The author set up a little bit of that with the tension between her and Tris over the flag anyway, which was probably an interesting bit of foreshadowing.

Thanks Giselle and Anne!

MISS VAIN Wendy-As usual I enjoyed your review. This book has had plenty of hype and a few GR friends have recommended it to me and so I will eventually read it however, most people recommend it by saying "it's like The Hunger Games" and maybe that's why I'm a bit put off on reading it.

I don't mind reading that the concept isn't exactly original, it happens and often times I still enjoy the book. But in my opinion I have yet to find a book that has quite captured my heart like The Hunger Games did. That book was on my mind for at least six months after I read it, and two years after I read the first one I'm still obsessed with The Hunger Games. So on that note I was delighted to see in your review that it's not another replica of The Hunger Games. :) I look forward to reading Divergent as well!:))

Jennifer Jensen (Literally Jen) I had decided I wasn't going to read this book because I read a very spoiler filled review months ago, but after reading your review, and having it recommended to me by a friend, I'm going to give it a chance.

Wendy Darling Oh, thanks Miss Vain and Jennifer! I think if you go into this with the right frame of mind and are able to just relax and enjoy the ride, it will end up being a good experience. It's impossible to shut off your brain completely of course, but for me, this book works at least on an entertainment level. And the action stuff is very well-written.

I didn't feel as though the author was trying to copy any particular concept so I was able to disassociate from comparisons to THG. The other story and characters are much more complex and well thought-out, but still...I found enough here to keep me entertained. :) I look forward to hearing your thoughts if you give this a go!

message 37: by Chelsea (new) - added it

Chelsea Brought this one as soon as it was released. Haven't gotten around to reading it thus far but glad to see that it did not disappoint!

MISS VAIN Thank you Wendy, I do plan to give it a go, just need to squeeze it in:)

Wendy Darling Chelsea, I hope you and Miss V have a good experience with this, too! It was a definitely a surprise for me, in a good way.

Limonessa Still unsure whether to read this or not. As soon as I read the word "dystopia" lately, I run away.
Nice review.

message 41: by Jo (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jo I haven't read a dystopian book for a while (like Lisa, I tend to flee)... but I'm thinking I should once again paddle in dystopian waters.

Last one I read (Eve) was just.... um, well.... yeah.

Great review Wendy! :)

message 42: by K. (new) - rated it 4 stars

K. Omg, one question that I still don't have an answer to...why did that train never stop moving?

Sarah i'm a little surprised you liked this one as much as you did. certainly, it is on the better side of the entertaining ya dystopian novels as of recent. but i just felt a little bored - like there wasn't much sense of urgency until the last 40 pages (which picked up nicely and i enjoyed). don't get me wrong, i will likely pick up the next one when it comes out, but i felt is was more of a solid 2.5-3 stars.

and K. i totally agree...why did the train never stop!? and where are the old people?

Sarah oh, and i saw you have Enclave on your to-read list...i think that is the best ya dystopian novel i've read - second only to The Giver.

Wendy Darling Lisa, I think this is one you might have issues with. It's sort of like a fun action movie, but it's full of plot holes that I think will probably drive you up the wall, hah. Jo...see my comment for Lisa. (and thanks!)

K and Sarah, I have no idea what was going on with that the train. And old people don't really exist in YA books, so I wasn't really surprised not to see them. ;)

This definitely isn't a book every adult YA reader is going to enjoy, since we have that pesky "logic" need to attend to, but I'm firmly in the "if it entertains me it has value" camp. I thought The Giver was excellent, btw, though I've heard mixed things about Enclave among my friends. I'll definitely read it at some point.

Sarah some ya books get into old people...The Giver does and even Matched (insert heavy sigh) does. i asked that more seriously than sarcastically b/c it was one of the few things Tris brings up (along with the train) in her head as a question. i am just hoping future books answer and the author just wasn't being sarcastic or ironic about it.

Wendy Darling I was being facetious about the "old people" comment, too. And yes, I'm hoping Insurgent answers more questions and develops Tris' character more as well.

Lindsey You know, I think that's what actually makes me like this book. For all its faults, it was genuinely entertaining.

HєllyBєlly I liked Enclave as well, though a bit darker and gorier than Divergent imo. World building felt more solid and believable.

Wendy Darling I totally agree, Lindsey. Faults or not, it kept my interest and I definitely want to find out what happens next!

That's good to know about Enclave, Helly. A certain Zombie Lover I know loves it, so there's a good chance I will, too. :)

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