Wendy Darling's Reviews > Divergent

Divergent by Veronica Roth
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May 04, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: dystopian-post-apocalyptic-utopian, young-adult, read-2011, boarding-school, 2011-publication, action-packed, 2011-favorites
Read from September 20 to 21, 2011

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

09/20/2011 page 73
15.0% "Well, no wonder she left her faction. If I couldn't have a hamburger, I'd leave, too." 31 comments
09/21/2011 page 357
73.0% "Still enjoying this quite a bit. There's a lot to be said for books that are just plain entertaining."
09/21/2011 page 397
81.0% "Ooooooooooooo. :-O" 14 comments
09/21/2011 page 401
82.0% "Okay, you can't just wound them. You have to KILL them! Sheesh." 7 comments

Comments (showing 51-100 of 107) (107 new)

Heidi Wendy I liked Divergent better than Enclave. Enclave is good but it falls at the end. I put it all in my review it. Enclave is good but it could have been so much better. If you read it let me know!

Heidi Hey Wendy since we all have so much fun chatting over your review maybe you ought to start a group!

Lindsey I still have noooo idea how she will do the sequel.

message 54: by Arphaxad (last edited Sep 23, 2011 01:06PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Arphaxad Great review, Wendy. These were pretty much my exact thoughts after finishing the book (which I was then too lazy to write down)!

Wendy Darling I think there's a lot to explain explore, Lindsey, so I'm not worried about material for future books. With the rebellion and so many factions and so many questions, I'm sure there's more than enough material to work with!

Thanks Arphaxad, I'm glad i could echo your thoughts. :)

And I appreciate the feedback on Enclave, Heidi--I'll definitely read it soon. And hah, what kind of a group? I enjoy the conversations for sure, but it's kind of nice to keep them with the book.

Heidi Hmm maybe just our own little group where we read a book together and all discuss.

Racquel Great review!! I think yours is the first review that I read that didn't give it a solid 5 star love but I mean you still enjoyed the book I could tell so that should count for something.

I kind of hate it when a book has a huge hype because most times I end up disappointed in the book when I read it myself but I have my fingers crossed that this is not the case with Divergent. Once again great review! It was really honest which I love. The gushing reviews can go on for so long you know?

-thank you&come again.

Wendy Darling Thanks Apu Racquel! I try to write reviews that reflect my honest reactions, though every once in awhile *cough* Anna Dressed in Blood *cough* it's really hard not to gush. ;) Appreciate your kind words.

MISS VAIN Anna fans unite;-)

Aly (Fantasy4eva) I adore this book. The world building may be a bit of an issue, but it was so awesome that it kind of fell at the back of my head :D

Wendy Darling Miss Vain, I totally agree. Aly...I totally agree! :D

Annabelle Marie Veronica Hm, I really enjoyed reading this review. Just the right amount of humor but enough seriousness that you got everything across so well! I really enjoyed seeing how you analyzed some of the occurrences.

That's all(:

Wendy Darling Aw, I appreciate that, Annabelle!

And that was plenty. ;)

message 65: by Andrew (new) - added it

Andrew Sydlik I only read part of your review. I think you may have spoiled some of it without warning. Based on the GoodReads summary, it seems like the protagonist's choice of faction is supposed to be a point of some mystery/tension.

Wendy Darling Thanks for your comment, Andrew. But Tris chooses her faction pretty early in the book and the "which one will she pick" thing isn't really a nail-biter. So including the information in this review, as it is in many others, isn't really a very big spoiler, and certainly not one that should ruin the reading experience for anyone.

MISS VAIN I agree with Wendy, the faction choice is probably within the first two chapters, and it's not a mystery. I think if you read it Andrew you would realize that nothing was spoiled for you.

Wendy Darling I couldn't remember exactly when she chose her faction, Miss Vain, so thanks for sharing the info. :)

MISS VAIN Wendy Darling wrote: "I couldn't remember exactly when she chose her faction, Miss Vain, so thanks for sharing the info. :)"

I'm not 100% sure on the exact chapters Wendy, but I read your review before I read Divergent and I didn't feel anything was spoiled for me.

Although it is rather difficult to make accurate assumptions regarding spoilers prior to reading the book though.

Your welcome Wendy.:)

message 70: by Andrew (new) - added it

Andrew Sydlik OK, thanks for clearing that up. Sometimes the descriptions are so vague it's hard to tell.

MISS VAIN Andrew wrote: "OK, thanks for clearing that up. Sometimes the descriptions are so vague it's hard to tell."

Yes, if you're planing to read Divergent, I think you'll be spoiler free. So many people prior to reading it had said in their reviews it's "like another The Hunger Games" so I went into it with that mindset.

In case you have read The Hunger Games Andrew, it's not really similar to THG, and not as good or even in the same category as THG, but Divergent is a fun read, and even after reading several reviews I was really surprised by the plot and how it played out.

Hope you enjoy!:)

papalbina 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.
what is that tactical error?

great review, btw - even if i didn't enjoy the book as much as you did, probably because i was reading slowly and had too much time to overanalyze and get annoyed :P

Wendy Darling Thanks papalbina. And yes, overanalyzing this one will kill it with a vengeance, hah.

message 74: by Pricky (last edited Jan 23, 2012 07:13PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Pricky Wendy! Glad to hear you enjoyed it! And I LOVED Four.

For me, I felt like although the story obviously shows EXTREME segregation and ideology, I didn't find it that far fetched. In my experience, I've come across various cultures and religions where one's natural instinct or response is suppressed because of the group's overarching ideology. And typically, it's when a member of that group no longer want to be part of that, she/he leaves to find another group to identify with. Because of that I didn't have too much trouble with believing that this type of community"could-be" possible.

I really enjoyed Enclave too and it's a nice post apocalyptic story with lots of "eewwww/gross" jaw-dropping scenes. :)

message 75: by [deleted user] (new)

I liked this book for the action scenes. What I didn't like was Four/His-other-name (I guessed His other name on page 2 when they mentioned the random kid. *snort* must been cause I'm an Animorphs fan), and so I was kind of disappointed with that - I also felt the book a lot was predictable with the romance. I was kind of hoping it would be different but again a lot of YA swoony obsessive stuff with kinda scary but inside really sweet boy interest. Also I DISLIKED strongly the ending *****SPOILERS DON'T READ****** with Erudite and also the kiss after they killed those people ****SPOILERS****
I'm willing to read the second book because I loved a lot of this book (and I hope that Roth's writing grows).
Sorry I don't know what the html is for spoiler tags :(

Autumn There turning Divergent into a movie?!? :O

message 77: by Caroline (new) - added it

Caroline I just got this on pure whim--I had a Wal-Mart gift card so I figured "Why not?" if I wasn't spending anything--and it's a relief to know that I probably won't hate it. I'd heard nothing about it beforehand.

Wendy Darling Hey Pricky, I'm glad you enjoyed this one! I guess I found this sort of society too hard to believe, but as you can tell, it certainly didn't lessen my enjoyment of the book. I'm really looking forward to Insurgent. :)

I liked Four just fine, Rachel, even though I guessed what was going on with him, too. I think it's okay to make allowances for a young first-time author as well, especially since she did such a great job with engaging readers in the story.

For spoiler tags, btw, all you do is put < spoiler >whatever text you want< /spoiler > but leave out the spaces.

Yeah, Divergent's movie rights were sold before the first book ever came out, Autumn. I think you can safely assume that most popular YA novels will be at least optioned for a film these days.

I hope you enjoy it, Caroline! I thought it was pretty fun.

message 79: by Rory (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rory Gallagher Legend is not light-entertainment! :) But I loved this.

Wendy Darling Hah--but it looks like you're enjoying Legend, Rory? At least so far?

Stephanie Miles Wendy Darling, just out of sheer curiosity, what is tactical error Tris and Four make? Not disagreeing that there wasn't a few hang ups in the book, just wondering what you were referring to.

Wendy Darling Hi Stephanie! The part I was referring to was around page 401, which I felt so strongly about that I posted it as a status update, hah.

In my opinion, (view spoiler)

message 83: by M (new) - rated it 4 stars

M Just read this book and I liked your review, Wendy. I agree that that section didn't make sense; (view spoiler) Still thought it was a fun read, though!

Wendy Darling Exactly, that was the only reason I could see for allowing leniency in that situation too, Mayanka--so we see that character again in a later book. But agreed, it's a fun read! I really enjoyed it, I'm glad you did, too. :)

message 85: by Stephanie (last edited Apr 17, 2012 05:37PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Stephanie Miles Wendy Darling wrote: "Hi Stephanie! The part I was referring to was around page 401, which I felt so strongly about that I posted it as a status update, hah.

In my opinion, [spoilers removed]"

I agree. Although (view spoiler)

message 86: by Jess (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jess Wow, I love this review! I was pretty much thinking the same exact thing about the world-building concept and how far-fetched it is, and you said it better than I ever could. Later in the novel, I could understand some of Roth's motives, but you have to suspend your disbelief for so much of it.

Wendy Darling You are totally right about that, Stephanie! I didn't think of that until you pointed it out. I'm still sad that (view spoiler).

Thanks Jess! Yeah, the book definitely requires you to sit back and enjoy the ride without doing too much critical thinking. I still enjoyed it quite a bit, though, sort of the same way I like a fun action movie now and again. :) I'm glad you liked it, too!

Ronyell Awesome review as always Wendy!! I really enjoyed this book too!!

Wendy Darling Yay! I'm glad you enjoyed this one, Ronyell. :)

Ronyell Thanks!!!

message 91: by [deleted user] (new)

did you like four??

Wendy Darling Well, if you'd read my review, you'd know that yes, I liked Four...

 Athena Ivashkova ~♥~ Four's eyes! Tell me what a guy's eyes look, and I'm in game! :D (wow that sounded so weird..aha ._.)

message 94: by Joy (new) - added it

Joy Wow. You have a lot of books... How did you even get that much? Where do you get the time? And then to review much of them too... Wow.

message 95: by Joy (new) - added it

Joy Good for you! You must be pretty smart.

Leenah PERFECT review ;)

Wendy Darling Not that weird, Athena P!

And hah, thanks Leenah. I'm glad you enjoyed this, too!

message 98: by Vera (new) - rated it 4 stars

Vera (GirlySunglasses) I agree with your review. Sure, the plot holes were the size of craters and most of the characters were pretty cliché, but the pace and some of the twists made for a very enjoyable book. It's like the Die Hard or Fast and The Furious of the dystopian novels - by no means brilliant, but highly entertaining.

Veronikah Your review is spot on. And so are your status updates.
But I couldn't help it and give 4.5 stars (if I read a book in less than a week it is bound to have more than 4 stars).
(view spoiler)

message 100: by Fezekile (new) - added it

Fezekile Cokile I am writing a children's fantasy novel as well. I would love some feedback


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