Gloria Mundi's Reviews > Divergent

Divergent by Veronica Roth
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's review
Feb 18, 2012

it was ok
bookshelves: futuristic, ya-fiction, dystopia, wtf, series-abandoned, ginormous-disappointment
Read from April 13 to 14, 2012

Warning: this review is long and ranty and contains swearwords and possible spoilers (although I tried not to be too revealing).

So, for me, this book was pretty much just a big pile of unbelievable sprinkled with absurd and a generous helping of awkward inappropriate romance on the side. The heroine, Beatrice (Tris) Prior lives in a world where, following years of war, humanity (or, at least, Chicago, where the heroine resides) divided itself into five factions based on character traits: GryffindorDauntless, RavenclawErudite, HufflepuffAmity, Candour and Abnegation. Each faction lives separately from the others in its own compound/part of the city and embraces and promotes its trait above and beyond everything else. Yes, that is REALLY, the premise.

Apparently, the rational adults in the world of Divergent decided that all the endless war was caused by one specific character trait (cowardice, ignorance, aggression, I can't even remember what the one for Candour was, telling lies, I guess, and selfishness), the only controversy was which one, so they divided themselves based on that opinion and have since all devoted themselves to stamping out the chosen trait by dedicating themselves to its opposite and all war and adversity ceased immediately and unicorns started flying across the sky (hint: not really). Now, I don't think I even have to go into how patently absurd this premise is. Anyone with an iota of intelligence can surely understand that a complex phenomenon such as war cannot and does not have one single identifiable stamp-outable cause, FFS. How can anyone possibly argue that, yep, it is just cowardice alone and nothing else that causes wars, so once we get that under wraps by jumping on and off trains and beating up people who are much weaker than us, world peace will be upon us? Halleluja! Middle East conflict has been solved. Let's divide them all up into Hogwarts houses and hey presto! Peace for all.

And even if you did manage to convince yourself that all war is caused by cowardice/stupidity/whatever. How the hell do you get from that to the assertion that this must mean that everyone has to be brave (unless they are in another faction, in which case they have to be selfless, honest etc, as applicable) AND NOTHING ELSE. Throwing the baby out with the bathwater, much? If you think cowardice is the problem then why not get rid of, you know, just cowardice? But nooooo, not in this looney land. Here, if you are brave, you cannot possibly be anything else. Not clever or selfless or peaceful or honest. Because if you are, that would make you normallike so totally rare that there'd even be a special name for you – Divergent – and it would mean you are a total rebel and impossible to control, so immediate extermination for you. Whaaat? SERIOUSLY?

Unless Ms Roth wants us to believe that this world is populated entirely by morons? Which is a possibility, I suppose. They are surrounded by a fence which is locked and guarded from the outside. Perhaps, later books will reveal that this is in fact a colony where the world had sent it's delusional lunatics. That might actually be fun.

And while I am on the subject of that fence. The book is set in Chicago but for all we know nothing else exists on the face of planet Earth. There is no mention of anything outside of the fence. The city appears to be entirely self-governed and self-sufficient. Nothing comes in or out except for some Amity farmers. One has to wonder where they get shit that is not available in Chicago and its immediate surroundings. You know, like maybe oil and gas and coal and rice and sugar and coffee and tea and oh maybe about a gazillion other things. I mean, even assuming it is a harsh post-many-many-years of war austerity, they'd have to get at least some of those things from somewhere, otherwise how would their cars and busses run and houses be heated and I am pretty sure there was mention of coffee. Did the Erudite discover how to photosynthesize this stuff out of thin air? Who knows. For all her aptitude for intelligence, Tris just doesn't seem to be that curious about or interested in anything apart from herself and the immediate minutiae of her life.

Which brings me nicely on to our heroine. Tris may have been an awesome character had Ms Roth taken the time to flesh her out, given her some context, some depth, something. Instead, she is plucked out of a vacuum and is emotionless to a point where she could give Terminator lessons on how to be more robotic. What has Tris been doing up until the point we meet her at the start of the book? She doesn't appear to have any friends or have any emotional attachment towards her family apart from constantly resenting them. What does this girl actually enjoy, if anything, what interests does she have? Yes, I know she is in abnegation but surely she must have done something, thought something, had some interests for 16 years until we meet her. But there is nothing. No little childhood anecdotes, no memories, no nostalgia. Nothing except for what she is doing and feeling right now, right this minute. The only thing we know for definite is that she is not selfless and has not enjoyed being made to appear so. Yet, for someone supposedly intelligent, this appears a pretty poor basis to make a life-altering decision.

In Tris's world, you choose which "house" you want to belong to at 16. You can choose the faction you grew up in or one of the others. To help you decide, you undertake a highly suspect psycho-pop mumbo jumbo of a "test" which is supposed to determine your natural aptitude. However, notwithstanding the result of the test, you can choose whatever faction you wish, it appears.

Apart from this "test", the kids appear to be given no information whatsoever about what joining a particular faction involves, the initiation process, what the people there actually do, the fact that your survival chances are about 50% or that it might be kinda like moving in with these guys for the rest of your life:

You know, little details like that.

If you do choose a faction other than your own, the likelihood is you will never see your friends or family again. But that's nothing to Tris. Friends? She doesn't have any. Family? Family is for snivelling weaklings. Why would she give a shit when she can get tattoos, wear what she likes and jump on and off trains all day long instead. Yeah!

Oh, and that's another thing that bothered me. Given the initiation approach of half of you will die or be kicked out to become factionless to live in a cardboard box under a bridge, how on earth does Dauntless sustain itself? What was it, 10(?) initiates they were going to keep on? Which makes you wonder, with the off the charts mortality rate they must have with their adrenaline junkie mentality, how many Dauntless actually are there? How do they not become extinct?

My sense of disbelief absolutely refused to let itself be suspended and frankly, it is insulting to me as a reader that any author would think I should just swallow this preposterous world. And for the sake of what? An inexplicable, unexplainable, unexplained, flat romance between two emotionally stunted teenagers who appear to be unable to feel anything beyond their inappropriate attraction to each other?

Four (the romantic interest) is the fucking instructor (not literally) of the new initiates so should, really, concentrate on instructing them, instead of getting a boner for one of his students and whisking her off for additional training sessions giving her an unfair advantage over the others. Just a thought.

Four is also a complete cipher. I have no idea who that man/boy is, beyond a possibly abusive childhood, no qualms about hitting on students who look like 12 year olds and badass awesomeness which I am supposed to take purely on trust (hint: after that world-building, I don't have any) there is just a void of… of… well, nothing, really. I couldn't even tell you what he looks like. Or why he likesloves(!!!) Tris. Or why she likesloves(!!!) him back.

So why two stars? I would have given it 1.5 if I could but I can't so I settled on two because it wasn't totally hopeless. The pacing was good, it was nice to have a heroine with intimacy issues rather than one that melts into a pile of goo at the hero's feet (even if this did carry too far into emotionless automaton territory at times). The writing wasn't bad and I didn't detect any particularly offensive themes. Did that make it ok? Let's just say, I don't think I will continue on with the series but I can sorta kinda see how people might like it if they have a better behaved sense of disbelief.
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04/14/2012 page 487
05/27/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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Tatiana I relish such reviews of Divergent as yours, they are so rare...

Kara So glad I'm not the only one who had some serious issues with Divergent!

Gloria Mundi I've had a quick breeze through the reviews and I could see a few other dissenters. I just can't believe this won book of the year (main reason I read it).

Tatiana The way I see it, the readability factor is very high. So high, that people don't even have a moment to stop and really think about the content.

Gloria Mundi I agree there is very little pause and breathe in this book and it's very action packed. It's just all very thoughtless and incredulous. Sometimes that's not necessarily bad. It didn't work for me but I guess I am in the minority.

message 6: by cliffisimus (new) - added it

cliffisimus Spot on review!

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