Nataliya's Reviews > Divergent

Divergent by Veronica Roth
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bookshelves: 2013-reads, i-also-saw-the-film, the-hype-is-overhyped

Heh. I'm torn now. I eyerolled so much while reading this book that I may have permanently damaged at least some of my cranial nerves. And yet I read it in one sitting, annoyingly and inexplicably entertained. Go figure.


There just may have been some facepalming as well.

It's yet another young adult dystopia based on a stupid premise. Seriously, it's plainly ridiculous. If I had to compare it to something equally ridiculous it'd have to be the notion of sparkly vampires. I'm not kidding. Just listen to this:
"Decades ago our ancestors realized that it is not political ideology, religious belief, race, or nationalism that is to blame for a warring world. Rather, they determined that it was the fault of human personality - of humankind's inclination toward evil, in whatever form that is. They divided into factions that sought to eradicate those qualities they believed responsible for the world's disarray."

How ridiculous is it? Well, it's a dystopian Chicago where, in an attempt to battle the evils of this world people came up with a BRILLIANT idea to segregate into five "factions", each of one is based on ONE quality that is supposed to be the uber-defining feature of them. Therefore we have the brave, the selfless, the smart, the truthful, and the kind.¹ Except some people can be more than one of those - the Divergent.
¹ You know what this idea is missing? A Sorting Hat yelling out, "GRYFFINDOR!!!" as the character decides to make a choice and join the reckless brave. I eyerolled at it in a children's book where it made its appearance. I exasperatedly eyeroll at it now.
No, really. That is stupid. First of all, how exactly will our society ever get to the point where such thing becomes plausible? (I mean, seriously - at least we can imagine the world of "The Hunger Games" happening given current obsession with reality shows.) And second of all, how exactly is everyone in this world NOT 'Divergent'? They have an option to switch factions after being raised in one; so basically it's okay to internalize the principles of more than one of them. How will that not make them 'Divergent'? So there's that, and the sheer impossibility of a person to live only within the rigid frames of one of the factions' principles.
For instance, let's look at doctors, 'kay? In this book, they belong to the faction of the kind. Because, clearly, for this profession you don't need the smarts to learn medicine, the selflessness to sacrifice sleep and rest in favor of helping the sick, the bravery to cut into someone's bodily cavity, and the truthfulness to deliver bad news or admit when you don't know something.

Clearly it would take a special brain to use more than one of these qualities not only simultaneously but EVER.

............................
No wonder this world does not work well. Duh. I mean, how well does complete segregation work to create peace instead of creating new lines of division of "Us vs. Them"??? Clearly complete segregation would do wonders to solve the violence-causing issues in the world. History showed us many examples of that. And I cannot believe that up until this point in that universe nobody questioned the validity of this structure.
"I think we’ve made a mistake," he says softly. "We’ve all started to put down the virtues of the other factions in the process of bolstering our own. I don’t want to do that. I want to be brave, and selfless, and smart, and kind, and honest."
Well, duh. Did it take centuries to come to this conclusion?

-------------
But here's the thing - once you put in the gargantuan effort to overlook this stupidity and suspend your disbelief to the point that it helplessly dangles over an abyss, this book is actually fun - despite all the faults, despite the shallow characters, despite the many elements so traditional to teen dystopias that you can't help but wonder whether they have been mass-manufactured.



It's probably the sheer amount of action in this book - nonstop action that makes action-heavy plot itself giddy from action overload. Did I mention action?

Tris, the occasionally too-dumb-to-live protagonist¹, does not ever seem to stop moving. Running, jumping, falling, fist-fighting, knife-fighting, shooting, running, punching - all that while she, a special Divergent snowflake, learns to fit in among the Dauntless, the Gryffindor-brave (read: stupidly reckless) faction of this universe.
¹ (view spoiler)*eyeroll*
"Somewhere inside me is a merciful, forgiving person. Somewhere there is a girl who tries to understand what people are going through, who accepts that people do evil things and that desperation lead s them to darker places than they ever imagined. I swear she exists, and she hurts for the repentant boy I see in front of me. But if I saw her, I wouldn’t recognize her. “Stay away from me,” I say quietly. My body feels rigid and cold, and I am not angry, I am not hurt, I am nothing. I say, my voice low, “Never come near me again.” Our eyes meet. His are dark and glassy. I am nothing. “If you do, I swear to God I will kill you,” I say. “You coward.”

Yeah, don't piss off Tris. You may not be prepared for what's coming.

Yes, almost the entire book is the scenes of Tris training to become super-awesome, occasionally punctuated by the scenes of mandatory self-doubt. She kicks ass (literally) and she is loving it. Of course, in the way mandatory to all YA dystopias, her training just proves that this plain little average humble girl is the sexy badass that is better than anyone else at whatever she chooses to do, and somehow will be number one no matter what she does because she is, well, special.
Because, it seems, ever since Rocky Balboa took the second place we have become accustomed to root for the seeming underdog - but that underdog now invariably turns out to be the winner of whatever competition there may be in the book - and the hottest male lead as a special prize.

Those rare times the underdog loses. This is not the case in this book. Duh.

And yet, annoying as these scenes are, they are still so much fun to read. Silly, shallow, mindless fun - the kind you get when you playing a fast-paced videogame, perhaps - but fun nevertheless. Yes, most of the action here is juvenile and seems pointless as a part of faction training - but hey, so is shooting up the heads of videogame aliens. But it's still entertaining.

So here's what I'm trying to say here: Suspend your disbelief, don't think too hard about what's happening, approach it as just fun - and you will be rewarded with a fun ride, like that giant rollercoaster in the amusement park that is worth it while you're on it (and slightly less worth it when you're puking up your lunch into a trashcan afterwards).

Would I have given this book the GR Choice Awards? No, and I would not give one to 50 Shades of Grey either. And of course, my opinion is NEVER wrong, right?



But for the entertainment value alone I will give it 2.5 stars rounded up to 3. Still, I'm undecided whether I care enough about what happens to Tris to invest time into reading the sequel.
------------
So I did read the sequel after all - and here is my review of it.
And here is the review for the final installment in the series, 'Allegiant'. Spoiler: these books get worse and worse.
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Reading Progress

January 11, 2013 – Started Reading
January 11, 2013 – Shelved
January 11, 2013 –
0.0% "I received several recommendations for this one. Now I'm on Chapter 3 and so far it makes no sense and caused a few exasperated eye-rolls already. But it's too early to judge, right?"
January 11, 2013 –
90.0% "Tris, you idiot. Divergent you may be, but clearly using your brain is not among the qualities you're suited for."
January 11, 2013 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-50 of 205 (205 new)


message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

How's it going?


Nataliya Just started it - and so far it's underwhelming. The idea of the factions (or the test they take) makes no sense. But we'll see. I will not judge it until I give it more time.


Ronyell I can't wait to see your review on this! I really enjoyed this book although I agree that the beginning was a bit hard to get in.


Nataliya So far I dislike Tris quite a bit. Her internal monologue makes me want to stick earplugs in to tune out that whiny voice. This can't be a good sign. Also, the worldbuilding makes no sense, but maybe it will all come together later - or so I hope.


Ronyell Nataliya wrote: "So far I dislike Tris quite a bit. Her internal monologue makes me want to stick earplugs in to tune out that whiny voice. This can't be a good sign. Also, the worldbuilding makes no sense, but ma..."

Yeah, I will admit that Tris was a bit difficult to read through because she seemed unsympathetic most of the time. But I hope you enjoy this book! Good luck reading it!


message 6: by [deleted user] (last edited Jan 11, 2013 08:29PM) (new)

Nataliya wrote: "So far I dislike Tris quite a bit. Her internal monologue makes me want to stick earplugs in to tune out that whiny voice. This can't be a good sign. Also, the worldbuilding makes no sense, but ma..."

Yeah, I did find the world-building to be a bit nonsensical, but then, so was THG. BUT THEN I didn't like HG so...eh.

I actually found Tris to be toneless. I didn't think she was whiny, it's just that the narrative voice is a bit lackluster and lifeless. The present tense didn't make me want to stick needles in my eyes at least.


message 7: by Pixelina (new)

Pixelina Sounds like a world-view based on the Hogwarts sorting hat...


message 8: by Rich (new)

Rich Sometimes a person's brain needs a little mindless entertainment to mix things up. A little vacation escape to a literary Disneyworld never hurt anyone.


Adela Cacovean Brilliant review! The book is on my shelf for some time now, but I will pick it up eventually. :)


message 10: by Anachronist (new) - added it

Anachronist I am not going to read it. I hate stolen ideas turned into allegedly 'original' books. My disbelief would never remain suspended for long. I loved your review though!


message 11: by Caroline (last edited Jan 12, 2013 10:25AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Caroline DAMN! You are a fast reader! I read the first few paragraphs of your review but don't want to read further, because I'm at chapter 13. I can't help but think of The Hunger Games as I read this, but THG is hands down the stronger of the two books. At least Suzanne Collins took time to make sure her world-building made a modicum of sense, for God's sake--and as you said, with our love of reality t.v., the broadcasting of THG does somehow seem plausible. I completely agree with what I've read of this review, and I look forward to writing my own. There's so much to say about this book.


Nermin If you didn't like the first book, I think there's no way you're going to like the second one.


message 13: by Julia (new) - added it

Julia Finally, someone who agrees with me! I had posted a review on this on Amazon and got a few people attacking me for it, but seriously. Anthropologically speaking, there is no way a human could be segregated into one faction that puts emphasis on one personality trait. People are too unreliable and spontaneous. Everyone would either be faction less or Divergent.

Great review! I loved reading it~


message 14: by Lala (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lala Exactly my thoughts on reading Divergent) But I'm going to read the second book, in hope that all gets better.


message 15: by Linda (new)

Linda It started out as fine, a little unbelievable, but still worth reading. It became unreadable because I was so tired of certain things you have mentioned. And it got 4,38 on Goodreads! I liked Hunger Games and want another great dystopian read!


message 16: by Rogier (new)

Rogier tnx 4 the review . i rather not read the this one


~✡~Dαni(ela) ♥ ♂♂ love & semi-colons~✡~ I agree. The world premise was absurd, and the world building was thin. It all takes place in Chicago - what's outside Chicago? Is the whole world based on this group system? It was so eye-rolling I wasn't even tempted to read the sequel.


Crystal Starr Light Excellent review!! I can't wait to see what you think of the sequel - I thought it was even more insane than the first one.


Nataliya Narmin wrote: "If you didn't like the first book, I think there's no way you're going to like the second one."

Chances are I won't read it. It seems that most people think there's further drop in quality in the sequel. I assume the love story part will probably become more prominent and sappier.

Caroline wrote: "DAMN! You are a fast reader! I read the first few paragraphs of your review, but don't want to read further, because I'm at chapter 13. I can't help but think of The Hunger Games as I read this, bu..."

I agree. I could not help comparing the two books and the two heroines. Tris lost in this comparison.

Juliebird wrote: "Finally, someone who agrees with me! I had posted a review on this on Amazon and got a few people attacking me for it, but seriously. Anthropologically speaking, there is no way a human could be ..."

This premise is so ridiculous, it kept grating on me throughout the book. No, Tris does not have a 'special brain,' she has a regular brain that everyone has. But apparently it's everyone except in this book.

Dani wrote: "I agree. The world premise was absurd, and the world building was thin. It all takes place in Chicago - what's outside Chicago? Is the whole world based on this group system? It was so eye-rolling ..."

The lack of the description of the outside world did not actually bother me much. They seem to lead an insular life within a huge city behind the fence an therefore may not have the information on what's behind it besides the fact that they are really kept in, not really the 'outside monsters' kept out. I assumed the sequels will deal with the outside world. Am I wrong?


Chris Any review with Sheldon Cooper all over it, is an awesome review in my opinion. Loved your honesty, and I might just give this a read. I have been considering it for awhile and I will keep your review in mind if I do read this. Great review.


rameau To be perfectly honest, I skimmed the review for the pictures, but I think I've paid enough by suffering through the book once already. At least you managed to suspend your disbelief long enough to find the entertainment value. I couldn't even do that.


Casey Anderson I've no idea what this book is about. Except for what I just read in your review. But i was never able to take it seriously because the authors name seemed so ridiculous to me. Which I suppose isn't fair, it might be her actual name but...still.


Caroline Casey wrote: "I've no idea what this book is about. Except for what I just read in your review. But i was never able to take it seriously because the authors name seemed so ridiculous to me. Which I suppose isn'..."

The name "Veronica Roth"? That sounds normal to me. "Tris" and "Four," on the other hand...


Nataliya Chris wrote: "Any review with Sheldon Cooper all over it, is an awesome review in my opinion. Loved your honesty, and I might just give this a read. I have been considering it for awhile and I will keep your rev..."

Thanks, Chris! I'm a huge fan of 'The Big Bang Theory' and I adore all the Sheldonisms. "I'm not crazy; my mother had me tested" t-shirt will be my next gift to myself ;)

rameau wrote: "To be perfectly honest, I skimmed the review for the pictures, but I think I've paid enough by suffering through the book once already. At least you managed to suspend your disbelief long enough to..."

I was surprised I was able to actually do that. Usually I'm the one refusing to suspend my disbelief to the extent this book requires. I guess my brain was broken by Moby-Dick and needed a mindless vacation.


Hannah I think that you should read the second book, if only because I would find it entertaining to read your review regarding the "plot twist" in it. ;)


message 26: by Richard (new)

Richard Derus I <3 U

U say what I think


message 27: by Katy (new) - added it

Katy Hmmmm. I have too many good books I need to read; I think I'll skip this one. You're review basically told me what I needed to know :-)


Nataliya Hannah wrote: "I think that you should read the second book, if only because I would find it entertaining to read your review regarding the "plot twist" in it. ;)"

Oh dear. Of course there would be a plot twist.
We'll see. Maybe there will be a time when I have a gap between my other reads and the sequel somehow worms its way into it. But for now I've had enough of Tris.

Richard wrote: "I <3 U

U say what I think"


U think what I say <3


message 29: by Jonathan (new) - added it

Jonathan Terrington Trust me, while I thought this was fun to read the next book was a drop in quality and fun...


Ronyell Awesome review Nataliya!! I haven't read the sequel yet, although I heard that it wasn't as good as the first one (just like Mockingjay, which I'm reading right now).


David - proud Gleeman in Branwen's adventuring party Awesome review as always, Nataliya! Every time I read one of your reviews and think you'll never top that one, you always manage to prove me wrong ;)


Linda Haha, great review! I thought the faction & divergent stuff was totally ridiculous, too. As was killing her friend when she didn't have to. I guess I just didn't really connect with Tris.


message 33: by Aldo (new) - rated it 4 stars

Aldo Aguirre I agree 100% with your review. I gave it 4 stars 'cause I'm easy to entertain in that way.


Trudi I had great fun reading this one, but I absolutely loathed the sequel. It was an epic fail for me.


message 35: by Katy (new) - added it

Katy Aldo wrote: "I agree 100% with your review. I gave it 4 stars 'cause I'm easy to entertain in that way."

Hey, if you're entertained, that's the most important thing, after all. That's how I rate, too. :-)


Nataliya Thanks, David, Linda, and Aldo!

Trudi wrote: "I had great fun reading this one, but I absolutely loathed the sequel. It was an epic fail for me."

Last night I read a few reviews of the sequel, and everybody seemed to like it less than this one, really decreasing my already almost-nonexistent desire to read it.
Then I saw that a bunch of people compared the sequel to "Mockingjay" in "The Hunger Games" series - and 'Mockingjay' was my favorite out of the three because of its portrayal of Katniss' inner devastation by the events of the books - and my waning interest got a bit energized. I still doubt I will read it, however.


message 37: by LauraJ (new)

LauraJ Great review. I have removed this from my To-Read list. This is exactly what i don't want to read, it would make me angry. I tried Uglies by Scott Westerfeld(sp?) and could NOT finish it. This sounds exactly the same. Also, though i enjoyed the Hunger Games series, I've had just about enough of Katniss type whiny confusion for a while.
Thank you for saving me an angry afternoon.


Nataliya LauraJ wrote: "Great review. I have removed this from my To-Read list. This is exactly what i don't want to read, it would make me angry. I tried Uglies by Scott Westerfeld(sp?) and could NOT finish it. This soun..."

Haha, thanks, Laura. I liked Hunger Games as well, but I think I've had enough of 'books that HG fans are sure to love!' for a while. There have been too many of them lately. I'm also tired of dystopias that make no sense whatsoever, of which this is a prime example.


Renee What's the point of a fiction novel if you are going to criticize how unrealistic it is? It's fiction...meaning it's not real. Read the book and enjoy it, like I did. Doesn't matter if it's real or not, not like you are ever going to pass these characters on the street one day.


Caroline Renee, you're missing Nataliya's point when she talks about what is unrealistic. Roth is portraying normal people (meaning people with psyches that operate the same as ours do), but places them in an abnormal world (five mutually exclusive factions) and presents it as PLAUSIBLE. That simply doesn't make sense.

And it's awfully hard to just "read the book and enjoy it" when the author has created an illogical premise/illogical dystopian world that you are immersed in chapter after chapter. You say, "what's the point of a fiction novel if you are going to criticize how unrealistic it is?" but that kind of statement assumes that fictional novels are SUPPOSED to not always make sense. I beg to differ. Sure, an author absolutely has the liberty to be creative when she writes fiction, but that does NOT mean her creativity can veer into nonsense-land and still be successful as a story. I'm pretty sure Roth wasn't intending on taking the reader to nonsense-land when she wrote her book.


Renee I understand your comments and I will re-read her commentary. But what I think many are not grasping is that while the author is portraying the characters with normal human psyches, the world they are in is very abnormal. Meaning that the characters are going to make some pretty crazy decisions (unlike a normal human being in this day and age) because they are not in a normal world. We can't criticize decisions that we know nothing about. I think that is why her characters may come across as having no sense.


Caroline I am only in the middle of this book, so I won't comment further, but at this point, I'm only going to say it does not seem that Roth has sufficiently fleshed-out her dystopia. Although I'm not crazy about any of her characters (except for Al), I take most issue with the abnormal world she has created. The concept is a weird and intriguing one, but it's tricky to fit multi-dimensional human beings in such a black-and-white framework (i.e., five distinct factions). That's one of my main issues with the story and why I don't think the book succeeds. As I said, I'm still in the middle of it, so I'm now going to stop commenting and keep reading.


Nataliya Renee wrote: "What's the point of a fiction novel if you are going to criticize how unrealistic it is? It's fiction...meaning it's not real. Read the book and enjoy it, like I did. Doesn't matter if it's real or..."

Renee, I'm actually familiar with the concept of fiction. Advising me to just read it and enjoy it comes off as dismissive and a bit patronizing. I read it fully understanding it's fiction, I was entertained but did not quite like it. My enjoyment is affected by whether the world of the book is well-created, and I did not think this one was. If the concept of the fictional world is executed poorly enough to distract me from being immersed into the story, I cannot fully enjoy it. I love speculative fiction (most of my favorite authors write in genre fiction, mostly fantasy and sci-fi, so I'm not a stranger to wild imagination in literature), but if it's supposedly based on our world and our reality, it should adhere to some of the rules of our reality, and this one does not.

Renee wrote: "I understand your comments and I will re-read her commentary. But what I think many are not grasping is that while the author is portraying the characters with normal human psyches, the world they ..."

I am grasping that, believe it or not. It's not difficult to understand. But (a) this abnormal world makes no sense, making it hard to suspend disbelief, and (b) yes, I sure can criticize them for their decisions. It's my right as a reader to form opinions about the fictional characters. If they make no sense, then they make no sense.
-----------

Caroline wrote: "I am only in the middle of this book, so I won't comment further, but at this point, I'm only going to say it does not seem that Roth has sufficiently fleshed-out her dystopia. Although I'm not cra..."

I fully agree with you, Caroline. The world-building is the weakest part of this book. Perhaps the sequels will make this world a little more fleshed-out, but it never happens in this book.


Michelle I will say that if you find the world unplausible there is a reason for it that comes out in the sequel. Without being too spoilerish, it's almost meant to sound false in terms of the series' plot.


Renee Yes, I agree with Michelle. She has said it better than I have been able to.


Nataliya Michelle wrote: "I will say that if you find the world unplausible there is a reason for it that comes out in the sequel. Without being too spoilerish, it's almost meant to sound false in terms of the series' plot."

I think I have 2 separate issues with the world of 'Divergent' - (1) poor, very superficial world-building, and (2) implausibility. I hope the former gets remedied somewhat in the sequels - that usually becomes the case. As for the latter - I still refuse to believe anyone would accept this model of the world for more than a few years until they could see it as contradictory to human nature (hey, even Soviet Union idea was less ridiculous and lasted for just several decades). Unless they all frequently were getting injected with the "Erudite serum" to accept the nonsense. But in that case it would have been a cheap trick. Or if they were living in the Chicago-sized equivalent of M. Night Shyamalan's 'The Village' behind that fence - which would be hilarious and quite silly.


message 47: by Caroline (last edited Jan 17, 2013 10:53AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Caroline Ok. I just finished the review yesterday and wrote my own this morning, and now I went back and read ALL of yours (only read some last time to avoid spoilers). Completely agree--although I caved and reserved Insurgent at the library. I know, I know. Regarding the scene where (view spoiler)


Nataliya Caroline wrote: "Ok. I just finished the review yesterday and wrote my own this morning, and now I went back and read ALL of yours (only read some last time to avoid spoilers). Completely agree--although I caved an..."

Hmmm, that does make some sense, but (view spoiler) But I can at least somewhat buy that explanation.


message 49: by AH (new) - added it

AH OK, now I don't feel so bad that I am the only one who hasn't read this book nor plans to. I may take a peek at it one day, just for entertainment purposes. Loved your review!


Nataliya AH wrote: "OK, now I don't feel so bad that I am the only one who hasn't read this book nor plans to. I may take a peek at it one day, just for entertainment purposes. Loved your review!"

Thanks, AH! You are not missing out on much by not reading this one.


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