Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Divergent by Veronica Roth

I have been hesitant to write this review for awhile now. How can I possibly convey to you all how much I love this book a) without spoilers and b) without sounding like a meaningless waterfall of gushing words?

But I can simply tell you that I loved this book. I can tell you that I did not want to leave the main character Tris' world. When I was reading this book, I could not wait for my day to end so I could curl up with it again and see what would happen to Tris next. And after I was done with Divergent, I returned again and again to Tris' world in my mind.

Tris lives in a dystopian society in what used to be Chicago. It is divided into five factions, each one representing a particular virtue over all others. Abnegation is Selflessness. Candor is Honesty. Erudite is Intelligence. Amity is Peace. And Dauntless is Courage. At sixteen years old, members must choose which faction they will be a part of for the rest of their lives. This is serious business, as the saying, "Faction before blood" is well-known and expected.

Beatrice Prior makes a choice that surprises everyone -- herself includes. Divergent follows her as she learns more about herself and her world -- both of which are made up of more than meets the eye.

The thing that most impressed me about Divergent was the way that Roth's style of writing mirrored the theme and plot of the book. Identity is the clear theme of this novel. Beatrice, who later changes her name to Tris, has to make a choice that is supposed to define her...but does it? Fully? She is discovering that NO,  maybe it doesn't. At the same time, she is making surprising discoveries about all the members of her family. And we (her and us, the readers) are also discovering that while each faction was created with certain theories and intentions, they have changed over the years. If no one and nothing is who or what you have always thought they are supposed to be....then who are you? How do you define yourself? And, in turn, who are the people you know? Who can you trust? What can you trust?

In the beginning of the novel, Roth uses several simple 3 word sentences. Subject, passive verb, adjective. More specifically, "I am {adjective}." "I am brave." "I am proud." Because at the beginning of the novel, Tris still sees herself and the world around her as easy to categorize. It can be done with one word. And that's who she is. That's what each faction is.

By the end of the novel, Roth's sentences have become more descriptive -- and more muddied. More specifically, "I am not just {adjective}, not just {adjective}." And they have become compound. "I want to be {adjective} and {adjective}." Just as Beatrice changes her name to Tris to signify a change in herself, the sentences become more involved to show that nothing and no one is as simple as one word. Nothing is as simple as it seems. Evolution happens.

This, to me, is why this book is so great. We like Tris because we can relate to her. Aren't we all searching for our identity? Didn't we all reach that point in our lives when we realized that we could be more than what we thought we were? (I'm thinking Whitney Houston here: "Give me one moment in time/When I'm more than I thought I could be...")

Of course, Tris is also likable because she is honest, heroic, and humble. One scene that sticks out in my mind is when one of her instructions, Four, is talking to her after something big has just happened. He counsels her, "...show some vulnerability. Even if it isn't real." Tris responds, surprised: "You think I have to pretend to be vulnerable?" "Yes, I do," he answers.

Four. I would be remiss not to mention Four in this review, but there's just so much to his character -- he could be an entire review in himself! He is an essential element of the novel in so, so many ways. He represents so much. I will just say that I am fascinated by him and leave it at that.

Divergent is a very fast read. It has enough action and plot turns to make turning the pages easy and putting the book down hard. If you like YA dystopian literature, this book is a must-read. Look for it on May 3rd. It is, hands-down, my favorite book of 2011 thus far.

An advance reader's copy of this novel was provided to me by the publisher.

4 comments:

  1. DIVERGENT is awesome. I love how the romance between the main characters builds and changes. It's full of excitement, love mystery and war. Can't wait for the next book.

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  3. if you were to write a children's story, but have the theme of divergent in it, what would the theme be?

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    1. probably that choices change you..whether it's a good choice or a bad choice it does something to you..and that is what Tris finds out..

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