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Monday, August 29, 2011

Divergent (Divergent #1) by Veronica Roth

Divergent (Divergent, #1)In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

Debut author Veronica Roth bursts onto the YA scene with the first book in the Divergent series—dystopian thrillers filled with electrifying decisions, heartbreaking betrayals, stunning consequences, and unexpected romance

 First Look: ***** I've been waiting to read this for a long time.  I'm glad I own this one, because the cover is so cool!  I love the fire.  The concept sounds really awesome, and I like the idea of the different factions.  

Setting: ***** 
The idea of the factions was cool, and that aspect of it was carried out well, in my opinion.  I could really get a sense for the tension between the groups.  The rest of the setting, though, fell flat on its face.  It had no logic to it.  It was a dystopia, yes, but why?  You can't just hand us a dystopian Chicago and say "Here, this is a messed-up place. Enjoy." That's not enough. There needs to be a reason why it's so dystopic.

And frankly, there was no reason.  There was no explanation at all for how humankind got to this point.  And what about the rest of the world?  Are they like this too, or is Chicago just in a bubble? There just shouldn't be this many unanswered questions in the setting. I don't care if it's only the first book. And besides, I really couldn't get a feel for the city. We weren't given enough details to go on. I could picture the Dauntless compound pretty well, but that was it.

Characters: ****
I started liking Tris about halfway through.  I liked her courage, and the way she stood up for others and herself.  I liked how she wasn't afraid to do that.  Then we got to the romance, and I didn't like her again.  She was just selfish and whiny and her life revolved around her love.  She gained back some respect at the end, but not enough. I liked how she was so selfless and prepared to die (some nice Abnegation traits going on there, for added conflict). But in the end, it wasn't enough to make me completely like her again.

Four was the most interesting character in the book, for me.  I want to know more of his story, and how he ended up where he is now.  Caleb was very interesting, too.  He seemed to fit in so well with his faction, but then....well, I won't tell, for fear of getting too spoilerific. But I hope to read more about him in the sequel. The other characters were just okay. I didn't dislike them, but I didn't really care about them, either.

Plot: *****
I enjoyed the plot.  I was able to get into it, and it interested me, unlike so many other books I've read. I liked the conflicts between characters, between factions.

It would've been four stars, because I liked it. I really did. But then the romance came along. It wasn't one of those repulsive love triangles, but it was definitely romance. Newsflash for pitch-writers: if you promise "unexpected romance", then your readers are going to expect it. Therefore it isn't unexpected. The romance just felt all wrong. It felt like the author added it just because she felt that all YA books need romance (which is so untrue. The very idea makes me want to hit someone over the head with a copy of Airman). It just didn't work. It wasn't realistic at all. It didn't happen gradually, or in a way that made sense. It just...happened, and it wasn't good.
Uniqueness: *****
While it wasn't all that original compared to other dystopians, the idea of the factions was different.

Writing: *****
By my count, the author used the cheap mirror trick at least four times. Ladies and gentlemen, that is 400% more than it should be used. Ever. And the first was on page one or two. Not a good way to start the book, now, is it? Also, Roth used the phrase "my cheeks get warm" or "my face heats up" or something similar way too much. There was too much telling and not enough showing; too many sentences with is. And besides, it was first person present tense, which I usually hate anyways.

I liked the conflict between the factions. Very interesting. And by the way, if I lived in this world, I'd be an Erudite girl. No question about it, even if they do have, erm, not the best intentions.

Not-so-great: I don't like Four's real name. It just bothered me. I felt like "Four" represented him as a person, and his real name just felt wrong.

Total Score: 
I feel like I'm being overly harsh on this book, when really, it doesn't deserve all that criticism. In all honesty, I did enjoy this book. Yes, the romance was so unreal and the writing was annoying, but I still liked it. I liked the suspense and all the action. I liked the idea of the factions, though the rest of the setting fell flat. I'm eager to read the sequel now. Recommended for dystopian fans.

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