Friday, February 11, 2011
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.
From Andersons Bookshop Email
Before I begin, I want to say a quick thank you to Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville for providing me with the opportunity to read this book in preparation for an author event that will take place later this month. I'll post my wrap up about the event afterwards, but for now, the review!
To begin, I have to say that the summary read like a classic dystopian novel. If you read my blog, you know I'm a huge fan of dystopian, but when I read the summary, all I see is a checklist. Future world, check! Society divided, check! Girl with a secret that can bring society to its knees, check! Dangerous boy she falls in love with, check! All of these things fit and nothing in the summary gives way to anything more than the generic plot outline.
I have three words to say to that. Ignore. The. Summary. In fact, while reading the book, I was constantly shocked because the summary refused to give away any of the large plot points such as which faction Tris chooses or who she falls in love with. I often find myself, when reading YA, knowing the main basis of the book from the summary but this summary was far from that. Yes, the summary is simple, but the book reads so much more than the summary.
I truly enjoyed the way the future world was set up, and not only because it was set up in Chicago and I knew all the places talked about in the book like the Bean. Unlike most YA dystopian novels, the characters have a choice of which class they wish to belong in. No, that doesn't go to say that they're not pressured to choose one way or the other, but the simple fact that they have a choice when so many YA novels detail the angst the character feels over not having a choice was very important to the plot.
And, as far as plot goes, Divergent hit the jackpot. If you read the tweets I wrote while reading each chapter, you watched my predictions and reactions grow. I was truly and completely shocked by many of the revelations in this book. Yes, there were some that I saw coming and a feel that seemed slightly out of character, but the overpowering twists and turns kept me reading. I finished Divergent in a single weekend, and both my sister and my friend who are also attending Anderson's event did as well.
Though the book carries a majorly serious tone, Veronica Roth balances in multiple scenes of joy that alleviate some of the stress of the rest of the plot. This, as a reader, is important because I don't want to feel upset or angry or terrified the entire time. I want to laugh and cry. I need them both as a reader and believed Divergent offered that.
One thing I did notice was a parallel between something that happened in the middle of the novel and something that happened at the end of the novel. A scene from earlier in the book is replayed on a much larger scale at the end which blew me away. The author was teaching us the ending before the ending even happened without our knowing it and it's beautifully done. Whether this was intentional or not, I don't know, but it was done very well.
While I'm thinking about it, if I can skip around a bit and talk about the cover before I continue with my main points in my review, that would be great. I often times have a problem with covers in YA not correctly portraying the character (as in Andrea Cremer's Nightshade) or having a symbol or something on the cover that doesn't mean anything (such as Rebecca Maizel's Infinite Days), but Divergent, again, hit the jackpot. The bottom image of Chicago surrounded by marshland is a bit unsettling as well as beautiful and the logo on the top of the cover, taking up the most of it, actually means something and is done beautifully. I have to mention, though, that I'm disappointed the cover on the ARC isn't as vibrant as the covers will be when printed, but it gives me an excuse to purchase a real copy!
That being said, back to the rest of the review. Here is where it gets tricky. Characters. As a character, Tris frustrated me because she didn't continue her strong streak throughout the entire book. As an aside, I want to mention I'd just finished reading Lili St. Crow's Jealously when I began to read Divergent which details Dru's experiences against the supernatural in which she pretty much beats up anyone who steps in her way. This probably aided in my opinion of Tris, but, and this is a huge but, I was glad to watch her character grow throughout the novel. I have a feeling that, since Divergent is aimed to be a series, she will continue to grow in the following books, for which I'm glad. You can't begin with an extremely strong character in the first book and have her grow stronger when there's no room to grow and I understand that. In the end, I was glad Tris acted the way she did.
Another character I enjoyed were Four, one of the men who train Tris in her induction into the faction she chooses. He is expertly crafted, better crafted, may I say, than Tris. Every movement he makes speaks of something bigger, something within him that I can't divulge without giving away the book. Honestly, though, Four was my favorite character while reading.
On the other hand are several people who shall remain nameless for the sake of avoiding spoilers. Several people die throughout this novel and I must say that I didn't feel enough about them to make me upset at their deaths. I had a running bet with my sister that I could continue to like a character despite his constant bad choices and bullying and, ultimately, I liked him in the end because he remained true to form and I didn't feel enough for the characters he bullied in order to dislike him.
That aside, I believe Divergent is an incredible breakout novel and a must read for anyone who enjoys dystopian and the like. I cannot wait to meet Veronica Roth and discuss this book further with her. After the author event on the 22nd, I'll post more information.