Up until recently, as a general rule I tended to avoid most of the YA lit that storms the market, hyped up well before its release (unless recommended to me by trusted sources). I’ve become a bit more relaxed in that respect now after getting some of my trust in the YA genre back, but I purchased Divergent while it was still in full swing. I don’t know why I chose to ignore my own rule with this book but I got hold of it soon after its release… and then did my usual trick of not getting around to reading it until months later (in late October).
After going through a YA high point in recent times (we’ll ignore the disaster that was The Forest of Hands and Teeth), I had high hopes going into this one to find another YA gem.
Presentation: Large paperback, though a smaller and cheaper one will be released in Feb 2012. The font is large and very well-spaced. There are 487 pages broken down into 38 chapters, some significantly shorter than others but none that take all that long to get through.
Story: Society is divided into five faction that each revere one of five positive human personality traits above all others:
Every child is brought up in their parents’ faction, where they live until they pledge their loyalty to a faction at 16. They are all given a test beforehand that determines which faction they are best suited to but ultimately it is their own choice.
Beatrice is 16. She has been brought up Abnegation. But she is different: her test results were inconclusive. Only two of the five factions were ruled out for her. What choice will she make?
Thoughts and impressions: I opened this book to discover that it is written in the present tense and groaned. Though this appears to be very popular in YA right now, I’m really not a fan of the present tense (especially in a third person narrative – Divergent is first person) as I always feel that it is possible to express so much more when you have all the various past tenses at your disposal. Divergent was a pleasant surprise, though, as it managed to hold its own in the present tense. To begin with, I did often feel jarred but this stopped as soon as I’d sunk into my reading zone – this took surprisingly little time with this book.
The story is essentially one very long description of the initiation period, which works both in its favour and against it. In its favour because it is blatantly apparent that Veronica Roth has talent when it comes to writing fights and scenes where the character’s adrenaline is pumping. In the flying fox scene in particular, I felt Tris’s excitement and nervousness right along with her – easy for me to recall to mind as I’ve had the exact same emotions pumping through me as I prepare to chuck myself off a ledge 40-50ft up. And just like it was for Tris, the experience can only be described as exhilarating, which would be why I keep going back and doing it again and again, just like Tris wants to do. See what I’m getting at here? Tris’s emotions and mine were in synch and that helped a lot.
So how does it work against it? Well, basically, until page 400+ there’s no tension beyond the initiation trials. There are hints at a greater societal problem that runs deep but these aren’t expanded on much until wham, bam, everything’s happening at once and it’s over again before you know it.
The society presented with everyone a member of one of five groups that value only one of many traits was never really one that I could quite bring myself to believe, but I admire how it was used to show human nature: no matter how good the original intentions were, at some point things get twisted by those who desire power. Due to this, I could look beyond my doubts about the society presented.
I really liked the way that Tris and Four’s relationship was presented as well. There was an initial attraction but it wasn’t head-over-heels love at first sight. They were allowed to form a friendship, and though Tris complains that he was mean to get as her instructor, I never considered his actions as being mean. The friendship was then allowed to progress slowly towards being something more rather than jumping right into a relationship and declarations of love. I’ve seen some people complaining that we’re not given enough information about Four’s physical features but honestly I much prefer this to endless harping on about his physical beauty.
The only thing was that I’d figured out who he really was the first time Tris met him so I’m bemused by the fact that no one else seemed to notice, including Tris’s mother while I’d have thought that she would have recognised him. A small issue but an issue nonetheless.
Style: Clunky at times but absorbing. It’s obvious that this is the author’s first book and she still seems to be finding her feet. I look forward to how things will be when she’s found them!
Final verdict: A big thumbs up. This book has really introduced me to the YA dystopian genre and I look forward to reading more in the same vein! 4 stars.
Extra notes: I don’t remember any bad language use. No sex.