Book Review: Divergent, by Veronica Roth

March 13, 2011 at 12:35 am (Book Reviews) (, , , , )

Five factions form the basis of society: Abnegation, dedicated to selflessness; Amity, dedicated to kindness; Candor, dedicated to honesty; Dauntless, dedicated to courage; and Erudite, dedicated to knowledge. Five factions, five ways of life, for outside the faction, there is nothing. Your faction determines everything, the jobs you do, the way you eat, even how you dress and how you think.
Beatrice knows she doesn’t belong in Abnegation, the faction in which she was rasied, but she isn’t really sure where she does belong. She astonishes herself as much as anyone when she chooses to enter the brutal, even lethal initiation into Dauntless, but Abnegation is more a part of her than she thinks, and selflessness can be its own kind of bravery. She’ll need all the courage she can find; there is trouble brewing within the factions, and courage alone won’t be enough to stop what’s coming.

I maybe kind of squealed when I saw this ARC come into the store. I was already crazy looking forward to it just from the description in our computer system, and then to actually get my hands on it two months early? *swoon* And I knew- KNEW- it was a mistake to start reading it right before work. Every time I had to put it away in the locker was infuriating- if I was ever going to call out because I was too caught up in a book to move  think  be civil , this would have been it. I wanted to lose myself within the (absolutely gorgeous) cover and devour it in one sitting; that I couldn’t was almost physically painful.

I’m in love with the entire concept. The way people divide themselves, and are divided by others, fascinates me, and is also significant throughout all of history. The idea of a society spitting itself into factions by virtue just raises so many questions and possibilities and- in my mind one of the best things an author can provoke in a reader- what if’s. If the individual factions aren’t all drawn with the same exquisite sense of clarity, with all the fascinating shades of grey between the fault and the virtue, perhaps that’s to be expected given the limited contact Beatrice as the narrator has with them. It would have been nice to see more of a range within the other factions, but I think (hope?) that’s something we’ll get to see in the future.

Beatrice- or Tris, as she renames herself within Dauntless- is truly an exceptional narrator. Once I read her description of Abnegation life- a good life, with good people, a life she can genuinely admire but to which she can never really belong- I was hooked. Tris is very aware of her shortcomings, not in a morbid or self-pitying way, but in a candid appraisal of who and what she is. She learns and grows and develops, but even with the new realizations, there’s a sense of rightness as the pieces fit in place with the parts of her already present. She sees people very clearly, which can be as painful as it is helpful. This clarity, this precision, allows for some stunning, gorgeous moments when people manage to surprise her, whatever the result. It’s a relief to learn with her that who we were doesn’t have to be completely excised from who we want to be.

Every virtue is its own vice, an idea played out beautifully through this book. I love how clearly we get to see this. The darker aspects of each faction are easy to fall into, less easy to notice until the patterns have already been set. It’s plain to see that things began with the best of motives, but over time the latent poisons of humanity have seeped in to repeat the habits of millenia. Dauntless was meant to be bravery, the courage to defend, but has become instead a reckless, cruel abuse that systematically batters out the qualities that could redeem the faction into the true strength it used to have. I look forward to seeing how these realizations play out against the rest of what has to happen.

Some things that I so dearly enjoyed are almost impossible to talk about without giving things away…Let’s see, what’s a safe way to approach these… I love Four; I want one of my very own, endearing vulnerabilities, moody issues, and all. Just…*wants*. I love the tattoos, not just the fact and impulse of them, but all the different meanings they can (and do) have. And I love the pain. That sounds like such an odd thing to say, and I only partially mean it in a physical sense (I wasn’t kidding when I said the training was brutal), but some of the things Tris has to do and survive are shattering. Absolutely heart-breaking. If I’d reached some of these parts while I was still on break at work, there would have been much swearing involved, and quite possibly an extra hour and a half or so tacked onto my break (accidentally, I swear!).

The one thing that nagged at me through the entire book- other than the wish to see more range in the other factions- was a sense of time. I had none. I have absolutely no idea how much time passes in the course of the story. I’m assuming several weeks or months, and at one point it actually sounds like a full year has gone by which in no way feels right. The nebulous sense of time genuinely bothers me, perhaps because some things will have more of an impact if we know the time involved. Some things fester, some things burst unexpectedly, and not being able to place those within the context of growth kept throwing me off.

I know my dreams tonight are going to be full of factions and terrifying tasks and a world on the verge of shattering, because that’s what amazing books do to me. They grab hold of me, don’t let go for anything, and I am a willing captive.

Divergent, by Veronica Roth, available 3 May 2011- put it on your list NOW. You may hate me when you get to the end because now we have to wait forever at least a year for the next one, but this book is too good to put off.

Until next time~

1 Comment

  1. FloeticFlo said,

    I just finished this book and struggled on how to write a great *spoiler-free* review — you did a great job! I LOVED this book!

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