on October 9, 2013
If you liked Hunger Games but thought it needed more rules, you're going to love Divergent!
The debut novel from Veronica Roth, Divergent imagines a future after a great war. The only way to restore peace is to divide humanity up into 5 Death Frats named after SAT words. People join them by having only one personality trait: brave people join Dauntless where they jump off trains and punch each other. Smart people join Erudite where they wear glasses. Amish people join Abnegation where they don't eat hamburgers. And the other two are both Hufflepuff.
In the EXTREMELY RARE situation where somebody has two personality traits ("I have glasses AND don't eat hamburgers!" -or- "I play baseball AND football") they are "divergent" (a Latin word meaning "too cool for school").
"But wait," you say. "How do they figure out which frat to join?" I'm glad you asked. Pledge week in Dystopian Chicago consists of a hallucination where you have to choose between a knife and cheese with no other instructions. Then a dog attacks you. If you choose the knife, you are Dauntless. If you choose the cheese, you're not. Isn't that cool? That's all it takes. You either want a knife or you want cheese, and that decision confines you to a single Death Frat for the rest of your life. That's their NEARLY FOOLPROOF system. Knife or cheese. Maybe I'm not Divergent, I'm just lactose intolerant!
Eventually the smart people use the brave people to kill the Amish people and only a teenage girl with two different interests can save them all. With her boyfriend. And something about a hard drive that controls humanity (presumably connecting via USB 27.0).
Anyway, it doesn't make much sense but expect a million more books about dystopian futures where kids kill each other, because Hunger Games sold faster than a grey tunic in an Abnegation camp.
on December 27, 2013
Seriously, I feel like I'm in the twilight zone or something. I was really excited to read this because everyone is talking about how great it is. Spoiler alert: it sucks.
Every character was either one dimensional or died prematurely and for no reason. I get it, sometimes you need to kill a character. Sometimes it suits the story. This didn't.
(Spoilers) Part of the problem is the inconsistent writing. Such as, "there's no way I am capable of killing anyone, so I can't pull the trigger on Tobias. Oh wait, I just killed Will. Two minutes ago I was capable of the murder of a close friend with almost no reaction. Nor reaction to the violent deaths of my loving parents.
Another problem is the dauntless faction seems to be totally sociopathic with brutal initiation rituals and little to no empathy. And like, what are we doing here anyway for over 300 pages??? Making friends that we will later murder? Fight to the top of the class in a faction that won't exist by the end of the book?
Needless to say I won't be reading the next two books. I find it hard to be invested in characters when I can see the author has no control over them whatsoever. I've already embraced the two remaining characters' imminent deaths and everyone else I was invested in is already dead so there's really no point.
The plot of this book did have potential, and at times I was riveted. But the dialogue between the main characters (love interests) was straight from a book of cliches, the writing was at best inconsistent and at worst, confusing and unclear, and the result is an author, characters and story that I can not trust or feel comfortable investing more time in.
Divergent was definitely a new riveting tale that had me rapidly flipping the pages in a reading frenzy! It starts off with the reader getting to know the lifestyle of Beatrice, a sixteen year old girl, in a dystopian or controlled world, where there are five factions of people: Abnegation who put others before their own needs and where Beatrice is currently from, the Dauntless who are brave and fearless, the Erudite who are studious, the Amity who are peaceful, and the Candor who are honest. Before Choosing Day, where each sixteen year old will decide which faction they wish to devote their life to, is a simulated aptitude test that will tell Beatrice which faction she would fit in most with...but for her life will never be simple. Instead of having just one of these traits as is normal, Beatrice possesses at least three, which makes her a dangerous person for reasons she doesn't understand, and answers are not forthcoming as she has to keep this information to herself or risk being killed.
From there Beatrice has to make her own mark in the world, and ultimately makes a decision that will change the rest of her life. No more does she portray the meek, silent girl with no spirit, but instead forces herself to rise up to the challenges she faces in both the initiation and in her life. For if she lets her guard down, she faces becoming factionless, without friends or family, but what she doesn't expect to find along her new path is what she yearned for all along. To understand who she really is.
Divergent is one novel that had me jumping out of my seat, biting my nails to the quick as I was drawn into Beatrice's world, cheering her on one minute, and wanting to cry with her the next. She does have her moments where she seems a little cold like when she wishes one boy would stop sniveling, and you see why Abnegation didn't suit her. But then the next minute she is putting herself in danger for someone else, and you understand why she has a bit of a split personality. She's been born into a society that believes you can only have one quality, and she has to figure out on her own that being brave dosen't mean that she has to give up being selfless as well. As she fights to stay in the competition, for only ten initiates will be able to call their new faction familiy, I couldn't help but root for her. Beatrice has a lot to learn, but it's through obstacles and the friendship's she makes that she ultimately finds herself. This is one book that I wholeheartedly recommend to anyone who loves action, bravery, a little romance, and a ton of adventure. Be forewarned that it will have you sitting on the edge of your seat and eagerly anticipating a sequel!
on February 9, 2014
Thank God I didn't buy the trilogy. I bought the hype well enough to purchase the first book on my kindle, and even that was a giant misstep. (If I'd bought it on paperback like a sane person, I could have resold it, and might not have felt pressured to finish it.) I wanted to give up on this book maybe a quarter through, as it wasn't getting any better, but I convinced myself that I'd purchased it, there was no way of getting my money back, and I might as well see it through. I love Dystopian fiction, after all. I also hoped that maybe there was gonna be twist in the story that might compensate for the weak writing, ridiculous plot, and uber-bland characters. Nope. In fact, once it became clear what the "twist" and the ramping up of the plot was, I started skimming like mad. Oh man this is Young Adult in the worst sense of the term. It reads like it was written by a thirteen year old. I usually don't feel inclined to leave a negative review as it was my own darn fault for subjecting myself to the experience and hell, if you like it, you like it. More power to you. But I hated it. And this is why:
Tris. She's soooo special. But wait, she's not! She keeps protesting that she's not. She doesn't understand why her (completely ordinary, from my vantage point) reactions to that silly simulation make her dangerous. She doesn't understand why boys like her or her friends envy her, or why she's important enough that she seems to inspire mortal enemies left and right. Right back atcha, sister. You're dull as can be. But at least you have "pretty eyes" to make up for that "plain face". (Seriously, Ms. Roth?) Oh, this book made me so mad. Mary Sue much? The worst part was when she had to feign vulnerability (in freaking DAUNTLESS for crying out loud) in order to get along with her peers. No wait. The worst part was where she's warned repeatedly, time and time again, that her ability to control the simulations and her speed at completing them give away the fact that she's Divergent. So then Test Day rolls around. All the important people are watching. And what does Tris do? She controls the simulations as best she can and makes it out in record time. Nice, Tris. Thank you for that. I would hate you, but you're far too boring to bother.
The plot. World was in shambles. World needed order. Hey, let's split everybody up into factions organized by one supposed defining characteristic--that sounds plausible! No opportunity for potential discord there. Also, we're going to give the most "selfless" group complete control of the government. Really? Why wouldn't everybody be signing over to Abnegation then? Especially those egomaniacal and power-hungry Erudite folk. Ever consider taking the faction down from within? No. We didn't consider that. We're just going to use mind control on the strongest, fiercest and least predictable faction of our people so they can do our bidding for us. Should anything go wrong, well, that's a safe bet. We know what we're doing. We're nerds. With stretch marks. Because apparently stretch marks and wearing glasses a la hipster make us bad people. And we're not really that bright. Did we mention that we left Four, a known Divergent rebel, in charge of said mind control supercomputer when it mattered most? And how the hell did that happen anyways? We said we were going to rape his mind some more and conduct some experiments on him. Is our first experiment throwing him in a super precarious situation where he might foil our plans? Guess so.
Four. Or more specifically, the author's diddling of Four. I'd say Tris' diddling of Four but it's really the author's. There's no real sexual tension in this book. The piss poor writing and character development are far too immature and predictable to even approach ST. But there are plenty of tangents. Tris getting distracted by the outline of Four's bicep. By the strip of skin that's revealed as Four's t-shirt rises. By his hands on her body. His breath by her ear. Also his knife by her ear. Love how he's willing to nick his crush to prove a point. He's eighteen, by the way. Tris is sixteen. That's a big deal. He's very sexy and so much older. Please be intrigued. So long as you're intrigued maybe you won't notice how terrible the rest of the story is.
I could go on about the plot inconsistencies (I racked up so many of them) and the simply UNBELIEVABLE character interactions but I've wasted enough time and energy on this book. Just be wary, guys and gals over the age of 15--this is so NOT The Hunger Games.
on July 6, 2011
When I finished 'Divergent' I sat thinking about it and feeling a lot like I did when I finished 'The Hunger Games'. It was a similar reading experience...a fast-paced story in an other world situation with a strong female character. The story transported me and I had a hard time pulling myself out of the book in order to continue with my every day things. In fact, when I closed the book after finishing it, I was struck by the desire to start over from the beginning because I didn't want the experience to stop. It was THAT good.
(I'm not giving a plot overview...many others have already done that)
The world Tris lives in is fascinating. I was gripped at first learning about the society and the factions and I found myself enjoying the story more and more as she chose a faction and went through the iniation process. In fact, I think the initiation (which takes up most of the book) was my favorite part.
The ending contains a twist I didn't expect. I thought the story, despite little hints of the Erudite mystery, would end with whether or not Tris would be accepted into her faction. It doesn't. It suddenly takes an unexpected, over-reaching twist that changes the entire landscape of the story. It goes from a story set mainly in one faction to one that deals with the beginning of a societal fray. It was unexpected, but enjoyable. It was something the author had built up to, but in a subtle way. I also liked that while this is going to be a series, the book ends without a cliffhanger. I hate cliffhanger endings that leave you wondering for months. While there are many things left to discover in this world, you do get an ending with this book.
The characters are believeable, lovable and, at times, scary. I love the evolution of Four (though I hate his other name...but that's a personal thing) and Christina. Actually, I really just love Four.
The story is written in first person from Tris' perspective. She's a good narrator, though first-person does make the action/fight sequences a little clunky. 'Divergent' also has plenty of action, humor, mystery and a little bit of romance.
If you enjoy the feel of Hunger Games, I recommend this for you. I also recommend it to anyone who loves a good story.
on December 2, 2013
I've not read a book this bad in a long time. First of all, the writing feels like a middle school kid wrote it. Second, the premise (everyone has to live exemplifying only one virtue) never made sense. Third, the author's idea of what those virtues entail is retarded.
Apparently, being brave means risking your life every second you can, having tattoos and piercings, and murdering people to get ahead. Being selfless means feeling bad for looking in a mirror because for just a second you thought of yourself instead of others. Valuing truth means having tourettes because you just spurt out exactly what you're thinking every time instead of holding back. Those are how flat the factions in the series are.
The main character, Triss, is also completely bland. She's forever reminding you how she's totally not pretty, but apparently there are still guys who are totally into her. The whole book's full of young adult romance BS of "I don't know why I feel funny whenever he looks at me" stuff.
Then there's always the whole anti-intelligence spin on the book that annoys the heck out of me. But to go any further would require spoilers.
on January 28, 2014
One of the selling points for this book is the young age of the author. Perhaps if she had waited a few years, she would have written a better book. The premise is silly and shows a complete lack of understanding how a functional society works. Apparently the worst thing that could happen to anyone in her society is to miss the cut into the factions and actually have to work for a living (janitors, garbage collectors, garment makers, etc). Yeah, that's a great attitude. Like that's the dregs of society. Maybe she should have worked in some of those jobs as research and she might have had a bit more respect for the people who do. Who pays for all of the factions to exist?
And her notion of the sort of persons that belong in law enforcement is laughable. If she had done any research at all she would have found that law enforcement people are generally not wild, undisciplined, mean-spirited dare-devils. Although, for such supposed rebels, they all want to look and act alike (getting tattoos just to get tattoos). Not to mention the lunacy of having to jump onto or off the train in order to travel anywhere. This method of transportation alone would result in continual injuries and/or deaths and make this faction (Dauntless) ineffectual. Plus, we're supposed to pull for the protagonist Tris who is just plain selfish, mean and foolish and doesn't understand the difference between true bravery and just being a thrill-seeker.
on February 25, 2014
I haven't read the Hunger Games books but I've saw the first movie in the series and enjoyed it. When I heard that Divergent was getting adapted into a movie I was eager to pick up the book and went into it with high expectations. I was seriously disappointed. There are so many things that are so wrong to me in every aspect of the book but I'll try to keep this review focused on how the book failed on two levels - first, how the constructed universe's lack of all logic and consistency blotted out any hope of an interesting plot, and secondly, for the book's completely warped and morally questionable message about human nature.
First, the universe. I'll start with the government. Nothing about it makes any sense - how it came to be, how it held together, who runs it and how, and what it does. The backstory to the Divergent universe is that following a great war, society divided into five factions based on their opinions of what started the war (ignorance, selfishness, cowardice, aggression, or deception). Now it should be obvious that wars get started from a combination of all of these, but I'm willing to take that on its surface because I thought that having factions based on personalities had the potential to make a good story. But the layers of illogic keep piling on. These five factions, despite their differences in core values and their deep mistrust of each other (which is made clear throughout the book) all agree to cede political power to one of the factions, which makes up less than 20% of the population. This faction, Abnegation, is composed of religious pacifists who do not desire power and whose existence is centered on serving others. In other words, it is the polar opposite of the type of group that usually rises to power in the wake of a devastating civil war. This power structure might make sense if Abnegation were a kind of zealous religious cult who also controlled the military, but that's not the case. The only members of society with any martial training reside in one faction, Dauntless, leaving the purported governors with no police or military to enforce their decisions, or any ability to prevent the other factions from seizing power. Later in the book, one faction does undermine the government (what a surprise) but this still leaves the open question of how the government managed to exist for the long time period that is suggested in the book. I wouldn't have such a problem with the weak origin story if this same combination of laziness and cluelessness about how people work didn't carry through into the rest of the plot.
The whole book, after all, revolves around the factions - the characters choosing which one to join, training to become a member, and figuring out how to fit in. That's fine, but the author's constructed world is so hollow that it is not even clear what the Factions do that is worth caring about. Abnegation runs the government but the government doesn't seem to do much other than pave roads (and that only occasionally, since we are told early on about their state of disrepair). They proudly provide charity to the underclass while maintaining the political system that perpetuates the underclass, so this is just sort of confusing and contradictory. The Candor faction seems to consist exclusively of lawyers, but there is no mention of this society having a legal system so this doesn't figure into the story at all. The Amity faction and their members similarly have no impact on the plot. The Erudite is the only faction to do something that finally drives the plot (starting on page 400), but I'll get to that at the end of the review.
Finally, Dauntless - the military faction that provides the backdrop to almost the entire story, and the faction that the protagonist wants desperately to join. If there is one faction I would think the author would bother to flesh out, this would be it. And by "flesh out", I don't mean "describe the clothing, tattoos, and piercings of" - the author dwells on those elements to the exclusion of anything that could actually develop the story or the characters (I suspect she had a suppressed goth fetish as a teenager). From what I can see the whole purpose of Dauntless is to 1) train new Dauntless members and 2) run a tattoo parlor. They are supposedly society's police and military, but, bafflingly, there is no mention of what threat it protects society from. When the Dauntless trainees travel out to a security fence circumscribing the city, I thought the reader would finally get a chance to see what the whole point of this faction is. For example, the author could introduce veterans who speak ominously of some external threat (think the Night's Watch in Game of Thrones) that could lend some urgency and excitement to what the trainees are trying to do. Yet all we see are Dauntless members aimlessly milling about - seriously. The author repeatedly and in melodramatic language explains that Triss wants to join so she can prove how brave she is, but it doesn't seem to occur to her that there's more to being brave than proving to your friends how brave you are. And it is precisely because Dauntless has no worthwhile purpose that the story collapses down to the protagonist's purely selfish quest of being liked.
The author blows another opportunity to create an interesting plot in her treatment of the Factionless, a marginalized, outcast group of citizens who do not belong to a faction, hold menial jobs, and have no political or economic rights. I don't have a problem with the fact that the Factionless exist per se. On the contrary, dystopian novels often contain an underclass that is beaten down by the status quo. The problem with the Factionless in Divergent, however, is that for such an oppressed group of people, we don't see anyone actively oppressing them. It would be simple and logical to mention that one of the jobs of Dauntless is acting as a Gestapo-like police force, keeping the Factionless in their place, but the author cannot even muster this level of imagination, leading to the big question of how and why the Factionless exist in the first place. We are asked to simply accept that once someone can't pass the initiation test into a Faction, they voluntarily exile themselves into an impoverished ghetto. We also have to accept that the family members of the Factionless are complicit in the arrangement, even though at least one faction, Abnegation, has strong family ties. We are also asked to believe that they never organize or agitate for any rights, despite the fact that a good portion of the society is Factionless and, unlike the Factions, they actually hold productive jobs (bus drivers, construction workers, etc).
And when the author does have Faction members interact with Factionless, she only accents how unrelatable and casually immoral all of the characters are. The Abnegation spend much of their time providing charity to the Factionless, which the author would like us to accept as a sign of virtue. But as the ruling Faction, Abnegation is responsible maintaining this two-class system to begin with! Does it not occur to anyone to extend rights to the Factionless, allow them to work for wages, give them seats on the governing council? The stated reason (which again, we must simply accept based on no clear logic) is that giving the Factionless rights would somehow lead to another war, a premise that everyone, even our protagonist Triss, accepts. So the character that we are supposed to believe has strong moral values unquestioningly accepts an immoral apartheid system. Triss' only thinking about the Factionless is that she doesn't want to be one, which ties back into how self-centered her goals are.
Ultimately, the premise that the Factionless pose a danger to the government turns out to be flat wrong - what leads to political unrest at the end of the book has to with a conspiracy hatched by a faction. Yet consistent with the moral cluelessness that pervades the rest of the book, none of the characters stop to think that maybe their disdain for the Factionless was wrong. This certainly never occurs to our protagonist, who is far too wrapped up in her concerns with her own likability amongst her peers. It doesn't take much imagination at all to think of how the Factionless could be used to build a plot worth caring about. For example, Triss could get kicked out of Dauntless for not being willing to conform and be cast into the Factionless. Once there, we could learn about the injustice of the Faction system, about how all Factions over time became insular, arrogant, and corrupt in their own ways and started purging dissident members. Triss could then use her training to organize an uprising. I'm sure there are plenty of other possibilities.
Finally, I can't convey how lacking in imagination this story is without discussing the simulation/mind control serum, a plot device the author uses as not so much a crutch but as life support. Depending on the story's need at a particular point in time, this serum can either be used to create a virtual realty (VR) simulation in the injected, or to turn the injected into a mindless drone subject to remote control. The author uses the simulation serum as a vehicle for much of the Dauntless initiate training - creating virtual worlds in which Triss and the other initiates can overcome their fears. The author makes the serum so central to the training that it deprives the characters of meaningful interactions the real world, where they could deepen their relationships and learn to work as a team to overcome challenges, and where failure has real-world consequences. Her overuse of VR also conveniently frees her from having to think up plausible situations in which to develop characters. The real-world situations during initiation, meanwhile, are either hopelessly trite (playing capture the flag, sailing down a zipline, gossiping around a cafeteria table) or gratuitously violent.
While the VR serum merely weakens the plot, the use of mind control serum actually makes much of the prior plot totally irrelevant to the story. Two thirds of the Dauntless training consists of initiates fighting their inner fears in a VR simulation. The whole premise behind this is that to become a Dauntless you have to control your fears. But to build to the climax of the story, the author has all the Dauntless injected with a mind control serum so they could be used as unthinking, unfeeling drones on behalf of the antagonist. So my question is, if the Dauntless could always be mind controlled into undertaking whatever mission they were instructed to, regardless of how cruel or suicidal, what was the point of the simulation training to begin with? They never needed to learn to control their fears, since they could just be injected with a drug that would do that for them! I know that part of what makes the Triss special is her immunity to these serums, but couldn't the author give her another special power that doesn't negate so much of the plot?
And just as with the Factionless, it is so easy to think of a way to create a more interesting story. A quick skim of 20th century history tell us that you don't need a truth serum to convince armies to murder innocent people - just a charismatic leader and a bad economy. The author could have shown the initiates becoming more brainwashed and fanatical over time as a result of their training. Triss, however, could have recognized this for what it was and left the Faction. This decision, taken through her own agency, is what should have defined her as Divergent. It would represent a real choice that the reader could relate to and learn from. Instead, what defines Triss as Divergent is holding the winning ticket in the genetic lottery.
What all this boils down to is that the author has no clue how to use the elements of her universe to create a compelling story. The result is a shallow teen angst novel layered under enough "sci fi/dystopia" elements to ride the coattails of Hunger Games.
In YA literature you could always make the point that creating an airtight plot shouldn't be the top priority. Fine - I agree that if a YA book can only do one thing right that it say something important about the world the reader is just starting to grow into. Convey a moral that is worth conveying, however clumsily. And while I have qualms about the author's treatment of the Factionless, this is actually not the book's greatest moral failure. It is this: The author chooses to say to her readers, many of who are young girls, that the desire for knowledge is dangerous. This is made abundantly clear when the Erudite, the Faction valuing knowledge, and the Erudite-born leaders of Dauntless, conspire to overthrow the Abnegation-led government. Throughout the book, Erudite leaders and members are portrayed as elitists whose insatiable and unmitigated drive for knowledge causes them to devalue human life. The other factions, despite having what one would think are equally strong (or stronger) tendencies towards arrogance and moral corruption have no such downfall. Is it an accurate portrayal of human nature to say that it is only the drive for knowledge, as opposed to, say, military prowess or religious zeal that is corrupting? Let me ask a few more rhetorical questions. Throughout history, how many brutal, authoritarian governments have been headed by the military? By religious zealots? By research scientists? How may wars have been fought in the name of God? Of science? Historical accuracy aside, why would the author even want to make this point? Why would she tell young girls to be suspicious of the desire to learn? There is one passage in the book where an Erudite begins to describe the workings of a solar-powered car. With some degree pride, Triss states that she got bored and stopped listening after a minute. Great character.
on January 7, 2014
I rarely write book reviews, but I felt the need to step in here based on all of the glowing reviews for this nonsensical book. This book reads like a high school creative writing assignment - there's a few moments of promising prose in here, but the overall story just requires too much suspension of disbelief. People don't fit into black and white boxes now, they never have before, and there's no reason to ever believe that people will - the entire premise of the book is just too stupid of an idea to take seriously. The lazy and uninspired "testing" mechanism used to determine a human being's entire personality is equivalent, in my mind, to claiming that you could know everything about a person based on their responses to a simple Rorscach test. It's nonsensical. The heroine of this story is thrust into her heroic role because she happens to have the amazing and unbelievable trait of - having a normal personality. No, seriously, that's what makes her a hero according to this tale - she has a normal personality, of the kind that nearly every human being you will ever meet does. People having multiple traits and affinities in their personality is not "divergent" of anything - it's the normal state of human affairs, and this book does nothing to convince me of it's premise that human beings have somehow been transformed into robotic, single-personality beings.
Making the book worse is a poorly developed overthrow plot that employs mind control (the technology for which is never explained in any way - for all the reader can tell, it's no different than magic,) a caricature of a villain, and a character development arc for the heroine that appears to consist of getting tattoos. No, I'm not being facetious here, that's pretty much the character development arc.
Like I said earlier, it reads like a high school creative writing assignment, based on daydreaming about being part of the cool kids clique, that went long and somehow got published, more than it does a fully formed and mature story. Give Ms. Roth 5-10 years to hone her craft and I believe she'll be writing some interesting stories, I just think that the current success and high book sales for this story has a lot more to do with Hunger Games mania and the coattails effect than any inherent quality of the work.
on April 25, 2011
We all know why "Divergent" was written. There is no doubt 99% of dystopias published during the last year or so have been trying to at least partially replicate the success of the trilogy. Public wants to read more dystopian stories, publishers want to sell them, authors want to write them. Everyone is happy.
I have read a few new dystopias recently and liked or disliked them to various degrees. There are dystopias for any taste, dystopias that emphasize separate aspects of the trilogy. There are dystopias that bank on romance ("Matched" or "Delirium"). There are dystopias that take the shock value route ("Wither"). And then there is "Divergent" that caters to the crowd who wants more action in their dystopias. And action this novel delivers!
In a few words, "Divergent" is a one long initiation trial. Beatrice Prior is a member of a society that has been maintaining its peaceful existence by separating its citizens into 5 distinct factions. These factions are formed on the basis of virtues they cultivate in their members - Candor values honesty the most, Abnegation - selflessness, Dauntless - bravery, Amity - peacefulness and Erudite - intelligence. At 16 all citizens take a test that is supposed to help them decide if they want to stay with the faction into which they were born or transfer to another faction forever. Beatrice's test results are inconclusive and puzzling. Ultimately she decides to abandon her own faction (Abnegation) and her family and enter another (Dauntless). But of course, the transfer is not easy. The initiation trials are grueling. "Divergent" is essentially a depiction of Beatrice's road to becoming a Dauntless, both physically and emotionally. Beatrice's unusual test results come to play too, and in a major way.
This emphasis on multiple trials and exercises is the strongest and the weakest part of the story. Veronica Roth has a special talent for writing great fighting scenes, pulse-raising and adrenaline-pumping scenes. Her imagination in terms of inventing different tests and challenges seems to be limitless. Something exciting happens to Beatrice every day of her trials. But that is also the weakness of the story. About 85% of the book is dedicated to action and exercises. The actual story starts only around page 415 of this 500-page book. Only then stakes are raised and real action begins. If you ask me, 400-pages is a lot of prep to finally get to the meat of the story.
Don't get me wrong, I liked the book Ok. "Divergent" is good entertainment. I liked it, I was engaged in the story, I was even excited quite often. But something was missing for me. The novel has good characters, but they are not quite as interesting and compelling as they could have been; it has a lot of action, but the justification for the amount of violence involved is not quite adequate; it has a cute romance, but it never quite makes your heart contract in that sweet, painful way (you know what I am talking about, don't you?); the concept of factions is a unique one but not quite plausible; the explanation what a Divergent actually is is not quite climactic; finally, except for one plot twist (p 415), the story takes a rather predictable road.
I liked "Divergent." I liked it more than "Matched," "Delirium" or "Wither." I liked it less than "Blood Red Road" or "Ship Breaker." It entertained me. It promotes all the good things - bravery and self-sufficiency, friendships, honesty, determination. It is all about girl empowerment. But as the same time it isn't particularly thought-provoking or chilling. It never truly touched my heart. It is a write-by-numbers dystopia.
The verdict? I guess, you'll have to see for yourself?