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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
Divergent / Insurgent / Allegiant
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I set out on this review carefully, and in hopes that people will not hate me too much for it. I did not love Divergent; in fact, I wavered between a rating of 2.5 and 3. Part of the problem, I suspect, is likely the hype. The fandom did such a good job of convincing me that this dystopia was flipping awesome that I bought it at full price without having read it, something I pretty much never do...for good reason, apparently. To my mind, Divergent does not deserve the crazy amounts of hype, and definitely is not one of the better dystopias I've read.

My problems, though, are much more widespread than just expectations set to high because of the blogosphere's immense love for this book. Let's just go in order as I experienced my big three issues, shall we? First off, there's the writing. I realized on the first page that Roth writes in the stereotypical YA style that I loathe: short sentences that are rarely compound, mostly simple words, and lots of dashes. The writing in Divergent is only marginally better than the writing in Twilight. I make this comparison not because it's common to compare every YA book to Twilight, but because that really is the book Roth's writing reminded me of.

Next up is the world-building. Maybe it's just me but this society does not make one lick of sense. You probably know, if you follow YA fiction at all, that this world is divided up into five factions based on a personality trait: Erudite (intelligence), Dauntless (bravery), Abnegation (selflessness), Candor (honesty), and Amity (kindness). Lol whut, right? How did this happen?
"`Decades ago our ancestors realized that it is not political ideology, religious belief, race, or nationalism that is to blame for a warring world. Rather, they determines that it was the fault of human personality--of humankind's inclination toward evil, in whatever form that is. They divided into factions that sought to eradicate those qualities they believed responsible for the world's disarray.'"
Right. Because the obvious way to remove disarray and prevent people from fighting is to break them up into groups. They'll be separate but equal. In fact, each faction is responsible for a different aspect of making the society run. Abnegation, since they're so selfless, run the government and mete out resources. Amity farms. The Erudite think things and make technology. Candor run the judicial system. The Dauntless defend from any possible external threats. Am I the only one who thinks this is the worst idea ever? Who would ever have agreed to this plan?

Not only that, but a big part of being in a faction seems to be hatred of certain other factions. How is that healthy? To eliminate evil, we will separate into groups and resent one another. This is supposed to come off as a recent development, I think, but I really can't see how it could ever be any other way, since certain personality types just won't necessarily mesh well. If this were the real world, the Dauntless would probably have overthrown everyone as soon as they were unhappy with a governmental decision, since they're THE ONLY ONES WHO KNOW HOW TO FIGHT AND THEY HAVE ALL OF THE GUNS.

Oh, and I need to say a little bit more about those factions they developed. I've heard the factions in Divergent compared to the houses in Harry Potter, but that's not what I thought of as I read about them. I like to think of the factions as 'fratorities,' a word I made up to describe a gender neutral fraternity or sorority. At the age of 16, the kids of this world have to essentially rush a faction/fratority. Then they go through initiation, and if they don't pass they can be kicked out. Just like the fraternities and sororities on my college campus, each of these has a different mentality: the friendly ones, the partiers, the smart ones, the trustworthy ones, the ones that do community service for their job applications. Perhaps it was because we so few older individuals in the book, except for some parents, but there was a very childish, fratority feel to the whole thing.

The other nigh insurmountable issue with Divergent to my mind is Tris. At the best of times, I just could not believe that she's particularly special. At the worst, I wanted to throw her off the cliff more than Peter did. Since she was divergent, she was supposed to basically fit into each faction equally, but I just didn't see that. She did not strike me as especially brave, honest, kind, intelligent or selfless, despite all the attempts to prove her so. She struck me, in fact, as very average. This is fine and could have been a good thing, except that I was constantly told how unique and amazing she was. I feel like is she's divergent, than probably about half the population should be.

The other thing that really bothered me about her was her inability to be a good friend, and how incredibly mean she was. The perfect example of this is in her treatment of Al. On the very first night in Dauntless, she's in her cot, trying to sleep and resisting the urge to cry. Then she hears Al crying and thinks: "I should comfort him---I should want to comfort him, because I was raised that way. Instead I feel disgust. Someone who looks so strong shouldn't act so weak." Wow, really, bitch? It would be okay if he was an itty bitty girl like you, but big, masculine men aren't allowed to cry? This just makes me so incredibly angry. She later befriends Al, but always secretly thinks of him as a wussy baby. This is not okay.

However, you may notice that I went with a 3 rating, so I didn't hate it, even if I did flirt with a meh. Well, the 3 is because I think I will be reading the next book, because I would like to know what happens next. I do kind of like Four, and I hope he'll have more of a personality in the next book. I also liked Christina and Will and, assuming their both alive, might enjoy Insurgent more if they had a larger role.

To conclude, I think this book has been vastly over-rated. I recommend it in the same way I would recommend The Selection: with caution and to people looking for a fun, fluffy read. This one has more darkness and violence, but is ultimately satisfying to me in precisely the same unhealthy way.
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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.

*Spoiler ahead*
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.
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on July 27, 2012
I loved Divergent. It was everything a book should be: smart, philosophical, funny and sad in all the right places. Although the premise was a bit unlikely, the worldbuilding was first-rate, and I was able to willingly suspend my disbelief long enough to enjoy the book.

However, there was something wrong with the ending. While a war between the factions was entirely likely, it just seemed a bit...rushed. Like the author had all of these cool things she wanted to write about and couldn't be bothered to wait until it made sense to introduce them, so she skipped all of the boring buildup and got right down to it. I hoped Insurgent would be better.

For the first half, it was. Roth took us to the other factions' compounds, and we got a glimpse of what their daily life is like. There were moments of raw beauty and power, like when Tris witnesses an Amity religious service, or when Tris and Tobias are interrogated by Candor. There were moments of chilling horror as well, like when a certain faction leader is executed. Those moments were when Roth's writing really shone.

Sadly, I don't think Roth recognized these moments for the gems that they were. As an aspiring novelist, I understand that. Sometimes, readers and writers like different things. The trick is to craft each scene as if it were your favorite, even if you hate it: to polish each scene to perfection. Unfortunately, Roth did not do this. She seemed impatient to get to "the good stuff." While this would be fine if the "good stuff" was as good as she seemed to think it was, it wasn't. The scenes Roth seemed to enjoy writing the most were often the most illogical.

**The following section contains spoilers.**

Take Erudite's big plan, for instance. Jeanine has infected about a third (I think) of the Dauntless with a serum that basically allows her to control their minds for a short time. Imagine what a ruthless dictator could do with a weapon like that. This isn't the simulation serum Erudite used to make the Dauntless attack Abnegation, kids; this is something far stronger. We see Jeanine speak through two Dauntless (telling Tris that Jeanine will kill two Dauntless every two days until the Divergent surrender) and then force them to throw themselves off a building. HOLY CRAP. Given that introduction, the opening act is going to be pretty hardcore, right?

Wrong. That's all Jeanine uses it for. She doesn't force the Dauntless to attack each other, thus thinning the ranks of loyal Dauntless. She doesn't access all of them at once and have them hogtie Tris and Tobias and bring them to the Erudite compound. Nope. She just has them deliver their message and then kills them. Well, she kills one. Tris catches Hector, an eight-year-old boy, before he falls. For the rest of the book, she chooses to remember it as the time she "chose not to save Marlene." That doesn't ring true, Roth: a real person would remember it as the time they "couldn't save Marlene," "didn't make it in time," or even "saved Hector but lost Marlene."

It gets worse: After that "attack," Tris catches a train to the Erudite compound. Alone. With the full intention of giving herself up to experimentation--which will only increase Jeanine's power, as she has SAID her goal is to learn how to control the Divergent--and eventual death. She doesn't even think of telling her friends, who would gladly suit up, arm themselves, and mount a surprise attack on Erudite to avenge the death of one of their own. She doesn't consider the fact that Erudite didn't implant the serum in all Dauntless; those could easily be left back at the compound behind three feet of reinforced steel to keep them from causing any damage, should Jeanine choose to activate said implants. No, Tris decides she's going to "die like the Abnegation" and makes the "selfless" choice to give herself up.

So Jeanine experiments on her. She puts Tris under simulation after simulation, but Tris sees each one for what it is. This sends Jeanine into orbit, who then decides that Tris is going to be executed the next morning. Now, I had heard something about a fantastic twist that no one saw coming, so when I got to this part, I thought Tris was going to die. I actually got excited. How would Roth carry the rest of the series, without Tris to narrate? Would she shift the viewpoint to Tobias, or maybe another Dauntless like Lynn? Unfortunately, Roth didn't even attempt this twist. Peter (yes, Peter, the traitor Dauntless who is now with Erudite, the Peter who stabbed Edward in the eyeball in the last book, and who tried to kill Tris so he could rise to the top) switches the death serum (they call it that) with a paralyzation serum (they call it that too) and rigs the heart monitor to flatline right about the time the death serum (seriously, Roth? could you have given it a more stupid name?) will take effect. Wow! I had no idea Erudite aka the Smart and Incredibly Paranoid Faction's equipment was so easily tampered with! How incredibly convenient for our plucky young heroine! How wonderfully coincidental that Peter (actually an acronym for Pure Evil To Every Rebel) would have a change of heart just in time to save our narrator's life!

I could go on about the lack of logic involved with Tobias surrendering himself and telling Tris about a rescue operation that's going to take place in two weeks, but I want to skip ahead to the part where Tris and a few others invade the Erudite compound AGAIN, this time so they can help Marcus (yes, that Marcus) steal the information the Priors died for. I'll take it one at a time.

First, Tris doesn't stop to think that maybe Marcus is lying to her. He's lied about a lot of stuff so far, but he chooses to tell the truth now, and Tris automatically believes him.

Second, she doesn't tell Tobias or anyone else that they're going to be helping Marcus while everyone else is attacking the compound. She could have just said "Hey, Tobe. Listen, the Erudite have this information. My parents died trying to get it, and it's probably really important for the rest of us, too. So if you could just give us some cover and explain this to the Dauntless authorities when it's all over, I'd really appreciate it." Nope, she just angsts about how what she's doing is treason to Tobias and Dauntless, and when it's over, she angsts about how now she's a traitor. Somebody call the WAAAAAHHHHmbulance! WHY DID YOU NOT JUST TELL THE OTHER DAUNTLESS IN THE FIRST PLACE.

Third, they sneak in dressed like the Erudite. Including Tris, who had just spent a considerable amount of time at the compound being introduced to doctors and interns waiting to experiment on her, as well as passing countless Erudite who saw her face. And nobody recognizes her, because Erudite clothes are magic or something. SERIOUSLY, ROTH? THEY HAVE THE TECHNOLOGY TO CONTROL MINDS BUT NOT A PLACE TO PRINT OUT A WANTED POSTER???? AND WHY DO THE ERUDITE NOT USE SECURITY CAMERAS?????

Fourth, Jeanine's office. It's heavily guarded, not by a spray of bullets (which would make the most sense) but by a computer system. Tris tries to enter, but a voice conveniently announces her name, age, faction, and the fact that she is "confirmed Divergent." It then plunges her into a simulation.

A simulation.




*deep breath*

Anyway, Tris makes it past the simulation. Naturally. If I were Jeanine, I would have set it up so that if an intruder is confirmed Divergent, they would be subjected to a hail of bullets, an RPG, or another reliable instrument of death. But Jeanine was apparently created by someone who was not Erudite, and thus did not fully understand what the term "applying logic to a situation" means.

The ending twist isn't as good as I heard it was. So the city was designed to be a utopia. When the Divergent began appearing, the city was supposed to give the keys to Amity, unlock the gates, and go forth into the big bad world and save it with their awesome utopian powers. Okay....so if this was supposed to be a utopia, why divide people into factions where they embrace the most simplistic lines of thinking? Why would people who can think along multiple lines be so special that they would need to open the city gates? Why would they erase the memories of people who decided to join this utopia? If they had memory-erasing technology, why hasn't Jeanine gotten ahold of it and used it to control the city, which is apparently what she's dreamed about ever since she was a little girl?

And with that, the book ends.

I should've stopped with Divergent.
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I have been eagerly awaiting Insurgent by Veronica Roth along with many other people after the startling and thrilling first book, Divergent. That book introduced us to five factions of a dystopian society, and one brave girl named Tris, who decides to join the Dauntless. It's clear by the end of the book that she belongs to the group of Divergent, meaning that she could have belonged to any one of these factions with her personality traits.

This book takes off immediately where the last one ended. At first it's a jumble of confusion, and I may have made more sense if I had reread the first one right before this one. The factionless have more of a story, and we get more fleshed out characters. I have to admit I was a little disheartened by the first half of the book. To me, it seemed like we were drifting around in Tris's bizzare guilt trip. I understood she was working through her issues but I was almost overwhelmed by the amount of pages dedicated to this. Overall, the story has a darker tone and almost gets too heavy.

However, things change when secrets start to be revealed. My absolute favorite part of the book was when we are introduced to some Erudite characters who end up being more three dimensional than Tris ever imagined. The last secret revealed made the whole book worth reading.

While I had some reservations, I thought overall this book was well written and ramped up heavily at the end. The last 25% of the book was really terrific. Just personally, I think that I liked the first book better because we are first introduced into this world that is so completely different than has been created before. However, the second book is a solid companion to the first, and I am excited to see how the story ends.
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on April 25, 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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?
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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.
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on November 9, 2013
I devoured the first two books in the series, and I own them in book and kindle form, but I couldn't even finish Allegiant. As an English teacher who loves discovering books that will excite my students, I enthusiastically recommended Divergent to many people. While I still believe Roth is a talented writer who crafted an extraordinary world and beautiful characters, I now feel the need to apologize to everyone I encouraged to begin this series because I was so disappointed with its conclusion.
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on March 30, 2014
Divergent and its two following books, insurgent and Allegiant are hugely popular, well-reviewed, critically successful, sold for movie rights (and looking to be the next Hunger Games) and I cannot for the life of me understand why.

To say they are epic-ly bad encompasses the totality of the level of crap they are but it only skims the surface of what an affront they are to the brilliant genre (and my beloved and favorite genre) of post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction.

Divergent is much lazier than The Hunger Games. Veronica Roth wrote the first book on her Winter Break in her senior year of college and that seems about right for the level of writing, plotting and world building.

The dialogue is some of the worst I've read outside of teenage fanfic that is mocked on the Internet; it is unbelievably bad, as if the author had never heard actual people speaking. As if she never thought about a single conversation that took place between two people. As if her only knowledge of communication was in fact, the lamest fanfic conversations posted on the Internet by teenagers.

She tells you what everything is and shows you nothing. I have no idea what this so-called world looks like except that it seems to be set sometime in the future in Chicago. I don't know how far in the future. I don't know why the world is only this city once called Chicago. I don't know why there are five "factions" that people belong to and join at age 16 or how long they have been doing this. I don't know if there are 20 people in the city or 200 or 20,000 or 20 million.

You start cold only knowing what Beatrice (who nicknames herself Tris early on), our "KatnissBellaMarySue", tells you and it's not much. She lives in this city and is apparently some kind of secular Amish Druid Buddhist part of a faction using the five-dollar word Abnegation.

Not for anything but seriously - would the world divide into factions named five-dollar mythically-heavy words? Is that likely in a world where the simple rules? Like Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter - wouldn't these be the more likely names of factions? Made-up buzz-y words that are "pinteresting"?

But no, in Veronica Roth's writing on her winter break world (developed between ski trips and taking down the Christmas tree), the five factions are named Abnegation (selflessness), Amity (peace), Candor (honesty), Erudite (intellect) and Dauntless (bravery).

And it is clear from the start that each faction is narrowed down to base stereotypes - the Amish-Mormon-Religious-Zealots who may only be pretending to be nice and selfless but are actually total monsters (maybe), the Peacenik Hippies, the Rude Loud people from New York and New Jersey, The Nerd and Geeks and the Cool Kids (who are tattooed and pierced and goth/metal heads none of which happen to be over the age of 20).

Nothing is explained even though Beatrice talks about going to a history class. She talks about school and riding the bus and people called The Factionless who are living in extreme poverty but do the menial jobs that people in the factions don't want.

Beatrice is not a terribly selfless person as she was raised to be in her faction, she is actually quite selfish and although she describes herself as small and childlike and not pretty she has a huge bucket of self-love and is mostly crap to everyone including her family and the couple of people she is friends with in her faction. She is thoroughly unlike-able.

If she had been a selfless person of character (as we are supposed to believe she is), it might have made the story more plausible but she is nothing but typical of all young people nowadays, completely suffering from some narcissistic or borderline personality disorder or at the very least living and acting as if she is on her own reality TV show.

The book is a page-turner, you keep waiting, slogging through ridiculous sub-plots (that aren't even that because there would have to be an actual plot first) and absurdly constructed "training"(after she becomes Tris and joins the Cool Kids at Dauntless HQ where there are no grown-ups at all anywhere or they are off in the corner where no one can see them using their Charlie Brown whanwah-whanwah-whanwah voices).

In only one week Tris becomes muscled and bad-ass, able to defeat opponents in hand to hand combat who are much larger and stronger (and male) even though she has the body of a little girl and is small, as well as learns to throw daggers and shoot guns which is awesome because by the end of the book this teenage little girl will have to kill a bunch of people - a friend, some nameless and faceless guards, some bad people, some good people, some other people, whatever she feels like doing because you know it's great to write books about teenagers shooting and killing people. I'm so glad that doesn't happen in real life though. Whew - we better get these books in the hands of all the teenagers with access to Grandpa's gun collection we possibly can.

And you know girls are so apt to turn toward violence. Instead of make-up and fashion and stuff. I know most girls want to shoot guns and throw knives and beat up guys in hand to hand combat. Women participating in extreme gun-motivated violence and murder is so prevalent. Oh, no, wait, no it's not. None of the teenage shooters have been teenage girls. Hunh. Go figure.

But surely there must be some girls out there sitting around wishing they could enact extreme violence on people and shoot them in the face and start a revolution right?

Tris is still a victim, nearly twice of sexually motivated assault. It's not clear how she can be such a bad-ass warrior woman yet still almost get thrown off a cliff into an underground chasm and get sexually assaulted. This is the only actual sex in the book too.

Once again like in The Hunger Games and Twilight while there may be copious amounts of violence there is no sex between the attractive young people.

Having been a teenager, I can say with utmost honestly that violence was not the first thing I was eager to pursue. I wanted to have fun. I wanted to kiss boys. I wanted to have sex. I wanted to go to the movies. I wanted to get into bars. I wanted to go to concerts. Even if the world had been crumbling around me I would not have cared about saving it. That was not my job as a teenager. My job was to grow up.

Which is why teenagers make such crappy protagonists unless the story is about them actually "growing up".

This feels like a book written with older people in mind but turned into a YA book in order to sell. The book was de-sexed (because all YA books are) and there are only virgins kissing. Oh and there are no homosexuals in this dystopian future. I think there might have been a "brown" character through I cannot recall because there are too many inconsequential characters with extremely white Christian names.

Actually there is no ethnicity at all in this book even if there are a couple of token characters who aren't white. This was Chicago and there aren't even any Italians. How could you have an Italian Beef sandwich if there are no Italians? (Actually that's not in the book but when I think of Chicago I think of Italian Beef, Deep Dish Pizza and Chicago Hot Dogs. And Oprah. And there is for damn sure no Oprah in this world that was made up in three weeks on Veronica Roth's Christmas Break in between shopping trips to take back things she didn't like that her mother got her at Abercrombie.)

The revolution is begun somehow by Tris being special, being Divergent, in that she and some other special people do not have the obviously genetically engineered single personality traits but have several of them. Uh-oh somebodies going to bring down the system! Oh and it will be KatnissBellaMary Sue of course. Because she's really a hero. Not just a not-pretty, sharp-nosed little girl who is small but mighty and powerful and strong and can shoot to kill but is most fearful of having sex with her hot training instructor nicknamed Four because yes he only has FOUR fears at all.

I finished the book and none of my questions were answered. Tris's parents were both quickly dispatched in about 30 pages at the end of the book (since they were the only two people over 20 years old except for the evil Erudite villainous mastermind who is fat and frumpy and wears glasses and is named Jeanine - yes a villain named Jeanine - because you know, women are so often computer/science genius masterminds who want to take over the world and control everyone) and then the book ends.

It turns out you still don't get a clue as to why the world is like this or what it really is like until the second book - no wait, sorry truly until the THIRD book and then the author is so freaking sick of Tris that she kills her off before the end.

Oh did I ruin it for you? No I did not. Trust me. There can be no ruining something this trite and meaningless.

Do not read the next two books. It's money down the drain. Don't even read them for free. It's time wasted. If you have time on your hands staring at a wall and playing your lip would accomplish more.

I wish Tris had died in the first book. I wish they had all died. And even though I am a woman who does not normally feel and express such violence I would like to kill all these sucko characters. With a flippin' flamethrower.

Is that harsh? You see what violence can do to nice person?
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on June 15, 2012
I disliked this book. Immensely. It felt like a middle school read. Actually, it felt worse than a middle school read. It felt like the story a 9th grade girl would write in her spare time, hoping that maybe the ex-boyfriend of her best friend''s mother who has a cousin who knows someone who once dated an editor at HarperCollins will discover and publish it. When I started this book -- I was reading several books about fictional future societies for a project -- ' I had no idea who the author was. But after a few pages I wondered if she were, indeed, a 9th grader. I looked her up and realized that I had come very close. She''s a young college graduate, major: creative writing. Oh. Oh. Oh. If these are the kind of writers that America''s creative writing departments are churning out, boy, are we ever in trouble.

Didn''t Miss Roth learn how to develop characters who live and breathe, who have individual speech rhythms, who you would recognize in a second on a street if you bumped into them? She has so many characters who have no face, no personality and no development. In fact, none of her characters have a character arc. Not even the protagonist, Tris. Tris keeps on telling us that she has changed, but, hello? Nothing at all that she does allows us to see, feel, understand any of these changes. Sometimes, yes, a character has a sudden new character trait, but it appears, suddenly, because it is needed to further some plot point. For example, at the end of the book, Four, Tris''s romantic interest, suddenly lets us know that he''s really good with computers. Ms. Roth needed a nerdy type to get the work done, so suddenly Four, who until then had shown no interest in computers, is suddenly a computer expert. Sigh.

In short: the plot dictates the characters. Ms. Roth should have learned in creative writing class that it''s the other way around: in good writing, plot happens because of the way characters behave. But 'Divergent is no character-driven story. The characters do what the plot calls for. And here all the characters are put into one of two categories: either good or bad. Are there any differences between how Tris''s mother and her father are portrayed? No. One might just as well be the other. Will and Christine, two of Tris''s fellow initiates, were good guys. And that was all we ever really know about them. We have no idea what they look like or what makes them so special that Tris considers them her friends. Molly and Peter were from the start the bad guys and they end the bad guys. If Ms. Roth''s editor is smart, she (or he?) will force Ms. Roth to at least try to develop in the sequels the two main characters, Tris and Four, and maybe a supporting character or two could get some development too. A good writer can do that. An unskilled writer does what Roth did: cardboard, cardboard, more cardboard, dialogue with no sub-text, no flair, no nothing. Words, words, and more empty words with little to involve us or move us.

I have read a bit now about Ms. Roth, read some of her interviews. I suspect that she knows in her heart that what she has written is not worth the paper it was printed on. She knows it. She must. And I suspect that she''s thinking: I''ll milk the cow as long as I can. She''d be stupid not to, of course.

If it were only kids, 10 to 15 year olds who are reading this book, it wouldn''t bother me that much. Their sense of what is good or bad prose is not yet developed. But I must admit, I am shocked when I see that grown women, librarians, book sellers, people who ought to know good prose when they read it, praise this book. Why, for goodness sakes? There are perfectly acceptable and accessible books out there, written with heart, soul and mind that take their young readers into far more complex and deeply felt worlds. Why not look for and praise those books? Why a book of such obvious poor quality and lack of craft?

Besides the poor quality of the prose and the author's lack of skill when it comes to building characters, I am also shocked at the amazingly absurd world she created. Five factions for all mankind? Her society is ridiculous, it has no details, no logic, we have no idea why it developed into its present state.

And, hello? Ms. Roth has no sense of technology whatsoever. Not that I''m much better at that, but I do know that, for example, important computer programs are duplicated, that there is always a failsafe. The end of 'Divergent' is so illogical. Tris stops a war by going to a computer, shutting it down and taking away the hard drive. Hello? An entire war, an entire society being controlled in one computer? Puleeeeze!

And the violence in the book seems so gratuitous. So unnecessary. Tris talks a lot about being brave, but, whew. Does shooting somebody mean she''s brave? Of course she is only as good as her creator and I wonder if Ms. Roth is aware of what it truly means to be brave. To be desperate. To have no other choice but to die. Few of us do, I suppose. But a good writer will understand that the feelings involved in such situations are complicated and complex. We should be moved by the despair of the characters. This book did not move me except to let you know how much I dislike it. In brief: this is one of the worst-written books I ever read. Her editors should be ashamed of themselves.

For foreigners who want to read this book in English: it will be a very easy read for you. It's simple, uses short sentences and is written with the vocabulary of a 10-year-old.
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Ridin' on the coattails of The Hunger Games

Beatrice 'Tris' Prior lives in a (psuedo) dystopic Chicago. People have been rearranged into Five Factions: Abnegation, Candor, Dauntless, Erudite, and Amity. Beatric is given a chance, when she is 16, to choose which faction to go into, and her choice is startling and not the easy one she expected.


+ There is absolutely, positively NO ROMANTIC TRIANGLE!! FINALLY, a Young Adult, Urban Fantasy/Dystopia novel that does NOT center its ENTIRE PLOT around a forced plot triangle. Excuse me while I faint from astonishment.

+ Roth's competent writing. First person present isn't an easy tense, but Roth writes it well. It isn't as choppy and "childish" as Jones' "Need", and yet it isn't burdened with flowery prose.

+ Interesting characters. Tris is an interesting character, as is Christina, Tori, Four, and Tris' mom (would REALLY love to know more about her!).

+ The last 150 pages are INTENSE.

+ The book reminds me a little of "Ender's Game".

+ The book is about overcoming obstacles and doing the right thing.

+ It is a dystopia.


- World building makes NO SENSE. Why would ANY GOVERNMENT split up a society into FIVE FACTIONS? Don't most dystpopias WANT people to be uniform? Or if there ARE Five Factions, wouldn't they want them to be fighting amongst themselves, too busy to see the government creeping into their lives (sorta like Fforde's "Shades of Grey")? In fact, what even MAKES this society dystopian? Why aren't we rooting for the Erudite? Yeah, they are killing people, but they DO want equal representation--isn't that what American Forefathers fought for? Why is this wrong now?

- How in the frakkin' hell can ANYONE call the Dauntless "brave"? Jumping off buildings, running off trains, catapulting down a zipline DOES NOT MAKE SOMEONE BRAVE. Bravery is in the small things--being with a dying parent, living with cancer, not giving up even though you want to--an idea that takes Tris THE ENTIRE BOOK to figure out. Since when does getting a tattoo make you brave? Why is there so much time spent on the physical test, but the last two tests are almost overlooked? How can Dauntless EVER make friends if they are so worried about being on top? How has this faction not totally destroyed itself? Where is the solidarity? Why are these supposedly brave people so eager to have a dubious serum injection?

- Why is it only Abnegation seems to have any real differences from modern cultlure (no mirrors, simple foods, simple clothes)? Where are the vast differences in the other Factions (besides silly clothes differences and the stupid tattoo thing)?

- How can everyone be split up into different factions? Were these people genetically altered? Is there some sort of indoctrination that occurs that wipes away any tendencies for the other Virtues? How can children change and why would they want to wait until 16 to start training them in the Faction they will spend their ENTIRE lives in? Why is being factionless bad? How can the serum work on these people? How come there aren't MORE divergent? Why is it so rare?

- Inconsistent heroine. One minute, she realizes (somewhat determinedly, in a really nice "brave" moment) that she is neither Abnegation, nor Dauntless, then the next, she is shocked to discover this very fact. WTF? Tris constantly complains about her bravery vs selflessness being at war, but when is she ever really selfless in the book? She hardly acts Abnegation at all!! How can she call these people friends? She almost is Bella-like in how she uses them!

- The writing style is a little too similar to Collins' The Hunger Games.

- In the beginning, the relationship between Four and Tris feels almost like a girl having a crush for her teacher.

- Muscle doesn't bulk up in a week. You don't recover from a tattoo overnight. A bullet wound in the shoulder isn't just going to mildly slow you down in a fight.

- (POSSIBLE SPOILERS) In The Hunger Games (first one), Katniss' strength of character leads her in an act of defiance against the Capital. This action inspires many to revolt against the despotism. Beatrice, on the other hand, is just another cog in the wheel. Yes, she does save Dauntless from being wiped out, but it is unclear why we are following her story, as she seems to react instead of act. Perhaps future books will explain what Divergence is and what makes Beatrice so special, but in this book, I was left wondering why Beatrice and why not, say, her mother.

So, yeah, I found a few problems with the novel. Unfortunately, they all dealt with the world building, the absolute fundamental of the novel. But I will say, if you can swallow the concept, close the curtain, and just be enraptured by the story, it's not bad at all. Beatrice takes time to grow on you, but she is a good heroine. She is legitamitely strong and competent and doesn't require a boyfriend to do it for her (I absolutely hate female protagonists that can't function without a man). Oh, and while there is a romantic plot, it's not very pronounced nor is it a triangle.

Thus, even with the problems I have with it, I am still going to be checking out "Insurgent" when it is published. But if I catch a whiff of a Romantic Triangle, I am gone.

UPDATE 10/25/11: Clarified the comparison between Katniss and Beatrice.

Brought to you by:
*C.S. Light*
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