on May 2, 2012
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.
on May 1, 2012
First Impressions: I had been looking forward to reading Insurgent ever since I finished reading Divergent (for the millionth time) last year. One morning I woke up and before I even had my morning coffee, I heard a nice thud outside of my front door. I kind of feel like there should have been fireworks and confetti when I opened up the package and laid my hands on my pretty proof of Insurgent. I hugged it. I stroked the cover, and it gained its place at the top of my review pile. My precious..... If you haven't already read Divergent, you need to go get a copy NOW! You are missing out on reading an amazing trilogy and trust me; you don't want to miss these books.
First 50 Pages: The beginning of Insurgent picks up right where Divergent left off, luckily. I was hoping there wouldn't be any gaps in time between the first book and the second, and there wasn't. I was also worried that Insurgent would suffer from Sophomore Slump, but it didn't. If fact, I think I enjoyed Insurgent more than I did Divergent because this book has a ton of action and more character development. However, the world-building in both books is phenomenal. I would love to know how Veronica Roth comes up with the things that she does, because even though this world she dreamed up is crazy (and awesome), it never seems too far-fetched. The Young Adult market is so flooded with dystopian novels right now that aren't plausible, with the exception of a select few, including the Divergent/Insurgent novels.
Characters & Plot: I'll do my best to keep this part as spoiler-free as possible so I don't ruin anything for anyone, but there might be some minor spoilers, so readers beware.
Like I stated above, Insurgent picks up right where Divergent left off. Tris is heading back to the Amity headquarters, not to mention being devastated from having to watch a good majority of her family murdered and from murdering one of her best friends, Will, while he was under a simulation. All of the consequences of the events that happened in Divergent begin to truly take its toll on Tris and she has a lot of feelings and emotions she has to work through.
Four, Caleb, and Marcus are also accompanying Tris as they travel to not only Amity, but Candor as well. They need to let everyone know about the war against Abnegation and that they have teamed up with Dauntless and Erudite. Unfortunately, they gain no support from either faction. A lot happens in Insurgent and it is easy to get confused on what exactly is going on. Jeanine Matthews is still on the loose and is collecting Divergent people for a purpose that isn't fully known. Four's mom also makes a comeback as the leader of the Factionless, and all sorts of other sub-plots and hell break loose. Veronica Roth makes it increasingly difficult to be able to choose sides and to be able to see which factions are the real villains, compared to the factions that have made bad choices. It is an incredibly complex story that somehow just works and I'm not sure any other author would have been able to put together so many different ideas that flow together so well.
Another relief of mine was the fact the Roth decided not to include a love triangle when it comes to Four and Tris' relationship. I was really worried that she would, because it seems like the thing to do in Young Adult novels, but she didn't. However, there are some personality issues that are going on in Insurgent that has changed from Divergent, and the couple endures their own struggles because of the varying feelings and emotions they are experiencing. Tris feels very helpless and is depressed for the majority of the story and it comes across in her recklessness. Four, or Tobias as he is called more often in this book, is a little more edgy in Insurgent, and does his best trying to do well for Tris, but he has his struggles and you can't help but to feel bad for him. Tris doesn't always make his job as the good boyfriend, easy.
Final Thoughts: There is a HUGE revelation that takes place in the final half of Insurgent and the book ends with a cliffhanger that is going to drive me absolutely insane until I can read the last and final book. Insurgent surpassed my expectations and I foresee it ending up on every single "Best of 2012" list later this year. Without a doubt, I very highly recommend picking up your own copy of Insurgent when it comes out May 1st!
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 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.
WHAT THE HECK ROTH JEANINE HAS JUST SPENT THE PAST FIVE CHAPTERS LEARNING THAT SHE CAN'T CONTROL DIVERGENT WITH A SIMULATION WHAT IS THIS IT MAKES NO SENSE FHDKLDHFUISHEIHEUTGBJKDRGUDHRIEFHUIRIEJ.
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.
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 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 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 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 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 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?