Sunday, June 19, 2011

Divergent - Veronica Roth

Title: Divergent
Author: Veronica Roth
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins), 2011 (Hardcover)
Length: 487 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Dystopian Fiction
Started: June 18, 2011
Finished: June 19, 2011

From the inside cover:
In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

Debut author Veronica Roth bursts onto the literary scene with the first book in the Divergent series—dystopian thrillers filled with electrifying decisions, heartbreaking betrayals, stunning consequences, and unexpected romance.

This is one of the better books I've read recently, and I honestly don't know why I didn't pick it up immediately after it's release date in May rather than waiting almost two months to crack open the cover.

Divergent takes a fairly familiar dystopian setup (newly reorganized world, different classes at odds with each other, the whole 'your future is decided at 16' kind of thing) and turns it into something unique. In this newfound Chicago, people have split into 5 different groups based on what they think caused the world's problems, and each group values a virtue that they think will remedy things in their new world order. Abnegation are the selfless, who think selfishness causes the world's problems. Since they only think of others and not themselves, they run the government as well as the health care system. The Dauntless are the brave, who think cowardice caused the world's problems, and act as the defense sector. The Erudite are the intelligent, who think ignorance caused the world's problems, and act as the teachers and scientists. Candor are the honest, who think deception caused the world's problems, who act as lawyers and form the justice sector. Lastly, Amity are the peaceful, who think that humanity's unkindness caused the world's problems. They are the artists and form the agricultural sector.

Beatrice is Abnegation, who has lived her whole life trying to be as selfless as her family reminds her to be. When it comes time for her to choose which faction she'll be part of, she struggles with her choice. If she chooses Abnegation, she'll be denying the other facets of herself. If she chooses another faction, she'll be leaving her parents and older brother behind. When Beatrice (who is now called Tris) goes through the initiation process, she struggles with the cutthroat tactics she sees around her. In addition to that, Tris is Divergent, showing aptitudes for not one, but three different factions. If her status is discovered, she will be killed, so she struggles to keep her impulses towards the other virtues hidden. As she progresses through the initiations and the rankings, she realizes that things aren't all right with the world: Erudite is trying to change public opinion towards Abnegation, and the Dauntless aren't brave in the admirable sense like Tris thought they'd be. In typical dystopian fashion, Tris gets thrown into the political fire and her Divergent status is the key to saving them all.

Divergent moves along nice and quick, there's always something happening with no boring lags in the plot. Beatrice is a wonderfully real character (it helps that she can kick ass like nobody's business), and her narration really gets you inside your head. She isn't always kind, and can be downright ruthless when she needs to be, but that struggle between survival and concern for others is what makes her remarkably human. I love the message that's conveyed a few times through Tris and Four, that people can't value one trait over another, that all the virtues the individual factions value are all interrelated and we need to cultivate all of them to be good, well-rounded people.

Divergent is an action-packed story with an engaging plot, well-developed characters, and a wonderful message. This is part of a series, and the second book, Insurgent, comes out next year, which I'll be picking up as soon as it comes out.

Divergent is one of the best books I've read lately, and practically everyone who's read it has loved it (and for good reason), so read this!

Thoughts on the cover:
I like it, finally a YA cover that doesn't have to have a girl on it. I like the Chicago city-scape with the Dauntless symbol in the centre, hopefully they keep the continuity with the rest of the series and have the other faction symbols on future books.

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