Thursday, 7 April 2011

Book Review: DIVERGENT by VERONICA ROTH


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.


Divergent ~ a tall tales & short stories review

It was Divergent's high-concept premise that initially had me intrigued - the idea that human beings could define themselves purely by possessing the traits of a particular and very specific virtue. Could this work? Could this make the human race co-exist and work together for the good of all mankind? Could this prevent a repeat of the events that had caused society to fall? How would a writer tackle such big philosophical ideas? Well, I won't answer that question now, you will need to read the book to find out. ( I hate spoilers!)

Dystopian novels are the current hot trend and Divergent certainly offers a thought-provoking, philosophical and intriguing take on a future broken society. Would I say it's wholly successful? I'm not sure, I feel there are some unanswered questions but as this book is the first in a trilogy maybe those answers will come in time. I certainly wanted to know what would happen and where the story would take me and that was its greatest strength. I found the character of Four intriguing and he certainly works as a rather dark and brooding romantic figure but there was something about the character of Tris that made it harder to connect or empathise with, but perhaps that was intentional given her original faction of Abnegation.

I think this is such a big idea that it takes a brave writer to tackle it but on the whole I think Veronica Roth has been successful.  Having read the Hunger Games, which I felt was probably influenced by the cult Japanese film Battle Royale, some parallels might be drawn with the Hunger Games, but I think Veronica Roth has attempted to write something with greater philosophical depth. I admire the fact that she didn't shy away from some upsetting and disturbing scenes when dealing with the actions of some of the characters but I have the feeling that book two will see the author grow as a writer and perhaps be even braver in her choices.

I enjoy a thought-provoking, compelling dystopian novel that makes the reader ask questions about humankind, society and its flaws, and Divergent certainly does just that. Would I recommend it? Yes, I would. This is a book that makes the reader ask 'what would I do in such a situation?' and question what it is that makes us human; a sense of right and wrong, self-awareness, honesty, fearlessness. So many traits, so many human qualities - could anyone at any age make such a life-changing choice and choose to devote their life to just one ideal? Could you?



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