Thursday, May 10, 2012

Book Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Title: Divergent
Author: Veronica Roth
Publisher: Katherine Tegan Books
Release Date: May 3, 2011
Rating: 4/5

Cover Impressions: I really like this cover.  The 'eye in the sky' grabs your attention and works well with the color scheme.  The city and marshland add to the tone and set this novel clearly as a dystopia.  In my physical copy, the title and author's name are raised, giving the book a polished, expensive, feel.

The Gist: The world has split into factions based on what each group values above all else.  Each teenager will be tested for aptitude in each of factions and then must choose one.  This means leaving behind everything they have ever known, including family.  Beatrice Prior makes this choice and struggles to conform to a new set of ideals in a world that isn't as secure as she once thought.

Review: Tris (Beatrice) is not your typical YA character.  She doesn't wait for the boy to save her, she doesn't plot and scheme or use her womanly charms to survive.  She kicks ass and takes names.  She doesn't start off as strong, she doesn't have some special ability that lets her play with the big boys, she works at it, she practices and this is why I love her.  Tris walks the line between compassion and ferocity.  She is able to empathize and show mercy one moment, while being hard nosed and unforgiving in the next.  Her reactions speak to me as Human, no where near perfect, but trying to survive while upholding her own set of morals.  Some of the other characters are not featured as well and do come off as a little one-dimensional, but I have hopes for redemption on this point as the trilogy continues. 

Roth creates a very distinct and interesting world.  It is one that appears calm and orderly on the outside but, after further investigation, begins to show the cracks underneath.  Once those flaws begin to be revealed, the novel moves from slow and steady tension building to all out downhill run.  The last 100 pages or so are impossible to put down (unless, like me, you have an infant who waits for the best part of the book to decide that he needs you NOW NOW NOW!).  There are scenes that are hard to read, there are deaths that I wish didn't happen and others that I wish did.  There are also a few things that I found unbelievable (but can't discuss without spoilers) but I was able to move past them and concentrate on the action. 

This book was hyped.  And I mean HYPED with all caps.  I believe it deserves some of that hype.  It is not the be-all, end-all of dystopian novels, but it really is a fun, exciting and exhilarating read.  Both boys and girls will love the adventure and the fast pace.  I do have some concerns about the level of violence and would not recommend it for young readers.  The groping scene has caused some controversy but I do think it was written well, though I would have liked to see Tris reflecting on it now and then.*  The kissing scenes get a little steamy but nothing above PG13 (I will be reviewing Insurgent later and have a feeling that things may get a little more racy).   

Teaching/Parental Notes:

Age: 16 and up
Gender: Both
Sex: Kissing, Unwanted groping
Violence: Death by falling, knifeplay/stabbing, death by drowning, gunplay, execution-style murder, mind control.
Inappropriate Language: None
Substance Abuse:  Drinking

* For those teachers out there, Veronica Roth wrote a blog post about it, discussing the mistakes that writers make, that may be interesting for older students to explore.  It can be found HERE

Closing Thoughts:  This is my second reading of Divergent and I enjoyed it just as much this time around.  Veronica Roth has gained a fan in me and I am sure I will continue to read anything that she decides to write.


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