Thursday, February 6, 2014

Book Review: Divergent (Book #1) by Veronica Roth

Source: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Series: Divergent (Book #1)
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date: 28th February 2012
Tagged under: YA-fiction, dystopian, 2014 read, trilogy marathon
Pages: 487
Buy at: Amazon

One choice can transform you...

In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago world, 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 alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are - and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating 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 unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves... or it might destroy her. 

Review [may contain spoilers]

Divergent is the first book I picked up this year. I chose it for a lot of reasons. It has received overwhelmingly rave reviews both from Goodreads as well as booktubers that I follow. It is a complete series, which means I could marathon it in the remaining days of my vacation. It is dystopian and I wanted to try out this genre a bit more. 

In Divergent's dystopian Chicago, there are five separate factions, each identifiable by the defining characteristic of their members. The Dauntless, being fearless, acts as the security forces of the city. Amity, being the peaceful ones, cultivates the earth to supply the city with its resources. The Candor, ever so honest, govern the laws of society. The Erudite, with their thirst for knowledge, pursues research and teaching. The Abnegation, being absolutely selfless in every regard, are the politicians as they are the least likely of all five factions to be corrupt and take advantage of their powers.

Beatrice Prior, the protagonist of this series, has a very difficult decision ahead of her. She grew up in Abnegation with her parents and older brother Caleb but she has always known that she does not sui Abnegation's way of life. She did not have the selflessness, the patience or the serenity that her brother and parents all exhibit. But on the other hand, if she were to choose a different faction, she would be essentially saying goodbye to her family forever. After all, in Divergent, faction comes before blood. Always. 

As the book blurb states, 
One choice determines your loyalties - forever.
Every year, all sixteen-year-olds sit an aptitude test that will give them some guidance as to which faction is ideal for them. The result is confidential and does not dictate which faction you must join. However, given that you need to survive an initiation process before becoming a fully-fledged member, it is always advisable to stick to your aptitude test result.

Unfortunately for Beatrice, her aptitude results only made her indecisiveness worse. Her results were inconclusive and she could belong either Abnegation, Dauntless or Erudite. She was what society called a Divergent - something unique, something to be feared, something to be stamped out. She was advised to pick a faction, hide her abilities and never let anyone discover her secret. Because being labelled a Divergent meant more than an inconclusive test result, and Beatrice had to discover for herself exactly what and from whom she was hiding. 

On the day of choosing, Beatrice, or Tris as she renamed herself, chose Dauntless and must embrace her inner bravery and ignore her Abnegation trait of compassion for those around her and her Erudite trait of questioning everything she saw. While she was busy dealing with her identity and the initiation tests, something bigger is brewing in the world outside...

Overall, Divergent contained an intricate plot with a very strong heroine. The strength of the novel, for me, is the voice of the main character. Tris is strong, opinionated and not afraid to question what she observes around her. She is not afraid to take action to do what she thinks is needed and she was always quick to suspect that there may be something bigger going on. What's more, Tris is clearly human. She had her strength but also her weaknesses. There are moments where she showed compassion like an Abnegation and curiosity like an Erudite yet there are also other moments where she was quick to judge and cold or oblivious to the danger she was in. All of this made her a very relatable main character.

And it is through her voice, that I began to question what I was reading, sensing that something was brewing in the horizon but unsure as to what it was. Divergent, in my opinion, held a much more intricate plot than The Hunger Games. While on the surface, there are the rounds of initiation tests that Tris had to deal with, and the friends and enemies she made along the way; underneath it, there is another layer of mystery as the reader journeys with Tris to discover exactly what being a Divergent meant. But what really impressed me was the surprise at the end. Just when everything calmed down and I was near the end of the novel, Veronica Roth reveals her cards and turns everything you thought you knew about Divergent on its head.

Divergent, however, is not without its faults. While the emphasis on the initiation trials was exciting and full of twists and turns, I did feel it took up perhaps too much of the book. When I was reading it, I actually thought that was all the book was about and it wasn't until right at the end, did the true plot of the series rear its head. In addition, the world-building of this novel was a bit on the fantastical side. For the most part, I struggled to see how society could possibly function with just these five factions. And the cracks behind Erudite's perfect image I saw coming from a mile away. However, the voice of the protagonist really did cover up these flaws and make this a very enjoyable read.

Overall: 4.5/5

This is my second venture into the dystopian genre and for the most part, I really enjoyed this novel. The ending is definitely what bumped this book up from a 4 to a 4.5. As far as book ending goes, this one went off with an explosive bang and really leaves the reader eager for the next book.

What were your thoughts on this book? Comment in the box down below :)

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