Prior to actually getting my greedy little hands on Veronica Roth’s Divergent, I’d been anticipating it for a while. Caitlin was practically salivating to get her hands on the book, and her desperation was infectious. Then I read the first 100 pages and I was done for. I knew I had to have this book in my hands right. that. second. And guys, it was seriously worth the wait. For reals worth the wait.
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.
There have been a plethora of dystopians lately. And yes, some have been better than others. I think Divergent might be among the best. The thing that made this book pop for me is that it seemed like such a unique concept. Almost all dystopian novels play off one thing: the tie that exists between people. Because they’re young adult, it usually has something to do with love or physical appearance. In a lot of novels (read: Delirium or Uglies) this can really work. But Divergent did something that was really fresh for me: it focused on our inherent personality traits. The book just wasn’t matching people with a job or a family unit or a mate. In fact, no one was really matched at all.
Fundamentally, this book was about making people choose the type of person they wanted to be. Not who or what job or anything else, though there are elements of that, but whether you are selfless or kind or adventurous or smart. And that choice made it fascinating. Even if the tests said, “Kate, you are x,” that doesn’t mean I’m stuck being x. Every character in this book made the ultimate choice for themselves. It didn’t mean it worked out, it didn’t mean they fit, but they got to make the pick. I loved that so, so much. Obviously there would be elements of society that then restrict you – only selfless people can be in government, etc. – but the idea that you take a 16 year old and say “Ok, what kind of person do you want to be?” was amazing.
This choice made reading about Beatrice so much more fascinating. She was weighing the pros and cons of who she wanted to be. More than that, she was realizing that there was something in her she might never have expected. And I loved Beatrice. I think that she is the perfect catalyst for where these books are going (and, as much as I want to, I can’t say more because I will spoil everyone). She wasn’t perfect by any stretch, but she was good at things and the book didn’t shy from that. For me, that was the only thing about this book that really brought Hunger Games comparisons. Only, though, because Katniss had her strengths and her weaknesses and the reader was never asked to see her for anything but who she was. The people watching the games might, but the reader knew Katniss. I knew Beatrice when I read Divergent. Everyone else had an image and an idea of her, of Tris, but I knew who Beatrice really was. It made me connect with her on a whole new level.
The supporting cast was great as well. I loved that in a society where people choose who they think they are, that there were such a broad spectrum of personalities even within one “type.” Some of them broke my heart. Some of them made me smile. And some of them (OMG Four!) made me swoon.
Four. I have to talk about how amazing Four was. Because he was amazing. He was everything I want a male lead to be. He was supportive and helpful, but he recognized other people’s strengths. And he also didn’t hide from or moan about his own weaknesses. Four was borderline perfection.
My only complaint when I was reading Divergent was that Four’s background, which is a big mystery of the novel, felt a little out of place for me. Not that I didn’t love the idea of it and the plotting. But I think there was a tiny hole in the ultimate reveal of that mystery that, again, I can’t talk about here without spoiling the fun. I’ll just suffice it to say that I wish we’d gotten a little more explanation about the nature of the mystery, but I’m hoping next book will help me there.
And…the next book. I need it. Right now. RIGHT NOW! I haven’t been this stoked by a series in a long time. Seriously. If you haven’t read this, please do it now. Even if you don’t like dystopian novles, read this. As good as this book was, I think the sequels are going to be even freaking better and you aren’t going to want to miss out.
PS – Our giveaway for The Iron Thorn is still going on, and it is a signed copy! Be sure to enter if you want to win!