Divergent by Veronica Roth
Short Review: Intense first-person YA tale with strong 16 year old female protagonist trying to find her place in a very complicated far future world. Fabulous reader, great story.
Long Review: ‘Divergent’ takes place in a future Chicago after some unnamed violence has dramatically reduced the population. As part of the process to broker peace, the remaining people divided themselves into five factions. Each is focused on what they believe is the key to peace. The Candor seeks total honesty, the Abnegation aim for total selflessness, the Dauntless value being brave and strong, the Amity strive for peace above all else, and the Erudite seek knowledge for answers.
Beatrice has just turned 16. She was born into Abnegation. Soon she will have to choose a faction to join for the rest of her life. This is not something that people discuss. It is a deeply personal decision – one which will make Beatrice choose between the faction of her birth and the strong feeling she has long had that she doesn’t belong. Leaving her faction means leaving her family. There is a saying that reflects the permanence of the choice: “Faction over blood”.
I really enjoyed both the story and the reader. It would have been easy for this book to be ruined by a reader who didn’t fit Beatrice. While Galvin’s voices for other characters are not as differentiated as I have heard from some other readers, she does a good enough job that you never are confused about who is speaking. The most important thing to me in the reading of this story is that Galvin’s choices for Beatrice’s inner voice are perfect. She sounds like a sixteen year old girl, but she sounds like a strong and fierce girl making hard choices and doing the best she can.
There are a number of other very interesting characters, none of which I will tell you about since I don’t want to spoil anything for you. Just trust me that there are others who you will follow anxiously, many who are more complex than they first appear.
Many people are saying that Divergent is like The Hunger Games. While I see the similarities (strong young girl in a dystopian future) I also see a number of major differences. Even though her word is constrained, Beatrice has more room to make choices for herself than Katniss ever does. While Katniss’s choice is one of self-sacrifice for others, Beatrice can and does make hard choices seeking to be true to herself. The biggest similarity I see between them is that once they make their hardest choices, they fight hard to survive and succeed. I suspect that if you liked The Hunger Games, you will enjoy Divergent.
This is just part one in a series. I look forward to see where Roth takes us. There are so many unanswered questions at the end of this book – but in a ‘I can’t wait to see what happens next’ kind of way rather than a ‘why didn’t she explain more’ kind of way. We make discoveries and learn about the world as Beatrice does. I appreciate the slow reveal and look forward to the rest of this great tale.