Book Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

DivergentTitle: Divergent
Author: Veronica Roth
Published: 2011
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Pages: 487
From: Barnes and Noble

The first thought I had when I heard about Veronica Roth’s debut novel Divergent was, “Oh, God. Not another one.” I have a natural hate toward anything paranormal, science fiction or fantasy written after the year 2005, thanks to the Twilight saga. However, despite my slight loathing for young adult fantasy, I’ve found myself reading more of that genre than I ever thought I would. Divergent was no exception.

I gave in and bought Divergent to see what all the hype was about. This isn’t the first time I’ve done that. I bought Twilight and New Moon when they started rising to the top of the bestseller’s lists, and I borrowed the Hunger Games trilogy right before Jennifer Lawrence killed it on-screen as the Girl on Fire.

Divergent is a tale about 16-year-old Beatrice Prior, who, raised in the selfless faction Abnegation, switches factions and joins the brave Dauntless. But, during her time in Dauntless, the leader of the knowledge-seeking Erudite tries taking over the factioned, futuristic Chicago.

Divergent follows in the footsteps of earlier, popular young adult fiction because it takes dark, adult themes and puts them in terms children and teenagers can understand and relate to. Roth succeeds in making an adult world seem almost darkly childish, almost because she toes the line well with themes of child abuse and sexual assault.

Roth has quite the imagination. She takes her themes and ideas and puts them on paper in a current form, making the reader go where Beatrice, the main character is, inside her head and physically. By taking Chicago and making it a dystopian world set in the future she creates places people can relate to. By giving Beatrice real feelings and curiosities, she creates characters readers love and love to hate. These are the kinds of developments and plots and places people love to read about and be entertained by, which Roth does well. It seemed like a spin on Ayn Rand’s novel Anthem, where the utopian setting is ultimately the dystopian, except the people are less brainwashed and more divided.

However, such unique stories, characters and ideas, written in such a simplistic way for children, always picks at me. I love where Roth takes me as I read, but the words I’m actually reading are not exactly what I’m looking for. If Roth had written these in an adult format, there would be so much more she could do with details, themes, characters, without having to shy away from what people don’t want to talk about. I felt this way with the Hunger Games trilogy, with children killing children being the main plot twist I wish would have been written in adult language.

I also thought the pacing started getting rushed toward the end. In her excitement, I imagine Roth started rushing the story along for the readers, but it was a bad move on her part. Going from initiation into the next stage of the plot was too quick it didn’t allow the reader to prepare for what was about to happen. There was no thinking for Beatrice, just initiation, sleep and bam! She’s tossed into the swirl of what happens next. It seemed slightly out of character for the other characters involved in those next plot twists, and it gave the main character and reader no time to transition.

Roth succeeds in creating the first installment of the Divergence trilogy, published in 2011, an instant hit. With time, Insurgent and Allegiant, the next two in the trilogy, may just be as smashing as the first.

Similar books to Veronica Roth’s are The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Caster Chronicles by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl and Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. Divergent will be made into a feature film in 2014.

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