Sunday, November 24, 2013

Book Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Finished book one of Veronica Roth's Divergent trilogy. Will I read book two? Eh... 

The Divergent trilogy is about a teenage girl who must choose in which faction she wants to spend her life. Her world (the crumbling city of Chicago, after some unnamed worldwide disaster) is divided into five factions -- or, for want of a better word, houses -- each known for the qualities they hold highest. Ravenclaw Erudite prizes intelligence and knowledge, Hufflepuff Amity prizes friendship, etc. She chooses to leave the faction she grew up in and switch to Gryffindor Dauntless, known for bravery.

And then the shit hits the fan, and female Harry Potter Tris finds out that she possesses a quality -- Divergence -- that allows her to fight against the mind-control set up by Erudite, and she is at the center of a revolution. 

The book is fast-paced and loaded with UST (as YA dystopian/paranormal/etc typically is), and the writing is solid and the characterizations are fairly good. This series, it should be noted, is about to be turned into a film series, a preview of which you may have seen if you went to see Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

Did I mention that Katniss Tris spends her first few weeks in Dauntless learning to fight, even to kill others? 

Look, the capable female heroine is a good thing in novels. We need more of them. But if I read another YA where the teenage heroine is, you know, not really pretty, kind of short, average in most every way, doesn't know anything about defending herself at the beginning but shows REMARKABLE aptitude for causing physical damage (due to her amazingly intense brain!) and is then the love interest of an older boy who is daaaaaamn hot and also a fierce fighter, and then the two of them are at the center of a Revolution and are humanity's Only Hope for averting war, I shall shoot myself in the eye with a bow and arrow.

But let's get back to the basic premises, where most of my issues lie. Because people like to read about girls kicking butt, and if it's decently written, I could probably go along with it yet again.

I just didn't buy that people would separate into these factions and that, especially, they did not interact, to the extreme that their children are told that if they switched factions during the Sorting Ceremony on Choosing Day, that they could never see your family again (okay, once a year for a couple of hours). Even in HP, the houses -- while having their own dormitories and sports teams -- interact during classes and at mealtimes and, well, whenever they like. Dating, etc. That's natural. The system in Divergent does not, in any way, seem natural. 

Also, the folk in each faction seem to be wrapped up completely in the cloak of their faction. Where are the free thinkers? There should be rampant underground groups, worriedly discussing the choices they've made personally and as a faction. And who among us is just one set of ideals? There are radicals everywhere, to be sure, but we are all multi-faceted and far more subtle in our opinions and thoughts than Divergent would have us believe.

Also, there seems to be a tremendous amount of technology in the book, yet most people are living in near-poverty. I understand that in the aftermath of worldwide disaster, there would be no processed foods and luxury goods. But these people, as a whole, have little. And yet... They've got crazy-good computer programs and a rainbow's array of mind-altering serums. The people in Amity seem to have some advanced hydroponics going on, developed in conjunction with Erudite, but they don't have loads of fresh produce?

And why, pray tell, are the "factionless" (those who chose a faction but it didn't work out) forced to live in outlying areas, nearly starving? What sort of "ideal" community of the future thought that that  was a good idea? "We're going to raise ourselves up, and be better than our stupid forefathers, so let's marginalize these people for no good reason!"

So Tris learns to fight, must make some tough decisions, finds out that there is more going on than meets the eye (and the brewing war is not thrust upon us suddenly; there are loads of small clues), and ends up in the middle of the revolution. There's tension, suspense, lots of action, and it's fast-paced. A page-turner. If I could just get past all those niggling questions...

One last, little thing: Eric is a pierced Snape. Just saying. Longish dark hair, hooked nose (!!!), casual cruelty while teaching, suffers from jealousy and insecurity, makes bad decisions by joining with the Death Eaters Erudite evil-doers. I bet you that in book three, Eric has a change of heart forced by some dramatic incident that tears him apart, and he must join with the rebels, but they don't trust him. Someone tell me if that happens!

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