May 17, 2012

Review: Divergent

By: Veronica Roth
Published: May 2011 by Katherine Tegan Books
Format: Hardback, 487 pages
First Reviewed: May 2011
Buy: Barnes & Noble//Books-A-Million//Amazon//Book Depository
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One choice can transform you.

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.
Debut author Veronica Roth bursts onto the literary scene with the first book in the Divergent series—dystopian thrillers filled with electrifying decisions, heartbreaking betrayals, stunning consequences, and unexpected romance.

Rating: 2/5

Let me explain why I'm getting bored of dystopians: They're no longer original. We've seen it all, and it doesn't seem like authors are trying to think outside of the box. And if they do, it just comes off as either over-the-top or just unnecessary. However, despite the fact that I had a feeling this wasn't going to be super original, I read it anyway. You know...I had a very hard time rating this. A very, very hard time. I wanted--no, I expected to love this book. But I didn't. I just liked it all right.

Never once did I have a clear picture of the main settings. In the beginning, it was all right, but once we were shipped off somewhere else, I had to make up my own setting pretty much. Lucky for me I lived in Chicago for a while, but if I hadn't, I would have been even more lost. And the world wasn't developed in the slightest. With dystopian, especially with future-America, readers need something to see. But I didn't feel the setup was realistic. The reasoning behind how America came to the these factions isn't explained in a way that I bought it.

From the get go, I couldn't care less about Tris. I didn't like her. I never understood what Roth was trying to do with her personality because it was inconsistent. One minute she's like this, the next she's thinking like that. For example, we're told that she acts a certain way either by her inner dialogue or by other characters, but then we're never really shown that side of her.

And Tris wasn't the only character I felt was inconsistent. I felt the characterization as a whole was inconsistent. Also, the major-minor and minor characters were just blah. I didn't care about them at all. Some were too one-dimensional for me while others just had conflicting personas, and not in the purposeful ways either. Overall, I think my lack of love for the characters is what made me not care for the book as much.

It's very clear that Roth is a new writer. At least it was clear to me. For one, she constantly narrated after dialogue like we couldn't already understand things ourselves. We get it, move on. Then she'd over describe to the point that I was going to throw the book. We get that Tris is small, okay? Move on! We get that Christina has dark brown skin, okay? Move on! We get it, we get it, we get it!

And she used many of the same descriptions over and over. If I see "my cheeks/face is warm/hot" one more time, I'm going to hit something. A weight drops in the character's stomach a lot. She'd repeat words in a sentence when you wouldn't need them (e.g I walk past him without looking at him. Instead of: I walk past without looking at him.). The prose was a little too choppy for me at times as well.

However, I see a ton of potential with Roth, and I think she can't go anywhere but up. There were some nice moments and some good narration and voice.

Sigh. Well, let's get this straight right off the bat: I hate comparing books to other books. I really try not to because sometimes books have similar scenes/elements, but the books can still be original. However, with this, I can't help myself. This was not only pitched as "the next Hunger Games," it's also very clear that many of the elements were crafted to appeal to that crowd. Too much so, in my opinion. There are so many parts of this that were just too much like THG. And the parts that weren't like it, were like other books. There was only one element of this book that I felt was original (I won't say to avoid spoilers), but the rest has all been done before. All of it.

Now, that aside, it was just okay for me. The majority of the book was spent in a initiation and the real plot didn't pick up until the end. By that time, I was already bored and just wanted to finish. I was invested in what was going on pretty well (save for a few sections), but where this book loses that extra star (I would have rated this three stars, which is a good rating for me) is because of the romance. It was a joke, to be frank. There's little connection through 80% of the book, then all of a sudden: We're boyfriend and girlfriend! And I want you! I'm scared to be affectionate toward you.

Oh, please, the girl lightened up faster than any other character I've read, despite that being how she was raised for sixteen years. Still, though, I would have given it three stars until the very last two pages. I won't tell you why. It's a romance thing, so you'll have to decide how you like the romance element before judging the last two pages.

Lastly, there were a few things that were too predictable (I knew who Four was from the very beginning) and just too many elements that were unrealistic for me. You're not going to grow muscles in less than a week. You're not going to become a killer within days. Some scenes were just unnecessary, and I never did understand what the purpose of some things were. It seemed like Roth just wanted to write some cool scenes that really weren't needed.

Besides what I said above, I have three other dislikes. One: I was never emotionally attached to Tris, which means that I never felt emotion at all. Maybe a little here and there, but some crap goes down and I expect to be emotionally impacted. Two: If you're going to incorporate a religion into a book (in this case it wasn't really a religion exactly, but Tris believed in God), then use it! Don't tell us a bit in the beginning, never mention God again for the majority of the book, and then toward the end once the character loses her mind have Him pop in again. Consistency, please. And three: This book was so darn hyped up that it should have taken THG and all other dystopians--scratch that--all other new books period and used their pages for toilet paper. It did not do that.

All right, reading back, I was a little harsh on this book. I need to end on some positive notes: For the most part, it is well-written. It's not as amazing as I expected, but it was good and has a lot of room for growth (in a good way). The plot, even if I didn't care for the pacing and the unoriginal elements, held my attention throughout. And again I have to say that I would have given this three stars if it weren't for the unrealistic, vague, over-the-top sometimes romance, and four stars if I would have been able to connect to Tris.

I will say this as well: If you loved The Hunger Games, I'm 90% sure you'll love this. That other 10% is kind of thinking some of you may think it's a rip off. But, don't really listen to me because I'm the minority with this.

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