Review: Divergent

Divergent by Veronica Roth

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This.....was not a book for me. Everything was there that should have made it a good fit. There was the dystopian future, the reality bending simulations, the action of the main character's initiation, the comparisons to The Hunger Games. Unfortunately, it fell flat for me. There's a good bit of buzz surrounding the Divergent series, and with the movie coming out next month I wanted to read it before going to the theater to watch it. Now I'm wondering if I might just wait for it to come out on DVD.

There were a couple of things that put me off. First, I couldn't identify with Beatrice. When I was a teenager I was the rare bird who had a pretty solid idea of what I was going to do with my life. I was good at math and enjoyed tinkering with computers. Going into computer engineering was a pretty straight forward decision for me. I can see where this book would appeal to the YA crowd it is aimed at. Making decisions about a career and college before you turn 18 can be truly terrifying if you haven't already found what you want to do. Beatrice is looking for her aptitude test to tell her what faction she belongs in. If only life had some 30 minute quiz that could tell high schoolers what career to prepare for.

I also had an issue taking some of the concepts in the book seriously. Other reviewers here have touched on it, but I find the whole "Five factions representing five human qualities" concept pretty ludicrous. Furthermore, the idea that anyone who doesn't fit into one of these five tidy boxes becomes homeless and desperate seems pretty silly. Maybe the next book will discuss what lies outside the city and why this is so.

If I understood it correctly, all children of members of a faction in what's left of the city of Chicago must choose their faction at age 16. They become initiates in that faction and must earn their place. Given that, it seems strange that Beatrice's chosen faction only had what I counted to be something like 30 initiates to begin with. Let's just assume that each faction has the same number of initiates. That means that for the entire city of Chicago there are only 150 children that are 16 years old. Did the city have a massive die off? What's the point of setting up these faction if each will only have a few thousand people? I'm probably paying too much attention to details in what is meant to be YA book, but these are the sorts of disconnects that bothered me.

My wife has finished the next two books in the series, and it seemed like she struggled to get through them. I may eventually finish out the series as well, but given this first book I think the next two are going to be pretty low on my priority list.

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Jade Mason