And I'm okay with that. Despite all my mixed feelings about the series, it's an excellent, well-written, engaging, intelligent series with a not-horrible movie adaptation.
So when I heard this series compared to it, heard a little bit about the content of the books, and saw its epic looking cover, I had high hopes when I picked it off the shelves.
All in all, I think Divergent had the possibility to be at the very least an entertaining action book with a simple but interesting plot and some cool scenes/characters/technology.
What actually happened? Erm...
This premise is pretty much the selling point for the entire series. In a world where society is divided into factions......
This whole dividing people up by character trait(Erudite, Amnity, Candor, Abnegation, Dauntless) is really sketchy in the first place. We had problems with people fighting? Let's divide them up more! The particular traits chosen are also kind of arbitrary and subjective and this whole thing really doesn't make too much sense, especially if we're supposed to believe that one faction (Abnegation) is responsible for the entire government. And everybody else just agreed to this?
The entire novel is packed with people from different factions insulting, fighting, and snipping at each other, so I guess someone can let the guy who came up with this idea know that his idea didn't work all that well.
The second setting is in the camp of the faction
Most of the problems with this book are summed up in this shaky premise. More on that later.
The main problem with this plot is also in the premise. The main grab factor of Divergent is In the future, people are divided into factions...and? SO WHAT? Factions are not an incredibly amazing invention all in their own. The rest of the story is just Tris going through "brutal" training camp and falling in laave. And there is a bit of plot really really near the end, I guess.
Annoying parts of the plot:
That whole moving train part is really hard to describe as anything but dumb. I mean, you get one chance to jump off a moving train and then you're either dead or poor and despondent FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE? It's the Dauntless train, right? Why doesn't it stop at the Dauntless compound?
A big part of the training they go through is a fear simulator which forces them to go through their worst fears. Which sounds cool and has lots of interesting philosophical interpretations but is in actuality pretty questionable. WHY does Tris need to face her fear of being pecked to death by birds? Are they going to experience this in their work guarding and policing the cities?
So much that happens in the book has me shaking my head, wondering "why?" The training process is cruel and competitive in design, but it's not moving because there is no purpose. So much of it, the unnecessary weeding out, the making the new recruits punch each other until one gets knocked out, is incredibly arbitrary. This makes it much less believable and moving.
This was Veronica Roth's first novel. Although she is an inspiration for being such a success with her first breakthrough book, you can tell. You really can.
The novel is one that's designed to be pretty dark, with some scenes that are brutal and gritty in design. But the narration style, which describes a lot of what's happening to Tris but very little of how she feels about it, makes it feel very...detached. You never forget that you're reading a fictional book about fictional characters. There's a famous scene where Tris is getting knives thrown at her and she describes it in the same tone as she described what she had for breakfast that morning. It wasn't disturbing. To write disturbing you have to get the reader into the character before you start messing with the character.
This annoyed me even more than the plot. Dauntless's faction motto is courage, but the Dauntless seem to be having a serious misinterpretation of courage that a preschool TV show could correct you on. The Dauntless are not noble Gryffindors, they are at best suicidal adrenaline junkie boneheads that enjoy violence, bullying, and piercing various extremities of their bodies.
Bravery really has nothing to do with the fears themselves, which is why all their Fear Factor training is perpelexing. Courage is all about character building and inner strength to face fears both known and unknown, new, and old. Courage is about being able to face your fears because you love something else more.
The merciless picking on, bullying of, and isolation of the recruits is very counter intuitive of all this.
(The annoying arbitrary cruelty(which I couldn't even feel properly because of the emotionless writing) I really disliked, if you can tell. XD. I can't get over it. I mean, I get that the book is gritty, dark, real, etc. to appeal to today's modern teenager *sarcasm*. BUT GOSH THERE HAS TO BE A GOOD REASON FOR IT CAN IT AT LEAST MOVE THE PLOT ALONG.)
Tris herself is all right. Occasionally too dumb to live, she is at least distinguishable from the other characters. Her different background was portrayed very nicely. Honestly, I couldn't think of too much to say about her.
Some good characters were Eric and Alec! I really felt like they came alive. Alec's whole plot arc was unique and interesting.
The whole book unfortunately feels very borrowed from The Hunger Games at points. The whole training/fighting thing, not to mention a group of bullying big tough mean recruits who seem verryyy familiar.
The worst, however, was a scene that is almost lifted verbatim from Ender's Game. In one scene, Tris is fighting someone who previously hurt her badly. Tris, who has apparently been training, finally downs her. However, Tris who is apparently having a bad day begins kicking her and beating her after she's down, again and again, until someone drags her away. Very gritty and moving, if THE EXACT SAME SCENE HAD NOT BEEN THE OPENING OF ENDER'S GAME THIRTY YEARS AGO. I mean, the two scenes are unmistakably similar. I started audibly cracking up in the middle cause I just couldn't believe it.
The author has said she's an Ender's Game fan, so I love her automatically. But seriously. The lead
The two series are sharing a panel at Comic Con so hopefully someone'll notice.
This is a not very forgiving review and I apologize. The book isn't awful, but I felt there are books that deserve more hype and movie adaptions(cough Artemis Fowl, cough The first three Maximum Ride books). The book kept me entertained and turning pages through a boring Saturday afternoon.
I'm not sure why it's become so popular. Without insulting those who read it, I think it provides good, light, entertainment and thrills if you can look past the blatantly nonsensical premise and drawn out romance(which I haven't mentioned so far in the post because I couldn't think of anything to say about it. I have read very few effective romances in this sort of book and this wasn't one of the better ones).
I think the movie will turn out decently,it should be pretty straightforwardly adapted. The Hunger Games has the drive, intrigue, and soul needed for staying power, and Divergent, so far, does not.