I absolutely adore reading - my love for books has had a huge impact on my life! I'm going to grad school to be a children's/YA librarian.
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. 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. (source)
So in my update last night, I said a lot of what I wanted to say in my review. Whoops. So some of this may be a repeat. But that's okay - I'd rather repeat myself and have this review in its entirety for my records than skim over some parts.
There's a lot of hype around this book. It's the next big thing in young adult literature and I'm sure that after the release of the movie in March things are going to explode. If you poke around on goodreads (something I don't particularly like doing, but I find that it's a bit easier to browse than booklikes at this point), you'll see many, many readers singing its praises - one reader even called it the best young adult novel she'd ever read, going so far as to call it flawless. However, there are also plenty of other one-star reviews, including one that consists entirely of angry cat pictures and a conclusion that the reader should not read any more YA dystopian novels. Another more eloquent reader called the plot "painfully simplistic" and illogical. My opinion of the book is somewhat in the middle of these.
I'll start with the positives. I loved Four. He is wonderful. He's so mysterious and even at the end of the story, though he's starting to open up to Tris, it's my opinion that there's still a whole lot for us to learn about him. Tris could be annoying at times, but she did have some redeeming qualities - she's tough but still vulnerable, and I've noticed that many authors have a hard time balancing these two qualities. I felt it was refreshing to read about a character, especially a YA character, who exhibits such seemingly incongruous traits. And, unlike one aforementioned reviewer, I did not find the plot to be simplistic or illogical. At times, it was predictable (more on that later), but the fact that between yesterday and today I could not put this book down and finished this 500+ page novel within 24 hours speaks volumes about how engrossed in the story I was. And any author who can accomplish that has at least something to be proud of.
However, if there is one thing that Divergent is not, it would be flawless. Few, if any, books can claim this quality, and Divergent is certainly not one of them. As I'd mentioned before, the language and writing style used in this book was astonishingly mediocre. It posed a huge contrast to The Book Thief, which I finished reading right before I read this. With TBT, I was constantly amazed by the language that Zusak used. Reading each word was like being able to eat a small bite of the most delicious chocolate in the world - ever so satisfying, but leaving me desperate to read more, which is what helped me to plow through a book that left me emotionally exhausted. With Divergent, the wording made me want to take a nap. It was just boring. I don't think there was a single sentence that took my breath away. After The Book Thief, that was a huge disappointment. It may not seem fair to compare two books that are so very different, but the way I see it, they're both young adult literature, and from now on I think The Book Thief will be the book against which I will measure all other YA lit books. And the writing of Divergent simply did not measure up.
Furthermore, certain parts of this book were SO predictable. The most prominent examples of this to me were
I saw these instances coming easily by a third of the way through the book, but they weren't revealed to the reader until much later. I appreciate Roth's attempt to create plot twists, but they simply weren't executed well. Which is unfortunate, because if they had been, they probably would have been really awesome.
So what is my overall assessment of Divergent? As far as young adult literature goes, I think it's a decent book. YA lit has a wide range of quality - it has a few REALLY fantastic pieces of literature (i.e. The Book Thief) and a LOT of really, really awful, poor quality works. In comparison to these, Divergent fares pretty well. It has an interesting plot that fits in well with the current trend in YA lit of dystopia and it has fairly likeable characters who reader comes to care about. However, the writing style is immature and I think that Veronica Roth has a lot more to learn. My hope is that her writing improves with each book that she writes and that I'll be more satisfied with her later books. I would recommend reading this, but I would caution that you be prepared for the immaturity of Roth's writing style, especially if you're someone who is accustomed to reading books of a higher caliber.