Friday, February 17, 2012
Book Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth
I just finished Divergent, the first novel in a dystopian YA trilogy by debut author Veronica Roth.
There were a lot of things I loved about this book. The setting - post-apocalyptic Chicago - was compelling. Our heroine, Beatrice 'Tris' Prior, lives in a society that divided into factions after a devastating war. The factions are defined by the virtue they prize the most - Tris is born into Abnegation, which values selflessness above all. But at the age of sixteen, everyone takes an aptitude test which determines what faction they are best suited to - and the following day, they can choose to stay in their own faction, or move to another one.
The novel follows Tris from her highly unusual test result through her decision to move from Abnegation into a far more interesting faction, where she discovers all kinds of dangerous secrets.
Tris was an unusual YA heroine - she is extremely tough and strong-willed, and lacks any of the traditional redeeming features that writers tend to heap on characters to make them likeable. At no point does she cuddle a puppy. She isn't endearingly clumsy. Even when she develops a crush, she's a hard-ass about it. Veronica Roth has created a genuinely compelling action-girl and I liked Tris enormously.
My main criticism of the novel was the predictability. Tris is smart. She is shown to think laterally and clearly in a crisis. But I arrived at several major conclusions before she did (and I am one of those people who *never* guesses the ending ahead of time). The only surprises came from characterisation - I was surprised at how some of the characters rose to various challenges (or failed to), but the plot turns were telegraphed ahead of time.
That being said, I felt the characterisation, the writing and the setting were more than enough to compensate for the slight predictability of the plot. Fans of Ender's Game might especially enjoy this, and I will definitely be seeking out the next book, Insurgent, due for release in May 2012.
A solid four stars out of five.