Divergent by Veronica Roth

divergentBlurb: In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, 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.

I really don’t understand why this book is so popular and widely praised.

Well, I guess I do. This book is fast-paced, filled with action, has a romance, has a vision of the world after ours, and has an inkling of revolution or rebellion; the generic recipe of nowadays YA dystopians. But that is precisely the problem. Despite many people claiming it to be, this book is not a dystopian; it is a confusing mess with romance, ‘dystopian’, and action elements in disguise.

Again: This is not a dystopian. This book does not offer any social or political commentary about our world today. This book does not arouse any sort of consciousness or awareness of injustice and inequality; it does not warn us of anything (except that one day the bravest of us may jump off trains and onto tall buildings). The premise is inane – that some elusive, unspecific, but probably important group of people decided that conflict arose not because of ‘political ideology, religious belief, race, or nationalism’, but differences in personality.

Many others have asked this before, but I’ll ask it again: how? At what point did humans institutionalize this? At what point could this be institutionalized? How was this sanctioned? How did people accept this and allow this to happen? How did people with already conflicting political ideologies, religious beliefs, race and nationalist ideas agree on being sorted by their personalities?

(“CW, just accept this premise as FACT!” No can do, I do not turn off my Sociology brain ever.)

Understandably there are some books that necessitate some suspension of disbelief, but there should be some semblance of truth underneath the fantastical and implausible. In other words, there should be a pointThe Handmaid’s Tale was written with an implausible premise, but it was written that way to delve into the consciousness of the everywoman in such extreme circumstances to gauge her condition, or to make a symptom of a malignant society so flagrant that it provokes analysis of our own.

But… personalities. It is facile and thoughtless, not because it uses personalities as a medium of segregation, but because personalities as a point of difference in society ultimately means nothing. So everyone is different! The Earth is also round. When you are writing a piece of fiction that is speculating the future of the world – especially if you want to call it a dystopian – authors should be able to answer the simple question of ‘so what’s the point?’ when we readers are trying to gauge the purpose or reason behind their hypothetical worlds.

Divergent fails this test. It has no worthwhile social or political commentary. It offers nothing insightful or meaningful, and dystopians ought to have such analysis and discussion. Dystopia is an important genre and an important concept – it is a landscape where broken values, dark dreams and nightmares come true. Dystopia is a lens into a possible future, a forewarning and call for action, lest we allow these dystopian landscapes to be realized.

But here we are, with Divergent and other ‘YA dystopian’ that have reduced this once-great and respectable genre to these points-to-tick-off-the-list: ‘fast-paced’, ‘action-packed’, ‘kickass characters’, and ‘romance’. It is ironic that in 1932, Huxley wrote Brave New World and warned that one day people would become distracted with shallow entertainment and irrelevant information, which would overthrow our desire for deep knowledge and awareness of the world and its problems.

But if we were to follow the aforementioned criteria, Divergent does tick off all the boxes – the pacing was fast, there was a lot of action (of the physical, punchy-punchy kind; plot-wise, not so much), a female character that is, for all intents and purposes, an ‘ordinary’ girl (who is, not-really-a-spoiler, actually not ordinary at all), and a nonsensical, underdeveloped romance with contrived chemistry. The book truly starts at Chapter 33, so if you do not care for senseless training regimes that make little sense wherein Tris gets beat up repeatedly, you could skip chapters 9 to 33, and you would not have missed much.

Perhaps one of the very few merits of this book is that Divergent explores the identity through the lens of Tris, the book’s protagonist. This negotiation of our identities, and how it may converge from our parent’s expectations of us, is a rite of passage for all those growing up. I related to Tris’s anxieties as she struggled to choose between what was expected of her and what her parents expected of her, or to choose what was truest for her.

The fact is, regardless of whether things are explained in subsequent books, Divergent didn’t give me enough to go from. There was nothing really compelling or interesting about the narrative or the fictional world that Roth created. (I acknowledge that I have high standards when it comes to dystopians.) Another merit of this book: Divergent was a surprisingly easy and, at times, fun (the guilty pleasure kind) read. So, who knows, maybe I will pick up Insurgent in the future so I can say I finished the Divergent trilogy – just for kicks.

Rating: 1.5/5

Book Information
Book Name: Divergent
Book Series: Divergent #1
Author: Veronica Roth
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers


16 thoughts on “Divergent by Veronica Roth

  1. Oh sorry to hear that you didn’t enjoy the book at all. I personally love the series, but I totally understand where you are coming from when it comes to the book being labeled as a dystopian novel.

    I would say that a lot of YA dystopia novels aren’t really “dystopian”. Most of them are just romance with dystopian elements which is quite irritating. These authors need to take notes and learn what a dystopian book is….As a lover of the dystopian genre, the ones that I truly enjoyed and were well written are the classics like The Handmaid’s Tale, 1984, Fahrenheit 451, A Clockwork Orange just to name a few.

    • Hey Erika!
      Thanks for understanding my position! I can definitely see why you would like the series. It was enjoyable, just not enough for me to like it and outweigh (what I thought were) the cons. :(

      I agree! They aren’t, and perhaps there needs to be a new word or genre that can describe what they are – anything but dystopian!

      • Of course. I enjoyed the series minus the last book for entertainment purposes and wasn’t really analyzing the book as much as I usually do when I read. And I see where you are coming from when it comes to the cons outweighing the pros. It happens to me as well when I read certain books. You want to like it, but at times there’s just so much bad in it that you end up disliking it.

        Unfortunately with the success of The Hunger Games, Divergent, and The Maze Runner and whatever “dystopia” novels out there, the genre is now more prevalent…and they tend to follow the same formula. I definitely agree with labeling it something else.

        • Absolutely! And I think liking/reviewing books isn’t as objective as people may like. Some books just get to us and some don’t, and that’s cool. n_n

  2. Great review! I have not read the book but I was turned off like you were at the thoughts of factions based on personality. What is even the point of that? And how do you even sort people according to one personality trait, what kind of inane humans are these characters? I thoroughly agree that dystopia should make an effort of providing social commentary – that’s sort of the point of the genre and why it appeals to me in the first place!

    Also, I read from your latest post that you are from NZ :D *cyber high 5* – I grew up in Auckland so I am always happy to see Kiwis on the blogosphere.

    • Thank you so much!

      Ahhh I’m so happy that you understand what I mean! Absolutely, and I think the author ignores that people are complex and behave differently with other people. So I don’t know. Others enjoyed it, which is totally fair because it’s written that way, but it was so difficult for me to see past its faults, esp. since they are so embedded in the story’s narrative.

      OOOOH hey that’s AWESOME! *hi5!* Hehehe, we are little and few in the blogosphere, so it really is awesome to see a fellow Kiwi! :D

  3. Brilliant review, Chooi! Especially since you seem to be the black sheep with this opinion. I have to admit that I’m one of the few self-proclaimed bookworms that haven’t picked this title up yet but opted for the movie option. I really enjoyed the movie. I found the personality thing to be weird as well but I guess it grew onto me by the end of the film. I was able to snag a copy of this from bookoutlet so I do plan to read it. But I have a feeling that the personality thing probably won’t settle well then, and that I’m going to appreciate the film more than the book.

    And I’m not sure if you’ve heard of Rebel Belle or have read it, but it’s a ya book that is entirely thoughtless and very unbelievable, the story wasn’t proven to be believable for the readers and the world bolding lacked. Though it was fun. Your review of this reminded me of that one.

    • Hi Summer!

      Aw, thanks very much!
      Haha yes I think I am! Most of my YA-reading friends like this book, which is cool. Just not my cup of tea, I think, I think you should give it a go – it is an enjoyable, easy read, and if you can switch your brain off with the personality thing, you may like it! I should check out the movie! Maybe it’ll be a silly action movie that I might enjoy. Will let you know if I ever get around to it!

      I haven’t heard of it, but I just looked it up. Sounds very interesting… but I feel compelled to give it a go! Sometimes I like trashy reads, hehe (seeing how much I enjoyed the Red Queen)!

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. ^_^

      • Great, I hope you enjoy the film! :D And then we can talk about it (and Theo James, if you like him)! As for Red Queen, I just checked out your review again and remembered reading it. LOL. I loved how you said you felt like you needed to lie on floor. XD I don’t think Rebel Belle will be that conflicting to write about. But it’s light and fun for the summer. :)

        • HAHA a friend of mine looooooves him; he doesn’t shut up about Theo James!

          It’s ridiculous! I know Red Queen is awful but I loved it so much, haha. I laid wide-eyed in my bed after reading, I just felt so exhilarated! XD

          Hehehe, it’s funny you say that because it’s winter here! And it’s so cold, but it’s a good reason to snuggle up in bed and read a good book. c:

          • It’s because Theo James is so hot… and dreamy… I didn’t find Four to be very dimensional as I’d hope, but Theo made up for it. ;) Gosh, let me stop, lol.
            Ohhh, I totally forgot that we lived on different parts of the earth. XD

            • Hahahaha!! Okay I definitely must check out this movie. I shall get back to you within the next week or so!

              Hehe it’s okay! I’d much rather be warm right now; it’s so cold here and I miss wearing summer clothes. :c

  4. This is precisely why I haven’t read Divergent or any of the big dystopian series (besides The Selection, which was a complete joke because all the political unrest and rebellions were never resolved by the end of the trilogy). I have a hard time understanding the point of these books and why they couldn’t have just been either an epic sci-fi series or an epic fantasy series… or even a contemporary.

    I do own Divergent (because I saw a brand new hardcover for $7… and that never happens so I had to buy it) and I’ll probably read it but I’m not planning to continue with the rest of the series or watch the films.

    • Don’t blame you, Jenna! I don’t either, and I think they piggyback on the concept of these things that actually occur. In a way, I think these books have the potential to desensitize people to the terrible things that go on – like it makes it difficult for them to discern the difference between reality and fiction because the fiction normalizes it without really tackling the core issues at hand.

      I’d read Divergent as one of those trash reads, sort of thing, like if you feel like reading something just for fun without using too much brainpower.

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