Cannonball Read III: Divergent by Veronica Roth
Here's Krista's review:
Divergent is the 9287365th young adult dystopian novel I've read this year. Its premise, in short: Beatrice Prior's lives in dystopian Chicago, and has been society divided into five factions. Each faction values one specific trait over all others: Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). Each year, 16-year-olds are given an assessment and chose which faction they will belong to.
Beatrice is given her assessment, and finds out she is "divergent" -- and is told in no uncertain terms by her assessor to keep that a secret. Beatrice decides that she no longer wants to live in Abnegation, but in Dauntless, and so begins a grueling initiation process that involves pain, fear, suffering, and immense amounts of bravery. Of course, this is a dystopian novel, so something goes wrong, and when it does, Tris (as she renames herself) nearly ends up dead.
Riding on the tailcoats of The Hunger Games, this book is different enough to be enjoyable. It's still got that Games-esque twist (the selection of factions and resulting initiation process compared to the hunger games) to keep the plot action-packed. I really loved Tris' interaction with the rest of her family, and the development of friends in a place where it's hard to trust anyone. For kids and readers who enjoy books like this, I would highly recommend it.
And here's Even Stevens' review:
Divergent is the story of Beatrice Prior (whose name, by the way, makes me want to call her Beatrix Potter), who lives with her family in what used to be Chicago. Now the city is divided up into five factions, each one valuing a certain quality above all others - there are Abnegation (selflessness), Candor (honesty), Amity (kindness), Erudite (intelligence), and Dauntless (bravery). When members of these factions turn 16 they are given the option to choose the faction they'd like to belong to. Most stay in their factions, but some, like Beatrice, switch factions, which is a decision that is just short of taboo. Beatrice leaves the world she knew in Abnegation and is swept into a fiercely competitive climate where often decision making is literally life or death. Once she experiences life outside her factor, she begins to realize that although the factions were created to maintain balance and peace, there is unrest among many citizens. On top of all this, Beatrice is hiding her own secret that may not only compromise her position with her new faction, but could gain her a lot of enemies from other factions as well.
This, quite simply, was a great book. I hesitate to call it dystopian, but it certainly has elements of it. I'm sure that this will garner comparisons to The Hunger Games, as it involves a tough as nails 16-year-old female protagonist fighting to survive. However, that's pretty much where the similarities between the two end. Beatrice (who takes the name Tris when she transfers factions) is strong and smart, with a little stubbornness and bullheadedness thrown in for good measure. She's tough a lot of the time, but still shows vulnerability and cares a lot about her family and new friends. She is a very dynamic, enjoyable narrator and protagonist, and a pleasure to read about. The Dauntless world and initiation processes are equally fascinating and left me on the edge of my seat several times. What I like about this book is that, while technically YA fiction, it definitely speaks to an older crowd and Roth doesn't pull any punches. She has created a pretty brutal setting and sometimes, brutal things happen. People get hurt, people die. I think this will appeal to teenagers and adults alike.
This is the first in a trilogy (I know, I know) and I haven't been this excited to read a sequel in a long time. Roth has a way with words and does really well creating both strong, multi-faceted characters and very vivid images of what Tris's world is like. I do hope that as the books progress, Roth explains a little more about the hows and whys of her world. This book focuses mostly on Tris and the factions, but we get next to no explanations about how society came to this point. Tris questions this a few times throughout the book, so I have to assume Roth tackles the subject eventually. I highly recommend this book. It's fast-paced, captivating and interesting, and I cannot wait for the next installment.
For more of Krista's reviews, check out her blog, Overflowing Heart Reviews.
For more of Even Stevens' reviews, check out the CBR-III blog (Where you can also find Ashley & Scootsa1000's reviews of the same book, by the way. It's been popular with the Cannonballers.)
These reviews are part of Cannonball Read III. For more information, click here.