Thursday, June 7, 2012
And I'm so glad you did.
The story is set in a post-apocalyptic U.S. where everyone chooses to join one of five "factions" at the age of 16. These factions are basically personality types, so that the selfless, giving types and the brave adrenaline junkies each band together in kind to serve society in predetermined roles (government, security, farming, etc.)
Since I started this series of book recommendations with The Hunger Games, I'm going to use that as a reference again here.
I found the world setting of Hunger Games slightly more believable than Divergent, since dividing the population by geographical area and natural resources makes more sense than dividing them by personality, but all of Divergent's *characters* were more believable, more human. And since you spend most of your time focusing on a story's characters rather than its setting, I think Divergent still came out ahead on that score.
The heroine, Tris, is just as much of a bad-ass as Katniss, but she's not the reluctant hero; she embraces her new role. She's flawed, but only in ways that make her more human and relatable - never so much that you actively dislike her. If she gives in to hatred and retaliation, it's only when you agree with her that it's justified, if not exactly just.
I felt like the beginning of the story could have used a little more foundation before I was thrown into the action, but then again, that meant it was a wild ride from the start. Still, because I didn't feel like I knew Tris at first, her choice of faction confused me, and the sudden violence of the initiation process was a bit jarring - kind of hard to believe.
As the story progressed and I learned more about Tris, though, her choice made more and more sense, and my initial qualms were forgotten.
Action-wise, Divergent and Hunger Games are neck-and-neck. I couldn't put either down. Both are filled with violence and death, but Divergent was a tad less graphic. (There was one scene in HG I had to skim because of the drawn-out suffering. There's nothing quite that bad in Divergent.)
I always found the romance aspect of Hunger Games to be its weakest; while I really liked Peeta and his sacrificial love for Katniss, I didn't actually *feel* anything, because Katniss didn't. In Divergent, it's almost the exact opposite: we don't know quite as much about Four (Tris' love interest) and his motivations at first, but you really feel and understand her attraction to him, even if he's not your type. (When an author can make you fall for a character you wouldn't normally like, that's the mark of true talent!)
Also like HG, Divergent gives you a relatively satisfying ending while still leaving much to be explored and explained in the rest of the trilogy. (I put my library order in for Insurgent before I even finished.)
And finally, without giving too much away, I want to talk about my favorite aspect of Divergent. Call it a moral, a theme, or an underlying plot thread, but from the beginning there's this kind of philosophical debate between selflessness and bravery. They start out as polar opposites in Tris' mind, and then throughout her ordeal she begins to understand that they can be one and the same. It's not an in-your-face, preachy kind of thing, but it's there, and it's beautifully done. The ending brings the two together so seamlessly that I almost didn't notice at first, what with all the action, but it made for a good take-away to digest afterward.
By contrast, I thought Hunger Games started out with a strong message: something about reality TV and societal decadence - but by the end of the series I was convinced there *was* no message: it was just a fun ride. That, or I missed what the author was trying to say all together. (Any of you feel that way?)
So, in conclusion: read Divergent. It's awesome.
Oh, and when you're done, (or if you've read it already) head over to Divergent's Facebook page to read a key scene (about 15 pages) from the story written from Four's point of view. It was just released about two months ago, and is a great addition to the story.
Ok, guys, your turn: what'd you think of Divergent? And because I restrained myself from giving anything away in this review, I'm giving you permission to post spoilers in the comments. Spoil away! I'm curious to see what you guys think! Just don't post spoilers for the next book, since I haven't read it yet. :)
So to reiterate: If you *haven't* read Divergent yet, then read the comments at your own risk! Spoilers ahead!
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