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Book Review: Divergent

Thursday, June 7, 2012

After my "What to read after The Hunger Games" post, the one title you guys recommended I read next the most was Divergent, by Veronica Roth.

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!

Posted by Jen at 7:54 PM Labels:


  1. Ahh! I read Divergent in less than two days. I totally love how the descriptions make you feel like you're THERE, and each setting lends even more to the personality of each faction. I'm almost finished with Insurgent, and I DO NOT want to wait for the third one!

  2. The theme of Hunger Games is the classic "those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it". Our country is currently on a very slippery slope and sliding downward faster each generation toward the "bread and circuses" of ancient Rome which was, like us, a huge, sprawling nation of unassimilated foreigners (Spanish speakers not learning our language for one)who felt increasing disillusionment with the ability to get ahead in the world - "occupy wall street" ring a bell? So the Romans provided entertainment - lions vs. Christians, gladiators, etc. We're not far from that - our games right now are electronic, but it's a small step, really, to go to the real thing. And we already have the real thing with animals - dog fighting, anyone? Even the name of the country in Hunger Games alludes to this as "Panem" is bread, in Latin. Those books scared the crap out of me because I can see us doing something similar in the future - especially is we start having urban uprisings because of the economy. Call me dark, but I fear it.

  3. This is great because I just read Divergent and am halfway through Insurgent! I really liked the idea of the five different groups and why each of them were formed. And while we're talking about post-apocalyptic US young adult books, I read "Matched" and "Crossed" recently and while not as amazing as HG or Divergent, they were pretty interesting and I'm looking forward to the third book in that series too!

  4. I'm going to comment because I am one of the minority that DIDN'T like this book very much! First of all, I actually didn't like Tris at all. I just couldn't connect with her. Secondly, I couldn't buy into the faction idea, and it's precisely due to your last point - that the characteristics are NOT mutually exclusive, and I found it really hard to believe that most people would identify so strongly with just one or two (which they would have to do, or they would be 'divergent', and the author made it clear that being divergent was extremely rare). I didn't feel like she'd really sold me on the idea, which kinda goes along with your comment on there not being much foundation at the beginning.

    I also spend most of the book really mad thinking, 'This stuff is NOT bravery.' The author did finally address this at some point in the book, noting how far Dauntless had come from the original idea, but it was too late for me.

    I also really hated how BOTH of her parents died sacrificially to save her life. I realize that may sound totally ridiculous given they were her parents and were in Abnegation, but the deaths were just too close together and similar, and I don't like how it turned her into an orphan. I feel like that's a cheap trick that will be used as justification for later decisions or to cause internal conflict she'll have to rise above. I'll never know, though, because I didn't like it enough to continue on. I love hearing other peoples' opinions, though, and since I know I'm in the minority, I wanted to share mine, even thought I'm not very eloquent!

    Thanks for the opportunity!

  5. I did enjoy Divergent, but not nearly as much as the Hunger Games. I actually found the romance a little annoying and predictable. Yes, of course she will fall for Four and yes, of course he will like her. I suppose I liked Katniss because she realized there was so much more important than her relationship with a boy. That's just so unusual in a book aimed at young people, especially one with a female protagonist.

    I also felt the ending of Divergent was a bit out of left field. It is built up to, but it almost just didn't make sense to me. The Hunger Games felt more realistic and more relatable to the world we live in now.

    That all said, I enjoyed reading Divergent, but I wasn't clamouring for Insurgent like I was Catching Fire. I'll still be reading it though!

  6. I enjoyed Divergent, but the climax and end were just so weak to me.

    The idea of separating people according to their nature, and assigning the groups tasks, made sense--or made sense as something that people would try, anyway. And I could accept that somewhere along the way, it got messed up so that people see the groups and attributes as mutually exclusive.

    But really, a grand plot by the Erudites (Eruditionites?) because they thought...Abnegation was hoarding things? That they weren't selfless? Think of the implications: if it can happen to one faction, it can happen to all. Faction-ing would be worthless. (Which, granted, might be the underlying message. But I don't think it was actually intended to be that way.)

    And while the Eruditionites (or the leaders, anyway) come across as major jerks, the heart of the stated issue was just communication: BE TRANSPARENT, ABNEGATION.

    Honestly, it just felt weak, like the author decided that there needed to be MAJOR CONFLICT and so BAM mind-control and fighting at the end, like every other dystopia. Hunger Games worked because the Games themselves were the point--horrific, hypocritical, and then the revolution that followed made sense. This one...no, it was just too forced. I would have been much more interested if it had been more subtle, exploring the world and the factions, especially how the factions began because it seems that it *didn't* start off as any kind of oppression.

  7. I.could.not.stand.this.book.

    I was so intrigued by the concept, but it left me feeling cold. I absolutely did not find the post-apocalyptic setting believable at all (much like you did), and I couldn't understand Tris' motivation to change factions. I also didn't particularly believe or like the factions themselves (and the names drove me BONKERS). The more time she spent in Dauntless, the more I didn't understand why she was there (or why in the heck anyone would stay).

    I think that mostly I couldn't relate to Tris, as I could to other YA heroines. She just seemed rather insane, to me, and since I would never ever want to join Dauntless myself, I felt stuck in a scary story.

    I found some of the other characters intriguing, and if this was a choose-your-own-adventure I would have followed them instead.

    That being said...I am glad that I read it, and will read the rest of the series, but I will not be waiting with bated breath for the final book (like I did for each Harry Potter book and The Hunger Games).

    And, I may be biased, because as a high school English teacher, I got to teach the Hunger Games this last fall and had an amazing time with the kids doing it.

  8. *Loved* Divergent! Read it while getting the tattoo to celebrate my first book sale. And Insurgent already has 25k reviews on Goodreads, so... dang.

  9. So excited that you love this book as much as I did. The plot, characters, progression was all fantastic. And the fact that I'm not the only one who was a little in love with Four by the end of the book is the best!

    I got through Insurgent in under 24 hours, so be prepared for a rapid pace, it sucks you in and doesn't let you go...

  10. Oh, I felt the opposite about the Hunger Games' message, although I totally get where you're coming from. It was blatantly obvious at the beginning and got more and more subtle as the series went on. Also, at least to me, there was more than one.

    Yes, there was reality tv and dictatorial government stuff prevalent in it, the last focusing on what that sort of violence does to innocent people, primarily youth. But there was also a very strong (to me) idea about focusing on romance. The way the series handled the love triangle, it was a small part of the story, and it was perfectly clear that Katniss had more important concerns, that her life didn't revolve around her taste in men. Particularly while she was using Peeta's love to intentionally manipulate her audience. I think this message gets lost a lot, though. Team Peeta and Team Gale shirts? Yurgh. I bought a Katniss shirt, mostly out of spite for the boys' ones. To me, aligning yourself with one of them is a betrayal of Katniss.

    I haven't read Divergent, but it's been on my To-Be-Read List for a while. I think you just bumped it up a notch.

  11. I'm a big Divergent fan. I read purely for enjoyment and try not to over analyze what I'm reading. I see the weak points that everyone points out, but I try not to dwell on them. I'm a firm believer in suspending your disbelief when reading a book. As long as you're being entertained, just go with it. Overall, I loved the characters, the story, and have re-read the book a couple of times.

    Glad you enjoyed it. Read Insurgent and wait impatiently with the rest of us for the 3rd book to come out (jokingly named Detergent right now by the author ... is jokingly a word?).

  12. Absolutely loved Divergent - I very much identified with Tris wanting to switch factions and become more daring etc., so it was fantastic to live a little more vicariously through her. I also found the stories/characters much more believable than the Hunger Games, and was very thankful that the romance angle was handled so well (I still haven't forgiven Katniss for using Peeta - he deserved so much better!). Can't wait to see what you think of Insurgent!

  13. I just finished Insurgent. Get ready! Hunger Games was really powerful to me because I believe our country is heading that way. Divergent was just an interesting sociological study, and I didn't judge it harshly. Insurgent answers some of the questions you have after reading divergent and raises a lot more. I can't wait to hear what you think! (I want to see if you think of the same story I did after you read it!)

  14. I haven't read Divergent yet, so I haven't read any of the other comments so I don't spoil it for myself, but what I think the Hunger Games Trilogy's point is is how, watching ceaseless violence, thinking it fun to watch people kill one another, we become desensitized to it. And that is something we need to avoid at all costs.

  15. The reason of the dividing the world into factions based on personality is explained more in Insurgent. I love both books, My faction is definitely Erudite (even though they are the bad guys, i'm always trying to figure stuff out) although my test on the FB page said dauntless every time.

  16. You need to read Insurgent ASAP -- just as much as a ride as the 1st book, with far more of your "moral thread/them"

  17. I loved the Hunger Games trilogy (although I think the first book was the best) but when I read Divergent I was blown away. I think it's a more complex story than HG. I bought Insurgent the day it came out and thought it was as good as the first book. I'm just bummed that I have to wait for the third one to come out. Grrr.

    Just wanted to add that the audiobook version is excellent. The narrator is Emma Galvin. I don't know how old she is but she sounds like a teenage girl and since the story is told in first person her narration made the it absolutely come alive. I highly recommend it for any audiobook listeners.

  18. Haven't read Divergent yet.. been meaning to. But I know what you mean about Hunger Games. At the end of Mockingjay especially, I was superdepressed because I realized that all the deaths (especially Finnick's.. it killed me) and violence and CRAP that Katniss had to go through to get Snow taken down ended up being so... pointless. The new revolution leader ended up being just as horrible, and Katniss just got sick of everything and moved back to District 12 all by herself.

  19. Crap. I really needed to clean my apartment this weekend, and now I'm going to be reading instead. I blame my future lack of productivity on you.

  20. My review is here: http://melydia.zoiks.org/2011/08/divergent/

  21. Hi Jen,

    Have you read the Abhorsen Series? These books were the first "grown up" books I read. I think I read the first one in fifth grade when it was new. LOL You should really check them out. Set in an alternate Earth type place, it's about a young girl who battles all different types of the undead with Bells and a very mischievous cat, who's really a demon trapped by the power of a bell. You would love these!
    Here's a link to the first book. Seriously, you must read these!

  22. Sorry, I accidentally gave you the link to the third book. The first book is called Sabriel.

  23. I love that I was the first one to suggest Divergent to you LAST YEAR!!!They are such great books and it breaks my heart that we have to wait so long in between releases!

  24. I'm also in the minority that didn't like this book. I couldn't buy into the faction idea (why on earth would ANYONE join Abnegation, for example) and didn't like Tris. I found her character inconsistent and judgmental; if she's supposed to be part selfless, I didn't see it at all. It's probably not good I was rooting for the Erudite, LOL. There were a number of smaller things that bugged me, too, but one thing I did like was that it was grounded in a real, recognizable location vs. the usual vague post-apoc settings.

  25. Thanks for the review, Jen. We have a few more chapters of The Hobbit, but I think Divergent is next on our list!

  26. I recommend reading "Blue sky" by waffel stories. It's a portal fanfic that takes place four years after Chell gained her freedom, Wheatly has been given a second chance. It's a lot( not ALOT) more well written than most fanfics you would see out there. You would really like it, if not love it! I heard there is an audiobook version coming out soon, but so far there are only little clips of it on youtube.

    - ROBOT :)

  27. I loved Divergent and I bought Insurgent ASAP. Often the sequel isn't as good as the original, but Insurgent was incredible, and has a MAJOR twist near the end. I loved it, and can't wait for the next book. :)

    Also, I'd like to recommend another book, called The Search for WondLa by Tony DeTerlizzi. Set in another strange future, 12 year old Eva Nine has spent her entire life in an underground sanctuary with only a robot as a mother. When their home is attacked, Eva is thrust into an unfamiliar and alien world, not sure if she is the last of her kind. I absolutely loved it and its sequel, and I STRONGLY recommend it.

  28. Oh, and more on why Erudite attacked Abnegation and the whole point of factions is in Insurgent. Even if you didn't like Divergent much, read Insurgent, as it will answer a lot of your questions.

  29. To me, the most interesting thing about the Hunger Games is her ability to take what has become quite a sci-fi cliche and actually explore it to its realistic conclusions. The 'televised death match' is frequently used in much less cerebral narratives but rarely are the characters more than one-dimensional. Here, you get an idea of how a society could get to the point of thinking it's okay, along with a whole spectrum of viewpoints among those most affected by it.
    Katniss is a beautiful portrait of someone forced to be pragmatic and a little cold from a young age, then put through a hugely traumatic event. Her journey through PTSD and recovery is realistic. Having cared for a lot of patients with PTSD, I can tell you that a major symptom is feeling cold and distant from other people. Her experience of love is realistic; she feels more for Peeta than she allows herself to realize and must learn to let go of her guilt over being more practical than romantic. The societal story is also well told and believable, with several thought points and lessons to learn. Sorry for the super long comment, but I really liked the books! Now I need to go read Divergent.

  30. I didn't really like Divergent. I didn't think the faction idea was something that was plausible. I read insurgent and liked it even less.

  31. I have not read Divergent, but I do want to comment on the Hunger Games message. While it does point to the dangers of reality television and desensitazation, the greater point that you see going through the book is the danger of government dependency. 13is really no better than the capital. The people are looking tothegovernment of 13 to protect them from the Capital government. But only where the people are willing to take responsibility for their own decisions and circumstances, where they are willing to govern, provide, and protect themselves can true freedom exist. The lesson was that any time the government decides what is best for you, no matter how they get there, whether conservative or liberal, the end result is the same...oppression.

  32. I totally loved Divergent. It was a while ago that I read it, so I'm not going to be able to give a great review...but I remember really enjoying it. I like to read post-apocalyptic books because they prevent scenarios that may be totally unlikely, but still get you to think about what you might do in a society like that. That's why I like books like Divergent, Delirium, and The Hunger Games. I also just finished reading Insurgent about half an hour ago...Very good! A little more political than Divergent, but still a lot of action and a MAJOR cliffhanger ending! Definitely a book to read!

  33. read both Divergent and Insurgent after reading your review. Just wanted to say thanks! :) Looking forward to read book 3!

  34. I loved Hunger Games the book, haven't watched the movie. Haven't read Divergent but I'll give it a go. My question is, has anyone heard of The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen? It's from the same publisher as the Hunger Games. It sounds good.

  35. I really liked Divergent (and Insurgent). I think it's important to remember the the apocalyptic "world" of the books is only the size of Chicagoland - they don't know what's beyond the boundaries. I also think it's an interesting study on expectation and it's influence - the whole society is set up to train people in a particular direction and expectation. Those who fall outside that expectation are divergent. Personally, I found that *highly* relate-able.

    That one of my favorite aspects of sci-fi: it takes things we experience but rarely think about and presents them in a way to reveal and question our assumption.

  36. First time commenter !

    As soon as I read your post, I went and bought both Divergent and the next one on Amazon, as simple as that :)

  37. I really loved Divergent! I just read it and Insurgent all-at-once. What I forgot is that the third book isn't published yet! That's been the only drawback for me thus far.

  38. I'm pretty far outside the target demographic for either Hunger Games or Divergent, but the Hunger Games trilogy developed into a far richer story than I had anticipated. So just as Panem didn't seem credible at first but slowly came to be so as I worked through the trilogy, I was prepared to accept Divergent's premise in order to see what else the story had to offer. I'm glad I did. If there's an ongoing theme, it's that almost no one is wholly one faction: We are all divergent in one way or another, and we are stronger people for it.

    And while I'm unwilling to spoil Insurgent, I will tell you that certain revelations make it easier to accept that such a society could come to be in the first place.

  39. Thank you!!!! I read Divergent in LESS THAN 24 hours!!!! I, too, like it better than HG. but now I have to wait because someone else has the ebook copy from my library as well as the print copy. *sigh*

  40. So I finally got this from the library this week (I suppose a long waiting list is a good sign, right?) and read it so fast and enjoyed it so much that I couldn't stand to wait for the 90 people ahead of me to read Insurgent so I just paid the eight bucks for it for the Kindle. It was so good! I know a lot of people can't "buy into" the faction idea, but...you guys, it's fiction! But then, I also don't think it's that hard to imagine a world where people value their ideals to the exclusion of all else, even with virtues. And yeah, Insurgent does go into it more, but I didn't even need that to get on board. And am I alone in wanting the whole book rewritten from Four's POV?

    1. i definitely want the book to be rewriten from Four's POV! and i loved Divergent much more than the Hunger Games.


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