|I've started with all the shortest, lightest books I plan on reading this|
year, so my progress looks so great right now.
I read Divergent and I didn't really like it, so I wrote a snarky review:
(There are some spoilers if you haven't read it.)
Divergent by Veronica Roth
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
I thought this book sounded sort of interesting and the trailer for the movie looked pretty good, so I decided to see what all the fuss is about.
I honestly am not sure how this book is a bestseller.
I feel like the author wanted to write a book about teenagers doing intense training and crazy stunts, and then she wrote the world around that. First of all, dystopian Chicago is just kind of a gross setting. It seemed so dingy and dirty.
The five factions seemed like strange and illogical choices to me. They didn't seem like practical choices for a society to actually run on. Also, why would anyone pick any of them besides Amity? The Abnegation were all super passive-aggressive. Also, why the heck did the other factions agree to having them be completely in charge of leadership in the first place?! It took an awfully long time for anyone in this book to figure out that every human being will make selfish choices at some point.
And Oh My Goodness, the Dauntless are completely insane. How is okay to have kids die of the first day because you made them jump off a moving train onto a roof?! They bring up the "fine line between idiocy and bravery" a few pages later, and I'm all "You've already crossed it." Also, how completely stereotypical is it that the Dauntless wear all black with lots of piercings and tattoos? And the city leadership is all concerned about how to help the factionless, but it's totally okay with them that the Dauntless can just throw out half of their initiates?! And I still don't understand why they live in a cave....
Then there's the characters: They were all a little meh.
Beatrice/Tris is your classic female protag: small, “weak,” never-feels-like-she-fits in, thinks she’s ugly doesn't understand why anyone likes her, especially boys. (Is it a rule that female protags have to be super self-deprecating?) Still thinks she’s terrible at everything even though she’s obviously beating everyone with her magical mad skills. She can’t seem to make up her mind if she should be selfish or selfless. Get over it! You’re a person and sometimes you’re going to be selfish, and sometimes you’re going to help people. Lol at the makeover scenes where a little black eyeliner instantly transforms her to feeling like a real Dauntless. And I’m pretty sure Veronica Roth did a Pinterest search for “trendy tattoos” before deciding on birds on her collarbone.
Christina and Will were both pretty flat but nice I guess. (I also felt like everyone had kind of boring names. If you’re writing your own world, you may as well come up with some cool names. And how many teenagers do you know named Albert?) Albert had a bit more depth, but I wasn't that attached. (Also the Dauntless basically celebrated his suicide….Craaaaazzaaay people.)
I generally liked Tris’s family, but once again, the best way I can come up with to describe them is that they were nice.
The physical descriptions all sounded like she was just pulling random adjectives out of a hat. I’m pretty sure Molly was described as having “bronze skin with a bulbous nose.” I just couldn't conjure up mental pictures based on that.
I did like Four, and I was frustrated that it took about half the book for Tris to figure out that he liked her and was trying to help her. And how convenient that he’s the only other Divergent.
The writing of the romance was super cliché. Too many moments like these: “his hand pressed/brushed against my rib cage” (Young adult romance is all about random body parts being pressed together.) “I accidentally ended up sleeping in his room and the muscles in his back rippled under his t-shirt.” “Oh, Four, how convenient that your biggest fear is being trapped in a tiny closet that’s only big enough for you. Just snuggle a little closer to me and you won’t be afraid.”
I’m pretty sure Veronica Roth read Ender’s Game right before she wrote this book. The aptitude test reminded me of the Giant’s Drink, a psycho named Peter, eye-stabbing, continuing to kick the bully when they’re down, dorm drama, being the small one that gets picked on but being better than everyone else…
The plot of this book was infuriating. They made the aptitude test (Also, why would anyone in their right mind pick a knife over cheese?) and being Divergent out to be such a big deal, but then hardly mentioned it again until the last 100 pages or so. I don’t even understand why the test is so important if the kids get to choose whatever faction they want anyway. (Also, having to cut your hand and drop blood into the bowl you choose was melodramatic.) Why bother having Tris get three results if she’s going to rule out Erudite automatically anyway?
The pacing of this book was a mess. The ¾ of the book is basically physical training that has very little to do with the actual plot. It was boring, and I was so confused and waiting for it to be relevant that’s she’s Divergent. There wasn't even much character development through all that.
Finally after about 300 pages of throwing knives, and kids beating each other to a pulp, we get to stage 2 and see that Tris is really good at manipulating the simulations. Apparently the reason Divergent is dangerous has less to do with the fact that you get weird results on your aptitude test and more to do with you being able to control the sims.
Tris really isn’t paying attention to anyone who tells her to be careful and not draw attention to herself, because not only does she rank the highest on the sims, she has secret meet-ups with Four all the time, and then runs off to see her brother who wears hipster glasses now. I don’t understand why Psycho Eric fell for the story that she tried to kiss Four. The guy’s one job is finding Divergents, and he hasn't caught on to all her weird test results or rendezvous with Four?
After the most water-tank drowning scenes we’ve seen since The Prestige, we get to stage three, which is basically just more simulations in a row. We find out that Four had a traumatic childhood, boohoo, and he keeps lying to Tris about being Divergent, but that doesn't seem to bother her at all.
Finally the plot is picking up a bit, and we get to Tris’s final test: more water tanks and crows and shooting her family and wait, one of her seven biggest fears is having sex with Four? Are you kidding me right now?
"Oh yeah, Psycho Eric just shot me up with a really suspicious serum, but let’s make out for a while and take a nap before we do anything about it."
Then we got 50-ish pages of Tris shooting people. I’m not sure how she got this good with a gun, since they spent approximately one day of training learning how to shoot. Her aim remains surprisingly good even after taking a bullet to the shoulder.
Tris covers her mouth with her hand because emotions.
Gee, “the boy-you-love-getting-mind-controlled-into-strangling-you” is a completely unfamiliar plot that I have definitely never seen in any other dystopian young adult trilogy with a female protagonist.
Tris covers her mouth with her hand because feels.
We get one more water tank scene, but this time it’s for real.
“Mom, you were Divergent too?”
Tris covers her mouth with her hand because for some unknown reason, she just shot Will in the head instead of the arm or leg.
They killed off an awful lot of characters for a first book, and of course left Tris and Four with only their worst enemies to keep them company.
Tris stops covering her mouth with her hand because she wants to kiss Four.
I basically wanted to stab the first 3/4 of this book in the eye, but the last 100 pages were okay.
View all my reviews
Purchase Divergent on Amazon.