Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Divergent (Book Review)

Author: Veronica Roth
Year: 2011
Genre: Dystopian
Reading Level: Young Adult

Series: First in the Divergent series (followed by Insurgent)

Literary Awards: 
Goodreads Choice Award for Favorite Book of 2011 and for Best Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction (2011), ALA Teens' Top Ten Nominee (2012), Children's Choice Book Award Nominee for Teen Choice Book of the Year (2012), Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee (2014), DABWAHA (Dear Author Bitchery Writing Award for Hella Authors) for Best Young Adult Romance (2012) 

Plot Summary: Beatrice has lived her life in the Abnegation factions--a life devoted to selflessness and simplicity.  But with her sixteenth year comes a test to determine which of five factions she'll spend the rest of her life with.  When her test results come back with the dangerous and secretive conclusion of 'divergent' Beatrice will have to choose her future very carefully.  Etc. etc.

Red Flags: Violence, some mild teenage lustiness

My Rating: B-
First let me say that despite my issues with this book, I don't think it's a terrible book not worth reading.  It didn't offend me, like some books have been known to do.  While I wouldn't necessarily recommend it to many people, I also wouldn't say it's a horrible waste of time either.  If you especially enjoy dystopian novels, there's a good chance you'll enjoy this one.  Glowing, right?

On the plus side, I thought there was a nice level of content for a YA book.  There was blood, but not too in your face.  There was some making out, but nothing extreme.  There were only a few mild swears, if any (I don't remember).  So, there's that.  I also think there are some germs of potential here (wheat germ, if you prefer) in the ideas and the story.  Unfortunately I can't think of any good books that stopped at potential.  My problems with this book primarily fall into two camps: 1) the writing 2) the story.  Let's examine!  

1) Overall, the writing was distractingly amateurish.  It tried so hard to be dramatic, with its single-sentence paragraphs, but several times I laughed at those sentences because, well, they were laughably dramatic.  Also, there were many instances of the same distinct word being used two pages in a row, or even in the same paragraph or sentence--words like "tender", "loose" and "sick to my stomach."  I know I tend to zero in on repetition but it's just one of those things you should catch if you read your material enough times--or at least catch more often than this.  There were also a lot of times where sentences were awkwardly assembled or concerned with irrelevant details.  And, really, I just don't think Veronica Roth has the writing chops (yet) to pull off first person present tense.  

2) I didn't believe anything in this book.  I didn't believe the world, I didn't believe the factions, I didn't believe their society.  I definitely didn't believe Beatrice had any brains.  They mention God a few times and I didn't believe a society like that would allow any kind of religion.  I just didn't buy it.  

I also didn't get any sense of tension, no matter how many one-sentence paragraphs there were.  Nothing.  And one cannot rely on first person present tense alone to create tension.

Anyway.  It was all right, but it's just not that great either.  Also I laughed out loud when Four's real name came out.  Surely you can guess who I pictured from then on

Some choice lines:
"He slips his hands over my neck and presses his thumbs under my chin, tilting my head back so his forehead meets mine."  (I had Drew help me reenact this, just to see if it was a weird as it was in my head...yes, it was.)

"She grins so wide I can see her back row of teeth." (Is she a shark?)

"I am kinder than I seemed in training."  (...)

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