Divergent (Divergent #1)
I’m not sure how this book could have been out for the better part of a year before I got to it. A friend has been telling me that I need to read this for a while now, but now that I’ve read it, I kind of wish she had smacked me upside the head and called me an idiot for delaying. I absorbed this book. Once the story sunk its tenterhooks into me (so, like, page 2ish), it was nearly impossible to put down. I was actually a little put out when I had to stop and eat half way through. Seriously. I want to use all of my trite descriptions for this book, but it somehow feels like it wouldn’t sufficiently communicate the level to which I enjoyed it. Compelling and vivid seem bland. This story feels more like riding a roller coaster over open flames, sharp rocks, jagged steel, and giant icy waves; all while being strapped in by a few pieces of flimsy string. There’s adrenaline soaked action, but the story and the characters are remarkably well written. The pages disappeared to the points where I was completely surprised when I came across the final page and more than a little upset about it. I can’t lie, I’m kind of glad that I drug my feet about picking up this book for so long because while some people had to wait a whole year, I only had to wait a few days.
In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.
During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.
The primary reason this story is so incredibly compelling is the characters. Roth writes them above and beyond believable. They’re real and if you have real characters who can walk around and tell you where your story needs to go, then you have a book that’s worthy of the bestsellers list. The secrets her characters walk around with are delicious to discover and they add such dimension to the story. Though she didn’t just apply this attention and care to her characters alone, no, she also created a world in vividly real color that is so easy to see in my mind’s eye it felt like watching a movie.
I have to say, though, that the biggest reason I loved this story as much as I did was Tris. It’s rare in literature for a woman to be written as such a total and complete bad ass. Over and over, Roth re-enforces that the one thing Tris is above all else is steely. When embarrassed by a prank, she kicks the crap out of one of the prankers in the next scheduled fight and then doesn’t feel bad about it. Why is this awesome? In our world currently drowning in the blowback to second wave feminism it’s not usually okay for women to stand up and defend themselves, even verbally. If we do, we’re called all sorts of things, from bitch to whore. Tris seems immune to that and it’s incredibly refreshing to find that there’s at least another person on the planet that wants to see strong women who can stand up and not melt down into puddles of glop at the first sign of embarrassment. This story is about more than just proving a girl can throw a punch without crying about it, but in some ways, it was that aspect that had my eyes glued to the pages so much. I can’t help it, I was raised on Buffy.
As a side note to that, it’s incredibly enheartening to find that young girls are being given these very strong examples to look to whether it be Katniss Everdeen or Tris Prior. Both of these girls stand up and fight when they have to and yet somehow never really sacrifice who they are on a deeper core level. After the waifishly lovesick Bella Swan, it’s kind of awesome to see girls looking up to people who have a backbone.
In the end, there aren’t words small enough to summarize this story. It’s huge and dangerous and incredibly entertaining. It feels more like reading 150 pages than 487.
5 ink bottles.
Character Believability: 5 Buffys
Character Investibility: 5 Doctors
Pace/Urgency/Tension: 5 Dresdens
Worldbuilding: 4 Snyders
Language: 4.5 Feegles
Mystery: 4 Sherlocks