So as most of my friends know, I have a personal project where I’m reading as much science fiction by women authors as possible, and this new trend of young adult dystopias works perfectly with my plans. I’m kind of picky about young adult lit, but I enjoy them when they’re done well.
Divergent, like what seems like 90% of YAs released in the past 3 years, is a fast-paced angst-filled adventure story that takes place in crumbling future America. In the world Veronica Roth has created, society has splintered into 5 “factions”: Dauntless, Candor, Amity, Erudite, and Abnegation. Five guesses as to what virtue each represents, but you can have the last one for free since I didn’t know what it meant either. Abnegation, which our lovely protagonist Beatrice Prior is born into, values selflessness above all else and eschews individuality. But Beatrice is like “Screw that” and transfers to Dauntless, shortens her name to Tris (cause a nickname changes everything) and of course the shit hits the fan.
The story was a pretty good page-turner, but the whole work felt extremely derivative. There were serious echoes of everything from Brave New World to Ender's Game and of course, The Hunger Games. Like the latter, Divergent is written in first-person present tense, but the narrative didn’t feel as clunky here, though I don’t know if that’s due to Roth’s skills. I may just be getting used to this writing style. Even with that aside, this book is a whole ball of clichés. The wise Erudite all wear glasses to make themselves look smarter, even if they don’t need them. The badass Dauntless are all covered in piercings and tattoos. It’s Stereotype City.
As far as the characters go, well… Tris is likeable enough, but it takes her ages to work out the most obvious things. Supposedly her Divergent tendencies made her eligible for Erudite, but I don’t think so. She’s kind of dumb. I really wish we could lose the brooding, mood-swingy love interest in Four, too. I’m just glad there wasn’t a love triangle – imagine, a strong female character has friends who are boys who she doesn’t fall in love with! Shocker!
I did enjoy this, though. It certainly wasn’t spectacular, but it was far from bad, and I’m interested to read more about this world, even if I think Veronica Roth’s vision of the future is patently ridiculous.