Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Distopian novels are the hottest thing going right now. Divergent is not as good as The Hunger Games, but I liked it better than Delirium. It is set in a damaged but recognizable Chicago, a city I’m very familiar with, which helped me like it. In a future United States beset with problems, people are divided into five factions representing five traits. Teenagers are allowed to switch factions when they turn 16, basically turning their backs on their families, and our protagonist does just that. Most of the novel covers the training she must survive in the new faction, where only half the 16-year-olds are allowed to stay. The rest are kicked out and become “factionless,” homeless and without resources.

Divergent is narrated by the main character, which means there is no need to worry that anything serious might happen to her. She is not terribly likeable, but she’s a pretty realistic teenager. There are echoes of today’s society in the way the factions are described – the erudite want more wealth, while the selfless want to help the factionless. There’s a love interest, of course. And there are hints of the next two books in the series – if the guards are there to protect the city from whatever is outside the borders, why are the locks on the outside instead of the inside? There’s a big battle towards the end, and a lot of characters we’ve been introduced to die, so I expect lots of new characters in the next book.

I found Divergent well written but a bit long and draggy for a first book in a trilogy. Still it kept my interest and eventually picked up speed. There were scenes I liked a lot, and themes in the book made me think about our own society.

If you like distopian novels, definitely give Divergent a try. I look forward to the next book in the series.

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