At long last, a dystopian novel that doesn’t spend so much time on the appetizers that it neglects the main course. I must say that after reading The Hunger Games, Matched, Legend, and The Selection (all books that started series), I guess I had taken it for granted that the first novels in dystopian series had to be slow starters. Indeed, all of those books took what seemed like eons setting up the back story at the outset (particularly Hunger Games), so that when the present action happens it seemed to me like it was all anti-climactic. It was like having so many people tell you a particular movie is good, then finally seeing it and it disappoints not because it’s bad, but because the expectations were so lofty.
Divergent, by Veronica Roth, does things a wee bit differently, preferring to set the action in motion almost from the very beginning of the book. Indeed, the protagonist, Tris, is thrust into her first major decision from the very first page. I enjoyed getting to experience that with her at the outset instead of getting inside of her mind for ages on end beforehand. Roth instead fleshes out her characters and their motivations during the course of the novel through revelations, which helped me understand the society and its demarcations much better.
The world of Divergent is indeed an interesting one. In fact, it reminded me of the houses in J.K. Rowling’s Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, but instead of four categories it has five: Amity, Abnegation, Dauntless, Erudite, and Candor. I must say that as a student of language (I have a degree in English), it was wonderful to see those excellent descriptive words as names of the divisions. They so perfectly capture the ideology behind each faction, but merely the ideology and not what has actually become of the factions themselves over time.
That’s where this book really shines, drawing the divisions between what used to be, what is, and what is coming swiftly for each faction, particularly for Erudite, for Dauntless, and for Abnegation. It was interesting to me learning how the factions acted and reacted during the course of the novel, to internal issues as well as to actions outside of their purview. Also, their government systems within factions so closely resembled every government I’ve ever seen, with power located at the top, and mere lip service given to the paeans.
Yet, despite all of that, the characters who are most interesting to me are the ones at the lowest level, the initiates in the Dauntless compound, which is how Roth expertly set it up. I don’t want to give too much away about how the novel ends, but suffice it to say that allegiances shift and those who previously seemed brilliant are truly revealed for who they really were all along. I recommend Divergent wholeheartedly as a wonderful entrance to a phenomenal world of danger and intrigue, and I look forward expectantly to reading the next book in the series, Insurgent.
I give the novel FIVE stars.