Sometimes on-line buzz and accolades can set expectations so high that no novel could ever hope to live up to them. That may be the case with Veronica Roth’s Divergent, a novel that I think if I’d read it when it first came out, I might love a bit more than I did.
Reading the novel now as the second installment hits shelves and the third one is on the horizon, I couldn’t stop myself wondering just what all the hype was about. It’s not that Divergent is a terrible novel.
In a near future dystopia, society is divided up into five factions–Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). When young people turn sixteen, they are given the choice of remaining with the current faction or choosing a new one. Each person is given a test to help determine which faction is the best “fit” for each one. However, should you choose a faction and wash-out, then you are sent to be one of the faction-less, performing the most menial tasks and having little or no room for growth within the society Roth creates.
Our heroine, Beatrice, undergoes the tests and finds that she’s considered divergent. It’s never really explained what this means exactly, but the reaction by her tester indicates this may not be a good thing. Born into the Abnegation faction, Beatrice (who renames herself Tris), chooses to be part of the Dauntless faction. While she makes an early first impression by being the first to leap from a moving train onto a rooftop in the Dauntless area, Tris is soon in a physical and mental battle to prove she should become part of the Duantless faction.
Along the way, Tris makes some enemies and becomes part of a trio of friends. She also comes across her mentor, a boy known as Four. Tris and Four share a unique connection, which if you’re paying attention to the novel, it’s fairly obvious what the connection will be long before Roth gets around to revealing it.
My biggest issue with Divergent is how incredibly familiar all of it feels. There are bits and pieces from a lot of other successful young adult series sprinkled throughout the story. And while parts of Tris’ story are engaging enough, there are still long segments where it feels like the plot isn’t developing in any significant way nor is there enough character growth either. It’s not helped by the fact that I figured out most of the major revelations that take place in the novel’s final third based on the minor clues in the early going and being familiar with this corner of the young adult genre world.
A lot of this falls at the feet of Tris, who never really feels all the engaging as a character. I’m intrigued enough by her status as Divergent to consider picking up the second installment and seeing what develops next for her, but it’s not a novel that will be high on my TBR list. I’m hoping the next installment may pick up the pace a bit and find Roth toying a bit more with the familiar conventions of the genre