Book Review – Divergent by Veronica Roth

Title: Divergent
Author: Veronica Roth
Format: Hardcover
Published: 2011

Dystopian Chicago.  The city is divided in five factions; half is walled off, half is abandoned. The great lakes have dried into marshland, the buildings that stood tall now stand empty.

There’s a yearly ceremony for 16-year-olds where you chose the faction you’ll live in for the rest of your life.  This determines your job, your hobbies, even the clothes you wear.

Beatrice and her brother Caleb are both up for the ceremony this year.  They’ve done the aptitude test, and now they have to decide – stay with their faction and the family and friends they’ve spent their lives with, or go a totally different path.  They both go their own ways.

Now there’s a secret – a huge one that will divide the city and reunite their family.  Or will it?

Okay.  Here’s my thing.  First of all, the book is written in first person, present, which drives me nuts.  “I do this. I go here.  Now I bend and do that and then do this and look at you and watch as you do something so I can talk about it.”  Just no.  Most writers aren’t good enough to pull it off well.

Also, there are several things I wanted to know but didn’t.

What happened to cause Dystopia?  How long ago was it?  What happened to the lake?  [Look, y’all, I grew up on the great lakes.  In order for them to dry up and be marshland, a lot would have to happen.  Also, they get deep pretty damn fast, so having a marsh as far as the eye can see is a little odd.]

I wanted to know more about the factions.  What caused the split?  Why was society done this way? This could have been a really cool appendices or something, but I kind of get the feeling that the author herself hadn’t thought it out that much.  “This is the way it is, who cares why?”  I do.

The population thing bothered me.  A lot.  So, I get that it’s a dystopia.  They’ve walled off the city, so nobody new is coming in, even though people exist beyond the walls.  But the factions are already forgetting what they stand for (huge plot point there), and the people involved have been in the factions for a few generations.  If they’ve had the chance to settle in houses, repave roads, get generators to buildings that are never used (in one scene, they zip line off the Sears Tower, after using a generator to get the elevators to take them to the tippy top.)

So population should be growing, right?  But in Tris’ faction, there are only 20 new recruits.  Which means there are only about 1600 people in the entire faction.  Apply a bit of basic math and assume that all factions are relatively equal (which we know they wouldn’t be – this is the rebel/adventure faction we’re talking about here), and that’s still only about 8000 people.  Y’all, the current population of Chicago is 2,707,120.  They’ve lost 99.7% of their population, even after several generations of people having babies.  Or, to put it in a different perspective, there are only 100 sixteen-year-olds left in all of Chi-town.

Seriously, what would wipe out that many people, turn the Great Lakes to marshes, and still allow people to live there?  If the cause was nuclear, the whole city should be gone.  And they can’t site something like high infant mortality (which is an easy but acceptable way out) if they’re going to have advanced medicine, and serums and everything else.  (Also, Tris and her bro are only 11 months apart; with high infant mortality, they’d be one lucky family.)

Another thing, I don’t think the author has ever held a gun in her whole life.  There are some questionable descriptions in the book that make me think Roth’s knowledge of a gun is only from watching rather calm cop dramas in the 90s.  I’ve shot just about every caliber of handgun, and the descriptions don’t match reality.

There are also serious doubts about the train.  Have you ever seen Chicago’s train?  Pictures of Chicago’s trains?  They look old and dilapidated now.  So the fact that they still run… amazing.  Also, everyone jumps on the train and jumps off the train, but there’s a whole scene that involves a train station.  Erm.

Also, the big huge “ermergherd” moment… the main character gets  it a whole lot later than I do, and that’s without me knowing the *why* that makes Tris get it.  *facepalm*

The last part of the book is weak, too.  This author sucks at action, and first person present isn’t a good format for it anyway.  Then add in the inevitable love story, and it’s just not doing it for me.  Also, the moment that makes Tris and Four/Tobias admit love for each other?  Totally ripped from The Incredible Hulk.  ‘Just sayin.

I was at a friend’s house when I finished the book, and every time I got to something that pissed me off, I apparently made a noise, which would make him ask “what’s wrong with the book this time?” and then I’d read the paragraph to him.  At one point, he got up, acted out the action, and looked a little like a duck trying to dance with those soda can rings wrapped around his ankles.  You get my point, I hope.

There’s a sequel, and I’ve been told that it clears up a lot of the plot holes.  I’m waiting to get it, just to see.

In the end, if you want a quick read and you don’t really care that a bunch of stuff is flimsy, give it four out of five (no, not really) and give it a read (yes, really).  If you want a more serious dystopia, where everything makes sense, give it a three out of five and either skip it  or save it for something light in between better reads.

7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Vasiliki
    Feb 24, 2013 @ 20:41:46

    I think the question about how the factions came into existence was answered, i believe it was because they wanted a world without war and people seemed to have different explanations a to why people can’t live peacefully. For example, some believed it was because people were too selfish (Abnegation was born), others believed that people were too ignorant (Erudite was born), others blamed violence (Amity was born) etc.
    I’ll have to agree with you though on the “ermergherd” moment, Tris was really slow to catch on.


    • Mandi M. Lynch, author
      Feb 25, 2013 @ 02:43:36

      It was *told* to us. I wanted it shown to us. Honestly, I wanted a prologue to the whole book. What made the world get that bad? Maybe we’ll get it in the third book. Or a bonus something or other later.
      I guess I just thought what they hinted at was so much more interesting than some of what was going on.


      • Vasiliki
        Feb 25, 2013 @ 06:19:13

        yeah that’s true, it would be interesting to see how the world got to that 🙂

      • Mandi M. Lynch, author
        Feb 25, 2013 @ 06:22:12

        It would make a great novella, wouldn’t it? And for the love of Bob, third person.

      • Vasiliki
        Feb 25, 2013 @ 06:23:46

        hmm i will have to disagree on that because i prefer first person much more 😛

      • Mandi M. Lynch, author
        Feb 25, 2013 @ 06:43:09

        I only like it if it’s done well. 90% of the time, it’s not.

  2. Trackback: Book Review – Allegiant by Veronica Roth | Book In The Bag

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