Divergent

Everyone I know who read The Hunger Games could not stop talking about Divergent, by Veronica Roth. They said it was a cool, future United States, post-apocalyptic-ey, sci-fi fantasy whatever, takes place in Chicago. I’m from Chicago. I love Chicago! How could this not be great?

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As always, spoilers. We’ve got spoilers like a hot rod.

Concept
This is a hard one.

So, Divergent takes place in Chicago, if Chicago wasn’t Chicago. I mean, there are certain landmarks that apparently remain – Navy Pier, Lake Michigan, The Sears/Willis Tower, Lake Shore Drive, the Hancock Building, but as far as geography goes, it’s just another made up city. But that’s just a personal qualm. That doesn’t really matter.

So apparently, in Divergent, society has been split up into five factions. Dauntless, Abnegation, Erudite, Candor, and Amity. Each faction values different qualities as the most important – the quality signified by the name of faction. Dauntless values bravery, Erudite values intelligence, Abnegation is selflessness, Candor is honesty, and Amity is kindness. And, apparently, because of these traits, which are valued above all others, the people of these factions are viewed as more fit for certain types of jobs.  The Dauntless are soldiers, the Erudite are doctors, Abegnation are politicians and volunteers, Amity are… farmers? I guess? And they don’t really talk about what Candor does, because honestly, fuck honesty, am I right?

Aaaaanyway… When you hit 16, you apparenty are forced to take this test, where you’re entered into a simulation, during which you’re put in a variety of scenarios. Those scenarios determine what faction you’re best suited to. Apparently when given the option between cheese and a knife without any explanation of what they’re for, you’re more prone to be Dauntless. And so on.  The point is, I understand the idea here, but it’s… not particularly good.

But, our main character – a girl so bland I forgot her name (It’s Beatrice. It took me a minute, but I got it eventually), got an inconclusive result, which apparently labels her as Divergent, a concept that isn’t explained in a satisfactory way until near the end of the book. Even then, the explanation is lame. But again, I digress.

So, faced with a decision about if she’s going to stay with Abnegation, where she clearly doesn’t fit in, or switch to one of the other factions that she could go with, because she’s special or something I guess. Who the fuck cares. The risk here would be letting her family down. Because apparently you’re not allowed to visit people from other factions.

She also gets a lot of dumb sounding tattoos.

Exposition
A poorly written first person narrative that explores the boring fake Chicago that Tris (oh yeah, she changes her name to Tris. Edgey, right?) lives in.

The Good

The concept is pretty unique, and some of the things that the writer did with Chicago landmarks were interesting enough. The writing was okay at times. I don’t know. I can’t really think of much to say about the book. It kept me asking “What’s going to happen next?”, in a vaguely curious sort of way. But when the answer continued to be “nothing” for most of the rest of the book, I sorta stopped caring.

The Bad

The easiest part of this review! Whoo! Probably also the longest. Lets get the little stuff out of the way: The writing was bad, the characters were boring, it didn’t actually take place in Chicago, and the few attempts made at foreshadowing were pretty much the writer saying “This is what is going to happen”.

The love interest (who is obviously the love interest from the beginning, despite the poor attempts to throw you off the trail, who is obviously into Tris, despite the even more obvious attempts to throw you off the trail) is named Four. What the fuck kind of name is that. I get that it’s supposed to be cool and shit, but it’s not. It’s dumb as fuck.

During her time in the Fear Simulator (whooooo), every one of Tris’ fears is symbolic in some way. She’s pecked to death by crows, which is supposed to symbolize powerlessness. She’s stuck in a glass cage filled by water, which is supposed to signify feeling trapped. Or something. I don’t know. It’s pretty bad. Yet, when we hear about the fears of others, and when we see Four’s fears, they’re all quite literal. He’s afraid of his abusive father, which is signified by several incarnations of his father beating the shit out of him. He’s claustraphobic, which is signified by him being stuck in a small place. He’s afraid of heights, signified by him being high above the ground. I have a couple of theories as to why this is the case, but all of them come down to bad writing in the end.

There’s no real story. What little plot you can pull out of the book is secondary to the poorly written, poorly forshadowed relationship that develops between Tris and Four.

There’s more, but I’m already sick of it.

Final Thoughts

This is a poorly written romance novel, disguised as a sci-fi fantasy clusterfuck. And it’s not good. If you’re into Twilight, you’d probably still be disappointed by this one.

Grade

Divergent earns a solid “F”. A bad read, with little redeeming value.

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