Roth, V. (2011). Divergent. London: HarperCollins.
Tris lives in a future Chicago, where the population is divided into 5 factions, each of which embodies a certain trait (courage, knowledge, peace, selflessness, honesty). At the age of 16 everyone must choose which faction they will devote their life too. Only one problem . . . Tris's mind doesn't fit into one faction, making her divergent. And in this world, divergent is a very dangerous thing to be.
Part of me still doesn't know what to make of this one. On the one hand, it has some pretty fatal flaws. As has been commented on countless times elsewhere, the world building is ABSOLUTELY TERRIBLE. Roth never explains what caused the world's downfall, why there are factions, what's outside the cities barriers and countless other extremely important details that would make this good dystopic fiction. I could never quite fall entirely into her world of factions, mostly because there was always a little niggle of 'why isn't everyone divergent? Because unless there have been some pretty radical changes in human nature in her unexplored future world history, you can't fit the human mind into one little box.' Weighing in at just under 500 pages, it also felt like Divergent took 400 pages to actually go anywhere. Most of the book is dedicated to descriptions of Tris's initiation into her chosen faction, which though interesting, doesn't advance the plot at all. When we do get the climax, it feels forced and rushed. Which is a shame considering that Roth seems to have a talent for action packed writing, of which there is plenty of in the rest of the book.
On the plus side, I enjoyed the element of romance. It's nice to not have to put up with the love triangles that are oh-so-overdone in current YA fiction. Instead we get a flawed hero, who makes his move early (I appreciate not having to spend the next books in the series yelling JUST KISS HER ALREADY in my head). The exploration and exploitation of fear by the Dauntless faction is written extremely well and this is the only part of the novel where I really felt like I was reading something dystopic, rather than just mildly sci-fi. And in the end. . . well its just fun to read. Despite the lack of forward plotting, the action moves quickly. It's kind of like being on a roller-coaster. Part of you just wants it to stop and part of you just wants it to keep going!
3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 on Goodreads.