I like: Chicago. Initiation Rites. Dystopian City-State Societies. Regular ol’ girls who kick ass and become heroes. Character development. Best friends that make you swoon and wish they were YOUR best friends. Training sequences. Training sequences at boarding schools and/or castles. In a way, Tris (a name I do not like in the least) joining the Dauntless faction and going through her training reminded me a lot of the Protector of the Small Quartet by Tamora Pierce. It was like the story of the lone girl training to be a knight amongst boys and trying every day to work a little harder and prove herself. That storyline is done and done-er, but I still adore it.
I also like the idea that the Chicago City-State’s factions seem to be (at least in part) based on Plato’s ideal city, a sort of satiric look at how impossible a perfect city (world) would be: you would have to give up your familial ties, forget about love, focus only on your strengths in order to do your duty. You would have to live simply; no art, no culture. In general, I think Roth was trying to do this with the factions. Except for one problem: The factions, and the concept of Divergence, doesn’t work. And that really, really makes the book unreadable.
I don’t like: Whiny monologues. Half-assed, forced romances. Flat-on-their-face-characters. Contrived conflict–aka, the last quarter of the novel (YOU know what I’m talking about), as if there wasn’t enough conflict during initiation. Humph. I could barely keep these characters straight because their personalities were just “eeeehhhh,” flat, similarly written, despite their one underlined, singular personality trait. Okay…so Christina blurts things out because she’s candor. Will is a nice boy. That other guy is not a nice boy. What’s his name again? Didn’t Tris have a brother? I don’t remember. I think if you’re Erudite in general, you’re probably a Slytherin. Oh, wait.
I had to actually reread this book AND its sequel before reading the final installment…I’m not even going to bother reviewing that disgrace of a “novel.”
I’ve written a review for tHG, and I’ve said it a hundred times — my impression before reading it was of this amazingly cool concept of an impoverished and overpopulated earth that is forced to send (or have their children volunteer) for the Games. Not some contrived war. I feel very similarly about Divergent — Do not create something with as much potential, yet as impalpable as Divergence and then try and create a quick explanation in the last installment as a “big reveal.” This series, beginning with this book, I’m sorry to say, is blah and forgettable. It had potential and it squandered it all with silliness at the end. Contrived conflict was contrived. The evil scheme was boring. The best villains are not one-dimensional, they are ourselves. I wish it got better, but it didn’t. I wish it had focused on Tris’ life and making her way up the ranks and whatnot. I have a big problem even focusing on the story when it took such an odd, jarring turn towards the end.
And goodness gracious, we could all do with a little more plot development and…I’ve been to Chicago. It’s beautiful, it has a river running through it AND a lake on one side, it’s full of history! It’s a dystopian Chicago? Make that Chicago a CHARACTER! It’s like Tris has no memories at all before she turns 15 besides “wah, I’m not selfless enough.” And you’re going to have me believe that these people have been living in Chicago for how long and they have no knowledge of the past or the outside world? That’s about as believable as the HG’s vague “war” in years prior. I’m pretty sure someone or a few someones would have looted the crap out of the hundreds of skyscrapers, shops, and restaurants in Chicago long ago. It’s a ghost town, but it’s not empty.