Warning: This review contains a few spoilers
I picked this book up because I can never resist figuring out if the hype is justified or not, and currently there isn’t a YA book getting quite as much buzz as Divergent. It is very easy to see why it is so popular; a decent dystopian setting with a capable young heroine.
The set-up is fairly cool; five factions split up by dominate personality types. Those caring altruistic sort are part of Abnegation, those who favor bold moves are Dauntless, and so on. The book starts with main character Tris preparing to put on the sorting hat go through testing to see which faction she belongs to. Testing goes all wrong, she learns that not only is she DIVERGENT and fits into no faction, but that this is a dangerous thing to be and should be kept to herself. I smell Destiny!
My problem is I didn’t buy a single thing the author is selling, and to be honest I am not sure she did either. I said the factions are set up by dominate personalities because that is how it appeared at first. However it becomes increasingly clear that the author intended that the faction should determine the entirety of the personality; both the idea of a divergent and the big bad villainous plan depend on the faction personality being completely hardwired into the people of this futuristic Chicago. And the text just doesn’t support this.
Tris really shows nothing different than the characters she interacts with. Among the Dauntless she meets others who are caring, or logical (supposedly the domain of Erudite); in fact she seems to be interacting with PEOPLE. Judging by personality everyone should be considered Divergent; the faction leaders must constantly remind people of the path they need to take. Really the whole idea that no matter where they test the kids can pick their own faction completely invalidates the importance of the testing, and therefore the factions, completely. I don’t believe I am being facetious or overly critical here; when the entire Dauntless faction is put under a mind control only the Divergent are immune. Somehow the control worked on both people who TEST Dauntless, and those who CHOOSE Dauntless, but not those who don’t test right at all.
Throw in a bunch of annoying YA tropes and a bad book is confirmed. We get a cast consisting of 90% teenagers; even the Dauntless leadership team is only a couple years older than Tris and her training class. A world shrunk down for simplicity sake (Tris and her fellow Dauntless initiates have a class of nine this year, none of them memorable). The requisite boring love angle (it doesn’t matter that she is not the prettiest, he just can tell she is special). And of course be sure to slowly write off any important adults; pesky adults just get in the way of the story anyway.
I am not a big reader of YA, and I doubt anyone who is gives a damn what I think. But for those who, like me, venture into this territory only occasionally; don’t say you were not warned.