Thursday, August 28, 2014

Book Review: Divergent - Highly Recommend

Awesome! Impressive! My favorite young adult read of the year!

I know I'm rather late to the show. There's been a constant clamor about this series and I've sat waiting for the chance to get my hands on the books. Most of the books have long hold lines and I haven't been willing to invest in their purchase (although I may rethink that if I encounter difficulties getting the second and third installments of this trilogy). When the first book came out in audio form, I was able to get my name at the front of the hold list (mere luck of opening the library's recent acquisitions e-mail as soon as I received it). I couldn't get enough time for listening to this plot unfold and now find myself itching to get my hands on the second book. Knowing that several friends have expressed disappointment with the third book, I am equally intrigued to read that one and discover what they meant by their words.

This book immediately sucks you into the landscape of another world, another time. Beatrice Prior lives in a future Chicago, a world where society has broken into five factions, each believing they hold the key to a more peaceful existence. The Candor cling to honesty, Abnegation to selflessness, Dauntless to bravery, Erudite to intelligence, and Amity to peacefulness. On decision day in their sixteenth year, each citizen must decide which faction they will devote their allegiance to and join. They are given an aptitude test, but Beatrice's test in inconclusive. She is told that she is Divergent and that she must hide this fact from everyone because it is dangerous to be Divergent.

We follow along as Beatrice selects a faction and endures rigorous training to make it into the top rankings or face the consequence of being factionless (without family, job, housing, or identity). During her initiation she gains friends and enemies and even a love interest (but one she must keep secret). She also discovers a secret. Her society is about to implode and she must take steps to fight against those who wish her dead, while seeking to rectify the wrongs which have led to the revolution.

The pace was intense. The characters were enthralling. I fell in love with Beatrice's tough nature tempered by her willingness to question herself and others. I loved the rivalry among the characters. The love story was well-done, without presenting too many intimate details. I think I'll wait until Trevor and Sean are 11 and 9 before reading this book aloud to them (or if I read it earlier, I'll skim over some of the intimate moments). The actions of each character rang true and created interesting conflicts within the story. It was just a marvelously intriguing tale and I can't wait to read more. I highly recommend this popular read.

As a side note, there is an interesting interview with the author on the Amazon listing page and I loved her comments about the factions in her book. She says:

"The faction system reflects my beliefs about human nature—that we can make even something as well-intentioned as virtue into an idol, or an evil thing. And that virtue as an end unto itself is worthless to us. I did spend a large portion of my adolescence trying to be as “good” as possible so that I could prove my worth to the people around me, to myself, to God, to everyone. It’s only now that I’m a little older that I realize I am unable to be truly “good” and that it’s my reasons for striving after virtue that need adjustment more than my behavior. In a sense, Divergent, is me writing through that realization—everyone in Beatrice’s society believes that virtue is the end, the answer. I think that’s a little twisted."

I suppose one of the reasons I liked the book so well is that I completely agree with that world-view perspective, that virtue itself can become an idol. She has something important to say and her story communicates that, in addition to just being a really interesting, captivating story.

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