I first learned of Divergent while sitting in a theater waiting for the second Hunger Games film to show. As I was watching the preview I thought “Wow! That reminds me so much of [this, that, and the other] books I’ve read! I want to read that before the movie comes out.” Luckily, I had about three and a half months to accomplish that goal.
The first in a three-part series, Divergent puts you right in the middle of the story from page one. Given that Veronica Roth isn’t even four years older than myself, I have to give her major credit for her first novel being such a national success. Written during her senior year in college (and I’m currently a senior for those of you who may not know), Roth’s breakout as a best-selling author is incredible.
Divergent is carefully organized, the characters are clearly defined and well developed, the plot is easy to follow, and the storyline is intriguing—if slightly predictable. As an avid reader and English Literature major, I appreciate the breath of fresh air that this read was during my Christmas vacation. Within 20 pages I was captivated; I finished the 400+ page book in less than 8 hours. I couldn’t stop reading. Roth certainly has a gift for drawing her readers into the world of her characters. (It helps that the setting for the story is my hometown—no spoilers though!)
I must commend Roth on her vivid descriptions, evocative characters, and emotive conflicts. Her ability to balance the progress of the story with the depth of her characters, while never forgetting to bring the reader along for the ride cannot be overly admired. Divergent marks the beginning of a long and successful career for Roth.
Having said all of this praise though, I can’t not mention the areas in which Roth could improve.
Let me first clarify that this is a teen fiction novel; as such, it is geared toward a younger audience, and has age-appropriate content—this is not a bad thing, but I think where Roth slips up is in the trap of redundancy. I very obviously felt the ebb and flow of action throughout the novel. In addition to that, her expression of conflict felt almost exactly the same in every instance throughout the story. I will say that the story is told from the perspective of one of the characters, not as an omniscient narrator, but even so, a character’s voice can evolve as the character grows—and I think this is where I had the most trouble with the novel.
Other than the narrative redundancies, I think Roth also got a bit caught up in the traditional plot for futuristic, dystopian societies. While I still thoroughly enjoyed the plot, I felt myself wishing that she would take bigger chances in the conflicts of the story. As a whole, the story doesn’t stand out among the others in its class. But, I am sure that as such a young author just starting out, she will experiment more and learn which boundaries she can push in order to find that new twist.
However, and this is a big however, the majority of Roth’s audience will not be Engish Lit majors, and will not be analyzing her novel for strategy and success or failure of literary technique. And knowing that, I will say that this is an incredibly enjoyable read—one that will keep you interested and wanting to know more.