Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Katherine Tegen Books, 2011
I originally avoided this book because I didn't like the cover but then I kept seeing loads of positive reviews so I thought I would give it a try, hoping for a fast-paced, fun story. I ended up thinking it was good, not great.
In future Chicago, people are divided into five factions passed on specific priorities. Candor values truthfulness and plain speaking; Amity values peacefulness; Erudite values intelligence; Dauntless values bravery; and Abnegation values renunciation of self in the service of others. Beatrice is born into the Abnegation faction but she has her opportunity to choose after taking a test. Those test results are inconclusive as she shows aptitude for three factions, meaning she is "Divergent," a powerful but also dangerous position. When the time comes, she chooses Dauntless feeling herself unequal to the selflessness of Abnegation.
When she arrives at her new faction she chooses the name Tris, makes new friends, gets several tattoos, and meets an intriguing boy named Four. Now all of the descriptions of her settling into her new faction are interesting with many great scenes and lots of action. But they definitely could have been edited down so that we could get into the meat of the story faster; namely that there are power-hungry people in Erudite who are planning to use the people of Dauntless in an army to overthrow the current leaders of the government (who all come from Abnegation and are theoretically the least likely to be self-serving).
Because of Tris' status as Divergent, she has special powers (of course) and she must gather her wits and marshal her forces to stop the machinations of Erudite and protect her family. I appreciated the deaths in these scenes, which drove home the danger of their society and made life much more difficult for Tris. There's also a bit of romance, between Tris and Four, which at first I wasn't into but after they spent a lot of time together, talking and being pretty vulnerable, especially Four when he revealed his deeper fears, I think they are a couple I can get behind.
One last thing I liked was that there wasn't a giant cliffhanger. Don't get me wrong, there are questions aplenty about what how the society will recover and restructure following the events of the last pages but we are provided with breathing space and a measure of contentment because Tris relaxes with Four.
I guess the biggest problem for me (which is stated by Four later in the book) is how thoroughly everyone buys into the virtue of their particular faction instead of wanting to have parts of all of them. I mean, those are all good traits to have so to scorn possessing all five in favor of just one seemed ludicrous to me. I'm not sure how long this has been going on but surely other people within the society had those thoughts. Are we all so into groupthink that we can have our personalities subsumed? On a more personal level, I hated that Erudite Faction had the plotters because I'm pretty sure that would be my faction although it makes the most sense that Erudite would have the plotters because Amity wants peace, Candor and Abnegation couldn't be hidden and manipulative enough, and Dauntless isn't smart enough.
Overall: A good debut and I'm sure I will read the sequel at some point.
Cover: Is that fire the sign of Dauntless or the sign of Divergent? Or something else entirely? Not sure if that was explained.
Some SPOILER questions for the next book: why are so many Divergent born in Abnegation? Is Tris' mom really dead-she won't be resurrected for plot convenience or by some evil Erudite plan? How many survived the killings (which kind of reminded me of Anakin slaying the Jedi in Episode III)?