Sunday, 13 March 2011
So far today, it is 6 45pm and I have not yet showered, dressed, brushed my hair or even my teeth. I have only been on the internet once today, in the middle of the afternoon and even this was for a short period. Why? Because I’ve been reading an ARC of Divergent by Veronica Roth, which is such a compelling read that I haven’t been able to put it down. To be fair, in the front of the ARC there is a warning that such behaviours will develop once reading commences so it’s not like I wasn’t told beforehand. And consider this fair warning to yourself. When you have the opportunity to read this amazing novel, CLEAR YOUR SCHEDULE.
I have to say that I’ve been desperate to read Divergent since I first heard about it, which seems like a really long time ago now. I live in the UK and it’s really difficult to get any US ARC’s so I didn’t hold out much hope of reading this until the release date. I was so confident that this book was amazing that I pre-ordered before I’d even read it! Then, I heard that a friend won a contest on Veronica’s blog post it notes with little insights from Veronica herself. And said friend let me borrow the book (Zoe, I might just love you for that). I started the book this morning and finished it this evening. At 487 pages, I consider Divergent to be a masterpiece of epic proportions and an outstanding debut novel.
Divergent is the story of 16 year old Beatrice (Tris) and her journey into adulthood. Set in a dystopian society, in order to eradicate war and ensure peace, people are sectioned into five factions based on their personality types. These are Abnegation (selflessness), Candor (honesty), Dauntless (protection), Amity (peacefulness) and Erudite (Knowledge/learning). Tris was born and raised in Abnegation but doesn’t always feel like she fits in. Having just turned 16, she must take the aptitude test to determine which faction she will join for the rest of her life. Sounds simple doesn’t it? But the test results are inconclusive and suddenly she is the one who has to choose. The rest of the book is one long initiation ceremony into her chosen faction with three stages that she must pass not only to join the faction, but ultimately to survive.
I have a confession to make. I was not always a fan of the Dystopian genre. I figured it was all doom and gloom, a post apocalyptic nightmare and ultimately a depressing read. This was of course before I had started reading Dystopian novels and believe me when I tell you that I was wrong. Very wrong. Having read books like The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Matched by Allyson Condie and Delirium by Lauren Oliver, I can firmly say that I am now a HUGE fan of Dystopia.
Whilst I think there will be the inevitable comparisons with The Hunger Games, I truly believe that Divergent is what fans of The Hunger Games have been waiting for since that series ended. You wanted a new Katniss Everdeen? Well you got one in Tris Prior. Tris is an unlikely hero of sorts. She’s small and skinny in stature and has no physical attributes to speak of. But she’s smart and level headed (even if she does like heights – eek). She isn’t afraid to stick up for others and her bravery is demonstrated by the choices she makes. Although I really don’t want to, I keep picturing Avril Lavigne in my head as Tris. The way Avril used to be all dressed up in her skater getup.
Tris’s love interest comes in the form of Four who is such a great character. I loved the strength emanating from him, not just physically but mentally and emotionally. His strength of character made him stand out for the reader. Despite his strength, there is a section of the book where we are privileged to see his vulnerable side and instead of making him appear weak, I just found it endearing and by this point I was already in love with him anyway! LOL Did I mention he was hot?! Of course he is and I can add another guy to my list of literary crushes. Only this time, it may be more than a crush ;)
There were a lot of minor characters in the book (as you would expect) and what I liked about ALL the characters in the book is that they are neither good nor bad. They all seem to have elements of both to them and isn’t this how it is? No yin without yang, right? No darkness without light? It’s all about balance. So the society decided to divide the people into factions in order to keep the peace but did it really work? Well you’ll just have to read the book to find out what happens.
I’m trying really hard not to say too much about plot and where the story goes as I’m wary of spoiling it for people. I will say though that the book asks a lot of questions about choice, leadership qualities, what it means to be brave, and if it’s possible to create an idealistic society.
I’m very happy to report that whilst the ending is left open for a sequel, you won’t be shouting or throwing the book across the room because there is no cliffhanger so to speak. Yep, you heard it right, THERE IS NO CLIFFHANGER. I find this, together with the absence of a love triangle remarkably and surprisingly refreshing.
Divergent had everything for me – a strong plot, interesting characters, secrets, mystery, murder and romance. It ticked all the boxes and is sure to become this year’s big hit. I certainly hope so because the book deserves it. I’ll say it again, this is an OUTSTANDING debut novel and might just be my book of the year.
Thank you to Harper Collins Children's Books for sending me my very own ARC after borrowing my friend's. Divergent is published on 28th April in the UK and 3rd May in the US. To find out more about Veronica and her book, click here. She is also active on Facebook and Twitter.