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Monday, March 21, 2011

"Perfect Society" Meets Punk-Rock Action and Thrills

Divergent by Veronica Roth
(Review based on Advanced Reader Copy of book.)

If I could tell you (the adoring public) to read a book and know--absolutely know--that you would pick it up and actually read it, this post would read "Divergent by Veronica Roth comes out in May. Read it. The end."

Sadly, my every whim does not typically get carried out by the rest of the world, so here are some plot points and other fun facts.

The world has changed into one none of us would recognize. In order to avoid wars and the negative aspects of humanity that go along with them, a dystopian American society has broken up into five distinct factions, each one a representative of a virtue that some people think can keep conflict at bay. In Candor, members strive to only tell the truth, hurtful or uncomfortable as it might be. Dauntless is for the brave, the protectors. Amity lifestyle is that of peace, no matter how it is obtained, while Erudites value knowledge above all else. And, lastly, there is Abnegation, dictating a plain, selfless lifestyle, others first at all times.

Having grown up in Abnegation, Beatrice has always lived a quiet, subservient life, though not a bad one. On the eve of her sixteenth birthday, she and her brother enter a simulation, rather like a career test, to tell them in which faction they most belong. Beatrice, though, is Divergent--for her there is no answer, and for her own protection, she can tell no one. Surprising even herself at the choosing ceremony, she walks away from her family and all she knows to join the dangerous, studded and tattooed Dauntless group, the daredevils and action-seekers of her world.

What follows is a dangerous, passionate ride through which our protagonist learns strength, freedom of spirit, and independence as she works to prove herself in a faction that might never accept her for her prior lifestyle. These punk-rocker types jump off of buildings, hurl knives at one another, and face their darkest fears in realistic simulations in order to grow stronger, better, and fearless, and it is a grueling process for everyone, including the reader. Some fellow Dauntless initiates become friends while others become feared opponents, and even their instructor, Four, makes Beatrice's new life confusing as she finds herself both repelled and drawn to his rock-steady attitude and frustrating ways.

Throughout her journey, Beatrice must put up with verbal abuse about her home faction and a steady stream of published insults from one faction to another, and tensions rise throughout the city. Is another war coming, or will everything settle down? What defines loyalty, bravery, and equality? What role will Beatrice play in her new Dauntless family, and is it worth everything she has lost and left behind?

This action-packed, thrilling book is full of interesting characters and intense plot turns. While Beatrice occasionally fumbles and works to deal with her own insecurities, she is a strong female protagonist, working hard to prove her worth, not just to others but also to herself. Occasional cliches pop up--I have yet to read a book without at least one or two--but Roth's writing is such that as a reader, I don't actually care. It's just so good!

Divergent is awesome. Really. If you're a fan of the Hunger Games/Post-apocalyptic/Perfect-society/Science-fiction world, you will enjoy it.

Author Veronica Roth is a 22-year old graduate of Northwestern University, and Divergent is her debut novel, the first in a trilogy. It has already been optioned for a movie (the film rights went to Summit Entertainment), and I expect the entire enterprise to be a runaway hit (and rightly so). Publication of Divergent is expected May 3, 2011.


Age 14+
Copyright May 2011
ISBN: 9780062024022
Available as an eBook (at publication)
Image from www.harpercollins.com

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