Review: the Divergent trilogy, by Veronica Roth
When it comes to the Divergent trilogy, I’m a bit late to the party. I’ve only just read the series, despite the fact that the third and final book came out recently and there’s a film adaptation underway.
It was the buzz about the third book, Allegiant, that piqued my interest in the series. The book provoked a lot of debate, even anger in some cases, but the consensus seems to be that the series ending doesn’t live up to the promise of the original book.
On a whim, I recently downloaded the Kindle app on my phone and bought Divergent, keen to see what all the fuss was about. Less than two weeks later, I’ve finished all three books and am thoroughly addicted to Kindle. I’m sensing a new shopping habit in my future…
It’s difficult to discuss these books without giving away certain plot points, but I’ll do my best to avoid too many spoilers!
For those that haven’t read the Divergent trilogy, it is a YA series set in a dystopian world where society is divided into five factions, each with a very different approach to life. At sixteen, citizens must undergo aptitude testing and decide which faction they want to spend their lives in, before going through initiation.
The series follows Tris as she embraces a life that is a world away from the one she was born to and forms a relationship with the beautiful but intense Four. But as she completes the initiation process, Tris realises that the city she lives in has more secrets than she ever knew and it could be on the verge of destruction.
As the series opens, we see Beatrice Prior as a normal girl, living a regular life with her family in the Abnegation faction, which advocates a selfless life. But Beatrice has never felt that she was good or selfless enough; somewhere inside she has always felt the desire to lead a different life.
She chooses to move to the Dauntless faction, where life is dangerous but thrilling.
The first book focuses on Beatrice’s journey from quiet Abnegation girl to brave and brutal fighter, Tris. After joining Dauntless, Tris and the other initiates must undertake a series of trials before they can become full members of the faction. This leads to some tense scenes as the group compete against each other, training to fight and overcome their own fears.
Of the three books, Divergent was my favourite; I couldn’t put it down and read it in just a few hours. The story is full of action and introduces us to Tris’ world and the five factions, all of which have very different rules.
The author really manages to get inside Tris’ head, exploring her insecurities and fears, and how she manages to move past them.
The romance with Four, an older boy responsible for training the initiates, is also compelling. Initially he is stern and fearsome, yet as the story progresses we understand that he is a good guy with a troubled soul, who admires Tris for her fearlessness.
Divergent also features a shocking plot twist that leads to a thrilling conclusion.
Book two picks up the action where we left it at the close of book one. Life in the city has been changed forever and Tris must deal with the fallout, as the factions war against each other.
The pace slows a little in Insurgent, as the author introduces us to some of the other factions in more detail and spends time describing what the people and their lives are like. As Dauntless is the group that embraces danger, the other factions are unfortunately a bit dull in comparison.
However, various intrigues and attacks soon increase the drama again, until a number of secrets are revealed at the end of the book.
And for the first time, the relationship between Tris and Four is threatened by her need to save others even if it means putting herself at risk.
The third and final book in the series, Allegiant received a lot of hype on its release this year, not all of it good.
The story sees Tris, Four and a group of their allies venture outside the city to discover the truth about their purpose and find a way to unite the warring factions.
Although Allegiant features its share of action sequences, it just doesn’t have the pace of the earlier books, especially Divergent. After experiencing so much loss and trauma, Tris and Four are not the same characters they were, and that’s an understandable progression.
In this book we learn a bit more about Four, as the story alternates between his perspective and that of Tris, unlike the previous books, which told the story entirely through her eyes. This device wasn’t as jarring as I expected, although a few times I got halfway through a chapter before I remembered it was Four speaking and not Tris.
As the book progresses there are several big revelations that provide background to the plot and a couple of pivotal scenes that seemed underdone. I don’t usually condone over-the-top drama in a book, but these moments were so important to the story that the author could have milked a little more emotion from them, as they were over too quickly.
Overall this was a good novel; it didn’t disappoint me and I felt the ending was appropriate. However, the first book was so thrilling, it’s a shame that the series didn’t come to an end with the same level of adrenalin.
As a series, this is an exciting journey through a dystopian world that explores some interesting ideas about the future of genetics and human nature.
Tris makes a strong YA heroine; although she comes from a humble background where she is encouraged to remain quiet and respectful, when she joins Dauntless she discovers an inner strength. Although she gets into some dangerous situations, it never feels like Tris is the archetypal damsel in distress, just waiting for someone to save her. Often she has the skills and bravery to save herself and her friends.
The relationship between Tris and Four is also powerful, although at times it is frustrating how determined they are to keep secrets that threaten not only their own connection, but also lead to potentially lethal situations.
However, I’m glad I read the Divergent trilogy as it’s an entertaining and dramatic read. If you enjoyed The Hunger Games, it might be worth giving this series a go too.