Sunday, 29 April 2012

Divergent by Veronica Roth

DivergentIts not very often that I re-read books. Not because I don’t want to, but because there are so many unread books out there. Thus, re-reading is usually reserved for when I’m unwell and need that comfort of something familiar, something that I know will work out alright in the end - Harry Potter or anything by Eva Ibbotsen. This week, though, I have been re-reading Veronica Roth’s Divergent.
What is Divergent about? I always have great difficulty trying to summarise Divergent for my customers at Waterstones. It’s set in a future world where society is comprised of five factions, each one characterised by the ideals it subscribes to. Citizens are born into a faction, but when they turn 16, they undergo an aptitude test to determine with which faction their temperament more closely adheres to. It’s the choice of a lifetime: to stay with their family or to change allegiance, and risk never seeing them again. Tris’s choice is made even harder; her aptitude test reveals that she is a divergent, that she has no single overriding aptitude. How can she possibly know which faction is going to be best one for her? And, even worse, if anyone discovers she is divergent, her life will be forfeit.
Clearly, there’s a lot more to this book and this world than the above. The boundaries between factions, instead of maintaining peace, as was the original intention, are breaking down. The factions are supposed to make everything black and white, but Tris is set to discover that the truth is usually grey. Factions, instead of leaving each other in respectful peace, are starting to criticise one another, to demand change. Is war on the horizon? And Tris’s chosen faction is definitely not what it seemed. People are out for power, and they aren’t going to let little things like morals get in their way. 
This is a novel written for teenagers, and so incorporates all the teenage standards and coming of age stuff: drama, action, a bit of romance, and learning to question what, in childhood, what was easily accepted. It’s great escapism, and that’s one of the reasons why I chose to re-read it. Another reason is the dreamy Four, who I defy anyone not to fall for. Also, the follow-up to Divergent is released in May - Insurgent - and I was having trouble remembering exactly what happened at the end of Divergent. I thought about just re-reading the last few chapters, but caved and decided I needed to learn about Four from the beginning all over again!
Verdict? It was as good this time around as it was the first time. There are a lot of teenage dystopian-style books on the market at the moment and this is definitely, in my opinion, one of the better ones. And I’m not just saying that because I’ve got a crush on Four. It compares favourably with Susanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy, as well as Ally Condie’s fantastic Matched. They all tackle similar issues, granted - the role of government in determining the minutae of everyday life being a significant theme - and to someone who isn’t that bothered about teenage books they make look similar, because they tackle similar ideas (the utopia/dystopia boundary, governmental power and corruption), but each one has does have an originality rather than just hashing out the same basic storyline. And, even though I’d read it before, Divergent still got my heart pounding just as hard this time around.

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