I am not normally a huge fan of dystopian novels, but this one had me at the dedication. Yes, seriously.
As you know from my last post, this was my vacation read, and I soaked it up as eagerly as I did the sun. In fact, I originally intended to use it as a giveaway, but that was before I couldn't keep my greasy, sunblock-and-pool-water-coated hands off it. Now I'd feel guilty sending it away with warped pages and a sheen of Coppertone.
Anyhow, here is the summary from Goodreads:
In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.
During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.
The very first time we meet Beatrice she's sitting in front of the mirror, something her faction (Abnegation) only allows once every third month, when she's having her hair cut by her mother. It's such a simple image, but it stuck in my mind after I read the dedication: To my mother, who gave me the moment when Beatrice realizes how strong her mother is and wonders how she missed it for so long.
Considering my own mother narrowly avoided being admitted to the hospital right before I left, and how close I am to her, those words struck a nerve. And by the end of the book when I was still thinking about them... well, let's just say it wasn't pool water running down my face.
Yes, there is a lot of violence in this book, but it wouldn't be dystopian if it were about rainbows and butterflies. The violence is a necessary part of Beatrice's self-discovery as she moves further into the initiation of the Dauntless faction.
Her choice is one I would never have made for myself - jumping off moving trains? Entering simulations that force you to face your worst fears? - no thank you. But the way she handles herself made me root for her when she's victorious and feel for her when she's fallable. I may not identify with Beatrice, but I definitely respect her.
And of course, I have to give props for the romantic aspect of the story. It builds up slowly, almost torturously, and it's totally delicious when it finally happens. More, please!
As far as plot and pacing, this is pretty much a masterpiece. It's almost 500 pages, yet never felt too long. Even with a lot of characters to keep track of, I didn't find myself confused. And that's saying a lot, because too many characters is a huge pet peeve of mine. My only real beef is that sometimes Beatrice seems a little TOO invincible, i.e., still jumping on and off moving trains after serious injuries. I know being Dauntless is about pushing your limits, but I'm not sure the body of a short, skinny 16-year old could really have handled all that. At least not without some major internal bleeding.
Still, I love novels that get you thinking, and this one definitely does. I found myself wondering which qualities really are the best for leadership? Is it more important to be honest or fearless? Can power ever really be shared equally, or will one side always harbor a hidden agenda?
I may not have the answers, but I can't wait to get Veronica Roth's take on it in book 2, Insurgent. In the mean time, I'd love to get your take on it. What did you love about Divergent?