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The Divergent series by Veronica Roth (i.e. Divergent, Insurgent and Allegiant) is set in a dystopian version of Chicago. It is similar to The Hunger Games with less emphasis on the gladiator-like survival combat and more on political unrest, revolt and conspiracy. You’ll like the fact that it’s action packed and centres around a society that’s divided by personality types.
The Concept/World: Veronica does a good job of building an alternate version of Chicago. The idea of Factions is kind of unique. It’s rare to read about a society where people are split up based on their personality type instead of how they look.
It’s been done but not in the last three to five decades.
As you read through the novels, you come to understand more about the truth of the world the Factions live in.
The full history or background isn’t available until the third book Allegiant. In some ways, however it felt like it was coming a bit late in the game. After Tris learns the truth, you wonder what’s supposed to happen next.
The Divergent series reminds me of the movie The Truman Show with Jim Carrey. You have all these Factions in the city but no one really knows how it all started.
Action Pacing: There’s always something going on — everything ranging from fist fights, stabbings, shooting, bombings or attacks by mind controlling serums. There’s conflict throughout the series. You won’t be bored at all.
It’s no surprise since the heroine of the story joined a somewhat violent Faction (the Dauntless). Roth doesn’t pull any punches getting most familiar minor characters around Tris killed (whether by Tris herself or someone else).
The Themes: The novels touch on various themes including discrimination (for being “Divergent” or genetically different), stereotyping, fear of change, fear of the truth, fear of the unknown. Since this is a teen novel, the fear of not “fitting in” is appealing.
What does Tris do? She joins the Dauntless though she has qualities of other Factions and hence is Divergent. She worries that she doesn’t belong with any Faction.
Science and Language: Divergent touches on some science concepts like “genes” and includes mind control through hallucinations. Is it complicated to your average teen? I didn’t think so.
Veronica does a good job of keeping things simple for the reader. Even though I have a background in science I can say from a fairly well-read reader’s perspective that the language is easy to understand on the whole. It’s definitely not Harry Potter simple though it works fine for teens.
The Romance: The romance scenes with Tris and Four are hit and miss. They tend to slow the pacing to a halt and I wasn’t dazzled by the chemistry. I found myself more interested in the relationships and conflicts between Tris and the other characters.
When the plot gets twisted near the end of the final book Allegiant, Tris and Four’s relationship is strained. Let’s just say it touches on the theme of discrimination and not fitting in (again).
Compared to the way the romance was done in the Mortal Instruments series for example, Tris and Four’s story was less memorable to me. The plot twists had less dramatic impact on the romance than it did in Clare’s series. That is my opinion.
The Plot Twists: Some reviewers elsewhere felt that Roth re-wrote or re-imagined what happened in previous scenes to fit the story later down the road. Do I agree with them?
Describing them would spoil some of the surprises in the book so I won’t.
One of the things that was kind of irksome was that no one learned the whole truth until the series was nearly over.
The Ending: Oh the ending… I personally found it kind of disappointing. I can understand that Roth might have wanted an atypical ending simply to go against the grain. It seemed unsatisfying is all.
Let’s just say that not everybody gets to live happily ever after in a really big way.
The Divergent series by Veronica Roth (i.e. Divergent, Insurgent and Allegiant) is an interesting and action-packed take on themes of stereotypes and discrimination. If you’re into dystopic young adult fiction you’ll be fairly entertained by the plot twists in the series. As a teen romance it was only somewhat satisfying especially with the way the ending was written.