This review originally posted on www.shereads.org last month.
Veronica Roth’s DIVERGENT series has taken the YA literary world by storm, comparable to the popularity of TWILIGHT and THE HUNGER GAMES in previous years. Some readers are eager to jump on the bandwagon and experience the latest all-the-rage series, while others are left with questions:
- Does it really stand up to the hype?
- Could it really be as good as The Hunger Games?
- Is it worth reading the book if I already saw the movie?
- Can I go see the movie with young adults without feeling awkward?
- Is the movie more than just a reason to go watch Theo James on the big screen for a few hours?
The answer is a whole-hearted YES on all counts.
DIVERGENT is a dystopian trilogy taking place in a far-future Chicago. War has left the city in disrepair, and in an effort to keep peace people are divided between five factions: Abnegation (the selfless), Candor (the honest), Amity (the peaceful), Erudite (the intelligent), and Dauntless (the brave). When the story opens, the main character, Beatrice (Tris) Prior is preparing for the test that will help her choose which faction she’ll enter for her adulthood: Abnegation, which she was born into, or one of the other four. The drama begins, though, when Tris’s test results are inconclusive and she has to navigate society as one who doesn’t fit with just one faction; she is what they call Divergent, and that makes her a target of society leaders.
As a writer, Veronica Roth is incredibly talented. She has created a future world that is fascinating and believable, yet far-fetched enough that it feels not like home. There are references to known Chicago landmarks, making the setting recognizable and relatable. Her characters, while futuristic, are also completely relatable – it only takes a few pages to get drawn into Tris’s story, which starts in DIVERGENT, continues in INSURGENT, and resolves in ALLEGIANT. I’m also intrigued by the fact that she started writing this in college and, even now, with three books out, a major motion picture, and a fourth book coming soon, is only twenty-five years old. That’s crazy!
I saw the movie on opening night, and it was great. Really. But, it didn’t get anywhere near the level of detail that you find in the books. I know that’s a common complaint with movies based on books, but in this case it’s not just a casual observation about the movie; it’s a compliment to the depth of Roth’s writing. I love the way she has broken people down into factions to describe personality types and how that forces you think about human nature as you read. I love that there’s plenty of romantic appeal in Tris’s relationship with Four (played by Theo James, as seen in the movie poster) and that their relationship is supportive and exciting without being sexual. I love the suspense and intrigue that keep you reading without being able to stop – I blew through all three books in a week and just couldn’t get enough.
Basically, I just love this trilogy. This is one case where, whether you see the movie before or after reading the books, you really need to read the books. I won’t say they’re an easy, lighthearted read – the emotional rollercoaster is a wild one, and the characters and storyline will dominate your thoughts even while you’re not reading – but I will promise that they’re worth your time!