Unpopular Book Review: “Divergent”

I know I’m late to this party, but, well, it’s no Hunger Games. (Warning: spoilers!) 

Before you all crucify me, let me just say that I think it’s great that a young adult book has a strong girl as the protagonist. It’s also amazing that there is racial diversity (which is frequently reiterated — thank the wooly wallabies that Christina wasn’t whitewashed in the movie, which I haven’t seen yet). Moreover, the friendship between Tris and Christina is genuine and sweet, which is rare in YA fiction.

Cover of Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent focuses way too much on the budding romance between Tris and Four. It’s boring. I found myself skipping huge chunks of text where they were mooning over each other the way only hormonal teenagers can (she wrote, reminded of the young couple who were loudly sucking face  on a very packed train yesterday). I know I’m not the target audience for this book, as a grown (gay) woman, but I do enjoy YA fiction, and I loved The Hunger Games with a fervent passion. Give me teenage girls  kicking butt and taking names, give me young women ruling the world, but please keep their mooning over boys (who don’t deserve them) to yourself.

I hated how many times Four had to save Tris.

The book’s end game seemed like  half-hearted “strong girl” message: sure, you can be strong, but you better make sure a strong boy is nearby to save you when you’re a damsel in distress. In The Hunger Games, I loved that Katniss was forever bailing Peeta out of messy situations because it took the damsel trope and smashed it over the head, and it was deliciously refreshing. Divergent left me disappointed and decidedly underwhelmed.

I hated how choppy the plot was — we can spend pages on end describing how Four’s hands feel on her shoulders, but major plot points don’t unfold; they explode with little exposition. Learning how the Erudite planned to control the Dauntless wasn’t a slow realization, it was immediate and felt rushed.

That brings me to another point: I really disliked the 2-dimensional character development for the “evil” characters. Molly is not only mean, but “ugly” as well, and never shows any sort of humanity — ditto Peter, Eric, and Drew. Jeanine is simply greedy and evil. It feels too much like Slytherin House in Harry Potter. While our heroes are spending whole chapters making out on trains, with in-depth descriptions of tongues (ew), the villains of the story are just that, and nothing more.

After the attack on Abegnation begins, we get a split second of Tris’ mother being a supreme boss just before she’s gunned down. The other deaths that resulted from the fight felt forced and because we didn’t get much character development for any of them, I didn’t really care when they died. It was no red wedding, that’s for sure.

Divergent left me wanting more — more Tris and Christina, more Tori, more of what Jeanine’s motivations are. The romance aspect of the novel doesn’t add anything to the plot; if anything, it is nothing more than a distraction from what could have been a really compelling dystopian trilogy.

I haven’t finished the series yet, but I will. I haven’t seen the movie yet either, but yes, I will.


2 replies on “Unpopular Book Review: “Divergent””

It wasn’t great. I felt like all of the characters were cardboard cutouts of themselves. And when people started dying? Meh. Because I didn’t KNOW them well enough to care.

Of course, did I read the next two? Of course. They’re so short, I got all three done in one afternoon by the reservoir.

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