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Review: Divergent (Roth)

AUTHOR: Veronica Roth
SERIES: Divergent, Book 1
PUBLISHER: HarperCollins
ISBN: 9780062024022
PAGES: 489
SOURCE: public library
GENRE: Dystopia
GIVE IT TO: MS, HS boys and girls

SUMMARY: Having just turned 16, Beatrice “Tris” must choose among five factions, each representing a virtue: courage, selflessness, honesty, intelligence, and friendliness. Once she chooses, Tris undergoes the initiation process, a brutal set of trials designed to test her strengths and weaknesses and to determine if she will be allowed to join the faction or become one of the factionless.

READALIKES: Matched; The Hunger Games; The Maze Runner; Delirium; any number of recently-published YA dystopias


  • Overall: 4/5–Really good but slow in parts
  • Creativity: 5/5; while I have read many YA dystopias, this one’s uniqueness stands on its own
  • Characters: 3/5; loved some characters, annoyed by others
  • Engrossing: 3/5; parts are engrossing, parts are slow
  • Appeal to teens: 4/5; many will love it; dystopian fiction is hot right now
  • Appropriate length to tell the story: 3/5; a little too long and slow. I can see some of my students abandoning it before they give it a chance.


  • Language: none
  • Sexuality: medium; two incidents of sexual humiliation (a boy feels a girl’s breasts through her shirt; a girl’s towel is taken when she has just showered); some intense kissing and talk of sex
  • Violence: high; multiple murders and attempted murders; a suicide; teens handle guns and knives multiple times; multiple death-defying experiences; lots of blood, injuries, death
  • Drugs/Alcohol: medium; teens are considered adults at 16 and get drunk in two scenes

STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: On order. Divergent is on the 2012-2013 Lone Star Reading List, so it will be getting lots of requests soon. I will also recommend it to certain students (those who loved The Maze Runner, The Knife of Never-Letting Go, and Delirium).

WARNING: The reviews on this site are intended for librarians who need thorough book reviews in order to make informed purchasing decisions. As such, anything below this warning may contain mild spoilers. I try not to give away too much, but I do review the entire book.

WHAT I LIKED: Let me just put this out there for those who didn’t already know: Dystopia has been my FAVORITE genre since I first read Orwell’s 1984 in college. Since the publication of The Hunger Games, the dystopia genre has exploded in YA literature, blessedly draining some of the life from the vampire/paranormal craze. That said, it’s really no surprise to me that, despite its flaws, I really enjoyed Divergent. I love the unique premise of choosing factions, how the factions represent different virtues and blame war for a lack of those virtues. The factions are well-defined, and it is easy to see how they both help to solve the problem of war and create new problems at the same time.

I really liked the character Four. He is a perfect exercise in contradictions; the tough-but-sensitive, fearless-but-afraid, thinking-but-impulsive, hot-then-cold boy that makes teen girls swoon. He is a good match for Tris and helps remind readers that Tris is, in fact, a girl.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE: I have seen some very high praise for Divergent, but to me, the plot is sluggish at times. Once I was “into” the story, I read the entire thing straight through, but in the first 200 pages, I could honestly have taken or left it. While I can see many of my middle schoolers enjoying Divergent, I can also see many abandoning it before the story really kicks in.

While I appreciate and understand Tris’s toughness, I got irritated with Tris from time to time. She is so tough that she seems too boyish. She is flat-chested and skinny, further enhancing a boyish image of Tris. For some reason, it bothers me that Tris is so masculine, especially when a large part of the storyline is her romance with Four. She is a hothead who seems to always be angry or upset about something; the only way she deals with angry feelings is to get revenge or punch someone’s lights out. That is understandable considering the faction she chooses, but for me, it was a bit of overkill. She just seems so pissed all the time.

The final reveal of the “mastermind” behind the whole plan/climax of the story also seems a bit “Scooby-Doo” to me. Characters discover the extent of the evil plan because the criminal responsible for it goes into a lengthy confessional for no apparent reason.

Despite its flaws, Divergent is a promising debut from author Veronica Roth; while the story is not perfect, I look forward to reading the next series installment: Insurgent, due in May 2012.

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