I'm not sure where to start, so I'm going with the obvious.
I didn't like this book. At all. But I didn't dislike it, either. I HATED it.
So, be aware that the rest of this rather long review is negative. If you're a fan of Divergent, I suggest you stay away - I don't want to hurt your feelings. I'll try to tag the spoilers, but some of them will probably pop up here and there anyway.
Why did I hate it? I'm going to compile a basic and very unfinished list of reasons.
2) Bland, repetitive writing
3) A painfully predictable plot
5) A cast of hateful, stupid characters
8) Too many coincidences
9) Idiotic world-building
Really, though, this book took years off my life. You have no idea how much energy it took to actually pick up Divergent when I could have been reading something awesome. Don't get me wrong - when I brought the book home, I suspected I was going to dislike it. I only decided to force myself through it because I wanted to be able to say I had.....I just don't think I expected it to be quite this awful.
Let be begin with that first, fourth, sixth, and tenth item on the list: Tris. Our "brave" and "selfless" main character.
She was repetitive. I must've seen the sentence I am brave written down at least ten times. She also kept harping on the fact that she was small "like a little girl", as if she thought maybe I'd have forgotten about it since she mentioned it two paragraphs ago. She kept reminding me that she was "selfless", that she didn't want to be so "selfless" but that she kept doing it accidentally, that she could be both "brave" and "selfless", that her "selflessness" made her stand out.
Tris was not brave, and was not selfless. She was cruel, and stupid, and hormonal, and whiny, and petty. And she kept praising herself. She would disguise it as self-loathing, but in reality she'd just turn it around and inform me again that she was "selfless" or "brave", and that she was better than everyone else because of this and this and that. I mean, who even does that?
I hate it when authors keep shoving self-praise down my throat, okay? I prefer to be able to judge the characters by myself - in fact, I do judge them by myself no matter what, so when I see the MC constantly whacking me over the head with all her supposedly positive personality traits, it only irritates me.
Let me tell you some stuff about Tris. I'll use my status updates for a guideline.
At the beginning of the book, Tris and a bunch of other kids end up jumping off a moving train and onto a rooftop. One girl doesn't make it (maybe she tripped over a shoelace or hesitated a second too long, or wanted to make sure her sibling made it safely before she jumped, or somebody shoved her at the last second), and Tris looks down at the girl's broken body seven stories below. She, and the other thirty or so people on the roof, basically shrug their shoulders and say, "Oh, well."
......Like it doesn't matter that a girl's entire life was just wasted because you think it looks cool to jump off of moving trains? I swear, not a single person cared at all.
Tris also looks down her nose at the factionless - who are basically people with multiple personality traits and minds of their own, who don't feel the need to join a snotty club to survive. Seriously, she treats them like people treated the lepers - like they're disgusting and dangerous and a burden on regular human society. (She's not the only one, but in the corrupt government I could have handled it. In the main character I'm supposed to root for....no. Just no.)
Here's a piece of one of my status updates, which I think states my opinion on another facet of the book:
And what's with this condescension toward the factionless? I don't know about these idiotic characters, but personally I would rather live in the slums somewhere AND BE MYSELF and BE ALLOWED A VARIETY OF PERSONALITY, than be stuck in some snotty holier-than-thou faction with no imagination. I mean, the kid who didn't make it onto the train, because he was too slow to jump? What if he was the bravest Dauntless ever, but he was just overweight or skin and bones, or he'd been ill recently, or he had a slight limp in one leg? Hmm? What then? Nothing about being "brave" says you have to be in peak physical condition all the time, and by the way, that kid wasn't told that there was any "initiation" or that he'd be instantly considered factionless just for tripping over an untied shoelace and missing his train.
(This was a different kid than the girl who died. This guy didn't quite make it onto the train.)
Anyway. Back to our brave, selfless heroine.
There was a time when Tris did well in her training, and her friends were more shocked than congratulatory. Immediately, she went into sulking mode. She began thinking badly of them and deciding that they weren't worth her time. Let me emphasize that they didn't do anything offensive to her. They didn't try to beat her up, or insult her, or mock her, or sabotage her training, or anything. And yet our precious Tris was viciously wondering why she put up with them in the first place.
She also says that although she doesn't need them, what if she WANTS them? And with that idea there, she's labeling them as her property. She's basically saying that it's her choice, and hers alone, whether or not to be friends with them. Like because she, the all-powerful Tris who beat them in the rankings, wants them as friends, they don't have the option to dump her and go find better friends for themselves.
Throughout the course of the book, Tris refuses to forgive multiple people when they apologize. She keeps pointing out people's physical flaws, like being a bit overweight or having greasy hair or crooked teeth (all the villains in this book are ugly, and all the "good guys" - although I hesitate to call them that - are stunningly attractive, by the way), like it's their physical form that makes them evil and nasty. She shoves away a friend who was crying on her shoulder and dashes off without a word because she didn't want to deal with any of it. She laughs at the thought of somebody pointing a gun at a kid's head for fun. She admires people who deliberately design their faction's home as a deathtrap (think of innocent toddlers falling from high places that have no railings), who might kick elders out into the street because they can't jump on and off of moving trains anymore, who use near-death experiences as punishment for children who make mistakes, and who treat humans like so many ants.She wastes time kissing her boyfriend when hundreds of people are being massacred because she's taking too long. She hears a homesick boy crying nearby, and decides that it would be braver and smarter to feel disdain for his weakness, rather than to go and comfort him. (What kind of human being can hear another crying - especially since, at sixteen, the crying boy was practically still a kid - and even pretend to think like that?)
Tris is not a "strong female lead", okay? She's a petty, whiny witch.
Oh, and I'm going to point out that not all of the Dauntless children will grow up to stay in their faction. If one of those poor three-year-olds developed, say, paralyzing arachnophobia, the Dauntless would probably put him in a room with a thousand spiders to try and make him "face his fear", and too bad if he dies of a heart attack. Like they have any right to try and change who this theoretical kid is? They'd refuse to accept him as he is, and probably kill him off before he gets the chance to jump to another faction who might actually appreciate him.
I have no sympathy for the Dauntless. I'm sorry. They have yet to realize that bravery is an act of will, and has nothing whatsoever to do with physical fitness or intelligence. And being fearless isn't being brave, by the way, so all this nonsense about teaching people to be less fearful is stupid. They should be coaching people to deal with their fears, rather than trying to eliminate them. After all, if you're not afraid, there's no such thing as bravery. Bravery only exists because of fear, because you push past your fear and act anyway. If you take away all your fears, you're not brave, you're just reckless and have no sense of self-preservation.
Actually, I have no sympathy for any of the factions. The world-building in this book is so idiotic. Sometimes there is no way to be selfless. What would an Abnegation woman do if two selfish choices were in front of her - say, if somebody offered her an expensive gift? To take it would be selfish, hoarding wealth for herself, but to reject it would hurt the giver's feelings. Since all Abnegation are supposed to be robots, I bet this theoretical woman's brain would error and self-destruct. All the factions are the same way - the entire human race has been divided into a number of personality traits, and too bad for you if you have two or five or seventy facets to your character - if you have more than one personality trait, you're probably Divergent or factionless.
Does the author realize that by limiting her entire character cast this way, she's making them all one-dimensional? She should have given them more traits, not tried to strip them away. It made the book boring and repetitive beyond belief.
I, for instance, am a real person. I paint my toenails ten different colors at a time. I love music and I'm fascinated by other languages, even though I'm too stupid to speak them fluently. I have an awful temper, I can't succeed at math to save my life, and I can watch a cat sleeping for hours at a time. I could go on like this forever, naming millions of stupid little quirks that make me who I am. I don't see any of this in Divergent - all the characters are exactly the same. They're hollow and bland and uniform, and what hurts worst is that the author did this deliberately. I just.....I can't even.....
Was this world-building all just an elaborate way to disguise the fact that Veronica Roth can't invent a real character?
Now, let me go on to Four. I hated him. When will YA authors realize that giving their male leads a pretty face does not make them good characters? I need personality in my characters, okay? You can't just invent some muscular dude with pretty eyes and expect me to love him. Mad-Eye Moody is one of the ugliest characters in all history, and I adore him. Hint, hint.
Four's lack of personality is painfully obvious. He's apparently the best fighter ever, he can throw knives into a target exactly where he wants them to be, he can fire a gun and never miss, he's intelligent and brave and blah, blah, blah. He's eighteen. He seems like he should be at least thirty, to have skills like that and to have become an instructor, but of course he had to be eighteen so he could be the love interest. That was his only reason for existence, as far as I can tell. He cheated all the time for Tris, showing sickening favoritism, getting her out of trouble that she deserved, showing her the tests before she had to take them, giving her lengthy lectures about what the Dauntless expected from her. It was disgusting.
I'm almost finished with this rambling rant of a review, I promise. But let me show you a lovely quote from the book first.
Sometimes I see him as just another person, and sometimes I feel the sight of him in my gut, like a deep ache.
That's Tris, talking about Four. I'm pretty sure she just said that he looks like a bellyache. From that point on, I called him Bellyache in my head. It seemed to fit.
But it doesn't sound as poetic now as she probably meant it to sound, does it?
And here's another little excerpt, under the spoiler tag:
Also, I noticed that Peter is Draco Malfoy, Jeanine is Rita Skeeter, Molly is Pansy Parkinson, and Drew and Al are Crabbe and Goyle. The scene where Peter was reading the Rita Skeeter I mean Jeanine article aloud to the group of students, and Pansy I mean Molly was making fun of Harry I mean Tris was exactly like the Slytherin scenes from Goblet of Fire. I swear, it was copied and pasted with a few names edited out. The only difference was that Malfoy, Pansy, and Rita were all amazing characters, and all the heart was sucked out of them for Divergent's purposes.
And here's one of my status updates in full, just because I don't have a better way to phrase it:
Soooo, Four just told Tris to try to act more vulnerable, so her friends will accept her more easily.
Let's get one thing straight.
YOU. DO. NOT. CHANGE. YOURSELF. FOR YOUR FRIENDS.
If you have to change who you are in order to be accepted by your friends, then THEY AREN'T GOOD FRIENDS AND THEY ARE NOT WORTH YOUR TIME. If your "friends" can't accept you as you are, then THEY AREN'T WORTH YOUR TIME.
So SHUT UP, FOUR. You don't know what you're talking about. Any friends who she has to change herself for, even just to the public eye, will probably betray her anyway! And you want to shrug off the responsibility of keeping these kids safe, so you tell her to put her life in the hands of these fake friends?!
He is SUCH a moron. I can't even......
*chopping up stuffed animals with scissors*
I'm sorry, but that part really offended me.
This review is way too long. I apologize. I'll shut up now. If you've read all the way down to the bottom of this review rant of mine and finally discovered that I don't have any witty or entertaining things to say, or even any redeeming qualities to mention (there were none), I'm very sorry that I wasted your time. I only have one more thing to post.
Warning: Probable Side-Effects From Reading Divergent
-Lots of ranting/complaining
-Being too furious/headachy to sleep
-Losing faith in humanity. Repeatedly
-Regular dictionary checks of the word "bravery"
-Constant disbelief that the author never bothered to look it up and see what it means
-Frequent urges to throw the book/e-reader at the wall
-Wishing for the ability to reach into the page and strangle the TSTL MC
-Annoyingly accurate predictions of the plot "twists"
-Desperate searching for a character to root for
-Despair when the realization sets in that there isn't one who's worth your time
If you don't want to suffer most/all of the side-effects listed above, plus several more, it is strongly recommended that you avoid Divergent like the plague. Thank you.
Have a wonderful day.