Move over, Hunger Games!
This book seems like somewhat of a marriage of Hunger Games and Blood Red Road. The heroine is small, pensive, conflicted, etc. She is also really, really brave. I liked her focus and her responses to situations. Some have said that it isn't true dystopia, but I think it qualifies. It's set the US, but a dramatically changed US. And for all those who say that the way the US got to being split into factions wasn't explained, well, it wasn't explained in depth. But references were made as to the reasons why, and that was all I needed. To have gone into some lengthy section about how and why the factions were formed would have bored me to tears, and probably made me just give up on the book entirely. Maybe a paragraph with some background of Tris' family could have been included (i.e., grandfather fought in some war, etc), but I thought we knew enough. The story wasn't about that; it was about Tris.
I liked Four a lot. I had my doubts when they were climbing the ferris wheel, because he seemed like such a wimp, and also in the fear simulation. But at least in the fear simulation I thought he was brave enough to let his vulnerable side show, and to keep going in there time after time in order to get over his fears. . He, however, rose above my early expectations and lived up to my initial impression. I didn't like Eric at all, and I suppose Roth could have gone deeper into his character. But again, I got enough to make me thoroughly dislike him and the book wasn't about him. Same with Peter. As for Jeanine, we really didn't get much about her at all. So on that count, I suppose we had one of those "insert villain here" situations. All that instant mad-scientist-makes-serum-and-takes-over-world-with-autobot-army was just silly, because time wasn't taken to ease us into it. It was at that point when I thought the book got WAY too ambitious and desperate to be compared with Hunger Games.
The whole last section of the book came up rather quickly. I get that it had to happen relatively quickly in the whole scheme of things, but we barely had time to catch our breath and then all the fuss happened. After all the emotional highs and lows of the training, the whole combat thing just seemed anti-climactic to me. I wish she had gotten far less into that and just left it for the next book. So much of it seemed contrived in contrast to the training. And what the heck! She killed Will? Why didn't she just shoot his hand indeed! I truly do think that if she had left the "revolution" for Insurgent, The murder of Tris' parents and when she shoots Will would have been great starters to Insurgent. I would have greatly preferred an introduction to the war rather than the actual war, which again, seemed anti-climactic to me. she would have had a much better story and setup for a sequel. We'd already had all the action with the training. If we had just gotten a taste for Insurgent, it could have stood alone as the war/revolution/actual combat portion of the story. Roth could have taken all the time she spent on the revolution and invested in Jeanine and the reasons for the revolution. With just a bit of action, it would have been the perfect setup.
I love, love, love me some romance. And this had just the right amount. More than Hunger Games, and no triangle, which would have completely stolen the plot. Nicely done, Veronica Roth.
I actually got this book from the library in print, and couldn't get into it. I'm glad I also got it on audio, although it took FOREVER from the library! The audio version was much better in that it moved a lot faster. Emma Galvin is very good at giving Tris just the voice she needed - somewhat matter of fact, not overly emotional and yet had feeling.
If you liked Hunger Games and the other dystopias that are out there, you'll probably like Divergent. But be warned, Hunger Games will color your opinion of this book. It has its own flavour and needs to stand apart, so if you give it that chance, you'll love it.