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Divergent, Veronica Roth (2011)

Divergent was selected as the top book of 2011 in the Goodreads Readers Choice Poll.  It’s easy to see why- this book is engaging, excited, and leaves the reader eager for Roth’s next book (Insurgent, expected in May 2012).

Roth has the unfortunate timing of her book being released in the height of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games books.  Both depict dystopian futures with strong, brave women in the lead role.  Veronica Roth’s book is excellent, but her writing is less mature than Collins, so the comparison weighs in favor of Collins. It’s not necessarily fair to compare these books in this way, but it’s unavoidable due to the timing.

The only criticisms I have about Divergent are few and petty.  I wish the lead, Beatrice, didn’t re-name herself “Tris,”  it reeks of trying to hard to fit in.  (Admittedly, strong female characters named “Beatrice” or “Beatrix” mean more to me than most, my daughter’s middle name is “Beatrix,” and she is named after a certain brave, ruthless woman of the same name.)  The love story is predictable and kind of immature, but that’s not entirely a valid criticism, because the characters are young, so an immature love story is appropriate in that context.

I liked the way Roth characterizes and develops each of the factions.  I also liked the extensive initiation process for joining the factions, it was an excellent plot device for developing the faction’s personality, and makes the social structure much more interesting than “ok, this is where you’re going.”  There is the perfect balance of action and description in this book for it to be transformed to a thrilling movie that is completely true to the book.  (Although I love the Hunger Games, it’s so heavy on description that I think the movie won’t be able to everything.)

Roth keeps a blog about her writing experiences, and it’s interesting to get such an intimate view into the writing and editing process.  I particularly liked her entry about the differences between the early drafts and the final story of Divergent.  She seems down-to-earth, intelligent, and friendly.  Also, she’s only 23! What an amazing accomplishment for someone so young.

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