Diverting Read

Divergent - Veronica Roth

A friend and fellow <i>Harry Potter</i> fan asked me if I'd read this. That caused me to try the film adapted from it, which I enjoyed. I could immediately see parallels to Rowling's world in this dystopia set in a future Chicago. Mind you, Tris, the narrator and heroine, is very much her own character--not some cut and paste Hermione--or Katniss for that matter, even if I find Roth less convincing than Rowling or Collins in presenting a plausible teenager. None of the characters or relationships or details of plot bring <i>Harry Potter</i> to mind, and this is written in a blander style: the usual first-person present found everywhere in Young Adult.

What reminded me of <i>Harry Potter</i> though were the factions. Think <i>Harry Potter's</i> Hogwarts houses. The qualities and values of Gryffindor are split between Abnegation, which values selfless service, and Dauntless, whose prime value is bravery. Erudite shares the passion for knowledge of Ravenclaw, but a lot of the cunning and ruthless ambition of Slytherin. Not a coincidence, I think, that our heroine has ties to Abnegation and Dauntless and our master villains are mostly to be found in Erudite. I can even see similarities to Hufflepuff in the less prominent Candor and Amity factions which value justice and kindness. The thing is, the whole concept of the Hogwarts houses and how Rowling presented them always bugged me in lots of ways. What I had to rather love about <i>Divergent</i> is the way it examines the dark side in sorting young people into these various groups with one overreaching ideal and how those ideals are corrupted.

The film adaptation does... well, diverge from the book in a number of ways so there were some surprises; I prefer the book. In fact, I was tempted to rate this book higher than I did simply because it's the first book that's been able to hold me in months--it's been that kind of year. But is it "amazing?" Even all that distinctive and memorable in characters and plot from the usual YA dystopia with an action heroine? I remember how the first <i>Harry Potter</i> book charmed and had me dogearing pages to come back to favorite lines and <i>Hunger Games</i> had me turning pages breathless with suspense and at one point sent a chill down my spine. I can't say this book matched those experiences, but I'm sure watching the film based on the book first did dampen any suspense. The book didn't change my perspective, make me laugh, make me cry or fall in love with the characters.

I <i>liked</i> Tris, though, and finished the book eager to go on to the second in the trilogy to find out what happens next. Especially since my friend tells me the series, and Tris' arc, only builds in strength. So onto <i>Insurgent</i>--entertained and happy to finally finish a book!