I just finished listening to Divergent by Veronica Roth, and for the most part, I enjoyed it. The story, for those not in the know, is awfully similar to The Hunger Games in that it's a Sci-Fi novel taking place in a distopia, with a coming-of-age female character as the heroine. All distopian novels are at their core a quest for problem solving, so I definitely have an affinity to them. How can the character become aware of, and ultimately overcome their bleak surroundings when the system is so rigged against them.
In the Divergent universe, the world is divided into five separate factions. Each faction represents a pure lifestyle, that on the surface seems admirable. The Abnegation focus on being completely selfless, while the Dauntless focus solely on bravery, and so on. But of course, living a one dimensional life doesn't really work. Not to mention, how the virtues of a faction are actually executed are up for debate: is it brave to jump from a moving train, or just stupid? Still, the intellectual exercise of considering the factions is appreciated and it's all just plausible enough that I was willing to accept the premise.
So yeah, it was a pleasant read and on more than one occasion I found myself rooting for the main character.
When the book finally finished I found that I had three criticism to offer, but on further analysis, I realized that really only one was valid.
Here's the valid one: the ending was weak. I mean, the whole thing felt forced and overly simplistic. Much of credibility the book had worked up in terms of a careful storytelling was lost with what seemed like an "oh-oh, I better end this book soon" type idea.
The next issue I had was that I felt that at times the main female character was drifting off into a world of naive brattiness. This is a direct, and unfair result, of me comparing the book to the Hunger Games. Without dwelling on this too much, I felt like the Hunger Game series had the main character devolve throughout the books. In book 1 she's mainly the hero we want her to be, in book 2 she's blah and by book 3 she's downright awful (the same could be said about the general plots of book). As you can tell, it left a bad taste in my mouth. So every time the Divergent hero started down that path of whining or being self-unaware, I got concerned I was headed down the Hunger Games path. In the end, the character's of Divergent are solid enough and any concerns I had were for naught.
Finally, about a third of the book is spent dealing with our main character's, well, crush, on a boy. There's just something about juxtaposing life and death situations with getting all flushed when a boy touches your leg. What can I say, I'm a married 40 year old man, it's been a while since I was dealing with the trials and tribulations of first love. But this critique, too, is totally unfair. For the book's target audience, crushes may as well be a life and death situation. And thinking about it, I realized that the the book's portrayal of love is nearly Victorian. There's a lot of strange feelings, and blushing, and the occasional touch to the small of the back, and such. It's hard to believe that in a distopian novel with excessive blood and death, there's a puppy dog love story. But it is what it is. And given that teens are surrounded by sexting, unlimited access to pornography, and magazine covers telling them how to have Better Sex Now, it's actually a good thing to see a book portray young love in such a wholesome way. Props to Roth for pulling this off.
It's not the most edgy and deep Sci-Fi novel you can read, but it got me thinking about the world around me, so that makes it a winner in my book.