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This is a book everyone has been talking about, especially now that the movie has been released.
I had to VERY patiently wait until my birthday to read it, since I asked for the trilogy as a present. Waiting was not easy.
My initial reaction to the start of the book was the serious contrast between the book design and the reading audience. The oversized font (hardback version) immediately reminded me of Eragon, but the reading level was obviously above the need for such design. I even looked it up to be sure; according to Scholastic, Eragon is aimed for middle school readers (6-8 grades, thus more of a children’s book), whereas Divergent is aimed for high school reading (8-12 grades, considered “young adult”). Also, maybe I’m in the minority on this due to current changing times, but if you wanted to discuss “genetically engineered produce” (aka GMO’s) with me in middle school, you would have had to teach me what it was first. This coming from an environmental scientist who knows very well about the GMO debate. Therefore, I was confused as to why a young adult book would choose such an oversized, childish book design.
Let’s get back to that GMO statement. I’m not going to debate the issue one way or another here, because while it’s a big deal to the industry I work in, it’s not part of the purpose of this blog. However, there was a statement made early on in the book that really just grabbed me and made me say “Whoa.” I encourage you to ponder it for a moment or two.
“Most of what we eat is frozen or canned, because farms these days are far away. My mother told me once that, a long time ago, there were people who wouldn’t buy genetically engineered produce because they viewed it as unnatural. Now we have no other option.”
I read a LOT of reviews about this book before getting it, and sometimes that can really skew your opinion of something. Many, many people have compared it to The Hunger Games: dystopian worlds, divided groups of people (districts vs factions), female underdog trying to prove herself, etc etc. And, sadly, most have said that The Hunger Games were better. I decided that I would not pass judgement until I had finished at least this first book of the trilogy.
I’m really glad I waited. Is it similar in a lot of ways to The Hunger Games? Yes, it is, there’s no denying that fact. But I’m pretty sure a lot of dystopian books are similar in various ways, that’s just what makes the genre. I don’t think that the comparison is necessarily fair, to either the Divergent trilogy or Veronica Roth herself. It may follow the typical lines of the genre, but Divergent is also different in its own ways, and those differences are what make this book SO GOOD.
I think one of the parts I enjoyed the most was the dynamic between Tris and Four. Thank you, Veronica Roth, for not feeling the need to create the male-female-male love triangle like so many other YA authors. I mean really, why do so many feel the need to use that angle??
I also loved the underlying theme of being different but trying to blend in anyway, only to find that being different is what makes you strong, and that you aren’t the only “different” one out there. That’s such a universal thing – we’ve all been there at some point or another in our lives. (Heck, I just recently admitted my total embarrassment over my love of YA/fantasy books. I have literally spent years trying to hide the mass majority of the books I’ve read, for fear of what other people might think. It has taken dipping into the book blogging world for me to realize how many other “different” people are out there that really are the same as me.)
This book was a page turner until the very end for me, and I could not WAIT to pick up the second one. Good thing I asked for the entire series!
Now, how could I possibly publish this review without discussing the movie that you KNOW I had to see this past weekend?? I enjoyed the movie, and it irritates me that all anyone can do is compare it to The Hunger Games. I was honestly leery about Shailene Woodley playing the role of Tris, having known her from The Secret Life of the American Teenager. However, I thought she played the role well, and I really can see this as being her transition and introduction to bigger and better things. Theo James was a little awkward at times (when they were entering his fearscape it was so apparent that the Fiance just busted out laughing), but it sort of fed the relationship between the two so it was okay. They did alter some of Tris’ interactions with Jeanine Matthews, which somewhat ruffled my feathers. They also changed how the ending went down. I don’t want to give it away to anyone who hasn’t read the book or seen the movie yet, but I will say that I thought the final events in the book were more believable than how they portrayed it in the movie. Overall though, I thought it was great, and I feel bad that it has received the label of The Hunger Games’ red-headed stepsister.
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“Books to the ceiling, Books to the sky, My pile of books is a mile high. How I love them! How I need them! I'll have a long beard by the time I read them.” - Arnold Lobel
Reading without reflecting is like eating without digesting - Edmund Burke
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