Saturday, October 10, 2015

Book Review Triple Whammy: Divergent, Insurgent, and Allegiant by Veronica Roth


Beatrice Prior has grown up as part of the Abnegation faction, among people who strive to be selfless in all they do. But it's nearly the time for her to choose if she will remain in that faction for the rest of her life. It's the most important decision of her life. At least there's an aptitude test that will help guide her choice. There's just one problem: her results come back inconclusive. Beatrice has the mental capacity to join any of three factions. The choice is ultimately hers, though. But always, looming over her, is the fact that she did not test definitively into any faction.
There's a term for people like her: Divergent.
Cautioned to keep that word to herself, Beatrice finally decides to change her life, to join the Dauntless faction. Now, as Tris, she's thrust into a completely different culture, where pride is paramount, and the most common way to get around the city is to jump on and off of trains. Competition to become a member of Dauntless is fierce, involving combat training. Is Tris even cut out for this? And what of the parents she left behind? The Erudite faction seems determined that Abnegation is a corrupt faction and shouldn't be in charge of the government. Is Tris safe now that she's an initiate of Dauntless?
Is anyone safe?

That's my summary. Here's the one I pulled from

In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves… or it might destroy her.

I have to admit that I loved not really being told what city Divergent takes place in. Sure, it may have said, but it's possible I glanced over it or was zoned out slightly, since I listened to it through But I still knew it was set in Chicago, because of one simple reference: the Sears Tower. That was all that Roth needed to give me to set the stage for this novel, and I think it was a brilliant move on her part.
Dystopian Chicago, at least as Roth set it up, is frighteningly reminiscent of now. It's easy to see ourselves heading in the direction society takes to get to Tris's timeline, though it definitely wasn't always as bad as it is for her version of "now". The setting Roth has created for her characters is staggering and wonderful, and very easy to sink right into.

I am not a fan of present tense in fiction. It was one of the big issues I had with The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. It didn't bother me nearly as much in Divergent. I cannot say if that's due to Roth's writing suiting the tense better, or if I'm more accustomed to it now after having been exposed to Collins's work, or if this narrator just did a better job. Whatever the reason(s), I hardly noticed the present tense of Divergent. It was a non-issue for me, and that really helped me enjoy the story. I won't say it made things feel more urgent or pressing, but I did have a hard time imagining this story told in past tense. I'm sure it could be done, but it would definitely be different.
All told, Roth writes very clearly, with engaging visuals, other sense stimulation, and excellent dialogue and characterization. Oh my, the characters! She has an excellent grasp of personality, and her characters have distinct identities. With the creations of the factions, she has set an interesting challenge for herself, keeping individuals within factions distinct yet connected. Within a faction, like the Dauntless, everyone is supposed to be brave. It's the point of the faction. But all the characters we run across still have their own personalities. They don't mesh into one another. They aren't solely personifications of their trait, and it's brilliantly done. I have to hand a serious bravo to Roth for that undertaking and achievement.

My Thoughts
I knew within about three chapters what faction I would be. This is the sort of fun I enjoy from this sort of novel. Like with Harry Potter, part of the fun is in Sorting, and Divergent has their factions. I love that it really all comes down to choice, and that there are always surprises, even to the characters. I found it amazingly simple to fall right into the narrative. I was transported pretty instantly with this novel, and it didn't let me go.
There are so many surprises in Divergent that I found perfectly pleasurable. Sure, I made guesses (some right along with Tris) about things, and often, I was completely wrong. Things that surprised her surprised me, and it was a joy to be caught off guard like that.
The events of Divergent are intense, and Roth does a great job of taking the reader along in Tris's shoes as things happen. She engages the senses often and well. I experienced things with Tris. It's a great journey.
I do just want to go on record saying I adore Tris. Even so, my favorite character by far was Four. His story was so engaging, mostly because he did remain such a mystery for so long. Tris is second, though.

Would I Recommend This Book? Highly. This was one of those novels that just sucked me in right away and kept me wanting more. There's mystery, action, fear, and all sorts of exciting moments throughout, and I will surely be coming back for book two of this trilogy. I give Divergent a simulated 5 of 5 stars.

After the Erudite's attack on Abnegation, where the Dauntless were forced to murder government leaders, Tris Prior and Four barely escaped. Now, both exposed as Divergent, they're in danger wherever they go. There seem to be only two groups of people willing to take them in: the Amity, who are determined to remain neutral, and the Factionless, who are outcasts and looked down on by everyone. But the Erudite have their eyes on Amity, and the Factionless leader has issues with Marcus, a now-refugee leader of Abnegation.
The Erudite are in control, and they know it. Now, their leader Jeanine is hunting Divergent, and she has her sights set on Tris and Four. What's worse, Marcus seems to know more about the reasoning behind Erudite's attack than he's willing to divulge. He's determined to keep this information to himself, but Tris would do anything to discover it. She'll even go against Four's plan to take down Erudite. What is going on with the other Divergent? Why is Jeanine so determined to study the Divergent brain, and what is Marcus keeping so secret?

That's my summary. Here's the one I pulled from

One choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris's initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

My Thoughts
Insurgent met my expectations in pretty much every way. It expanded the world in giving us much more insight into factions we saw little of in Divergent (particularly Candor and Amity, and of course the Factionless). It forwarded the story beautifully, and it deepened the characters as they grew. It gave more action, more conflict, more suspense, and a ton more tension.
Unfortunately, it also lived up to what I'm starting to think of as "Second Book Stigma" where the second book of a trilogy just plods along, at least for me.
Insurgent was not boring, nor was it uneventful. A ton of stuff happened, and it was great, really, but for some reason, I felt dragged along for a lot of the middle section of the book. I don't know if the conflict set up early, regarding Marcus's knowing some secret information, just ended up pushed too far aside during that section in favor of dealings with Tris and Jeanine, or what it really was, but I was underwhelmed with a good two-fifths of the book.
I'll tell you, though, the last fifth of the book blew my mind. The ending surprised me, and that left me in a euphoric, disbelieving state for a good hour after the last sentence. I am primed and ready to dig into the last book, Allegiant, after that ending.

Would I Recommend This Book? Oh, yes! While I do feel this book was a little slow, it's still a great continuation of Divergent, and it'll leave you wanting book three, no problem. The ending itself makes me want to give the book a full 5 stars, but I'm afraid it doesn't outweigh the few hours I trudged along leading up to it, so I'm giving Insurgent a betraying 4 of 5 stars.
After learning the truth about the Factions, about the Factionless, and the secrets Marcus and Jeanine were keeping from everyone in the city, Tris and Four are determined to leave the city. There's truth out there, answers to questions they only recently discovered needed to be asked. They don't even know if there are people out there, but they have to find out.
But when they leave, they discover that not only are there people, but their entire lives have been lies. The dead come back to life, and worse, there are serious issues with society even outside the city fence. Now, they have to face a different kind of prejudice, one where they're the desired result, not the feared Divergent. Even so, the city they left behind is in turmoil, and the people monitoring the experiment that is Chicago is starting to think it's failing. Will Tris and Four be able to save the families and friends they left behind?

That's my summary. Here's the one I pulled from

The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered—fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she's known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories.

But Tris's new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature—and of herself—while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice, and love.

My Thoughts
I am very much interested in HOW things happen, sometimes over WHAT actually happens. I'm going to get a lot of slack for this, but it's for that reason that I prefer the Star Wars prequels to the original trilogy. Because of this interest of mine, I LOVED much of Allegiant. Insurgent's ending whetted my appetite and all the questions I was asking about the factions and how Chicago had gotten this way, and Allegiant promised me answers. Needless to say, I tore into it with high hopes.
I was not disappointed. A lot was explained, and Roth did it magnificently, without the infodumps it would have been easy to fall back on. The whole time, Allegiant was engaging, with the same action and tension that the first two books build a foundation of. I loved the added perspective of Tobias, and frankly, I wish we'd gotten this from him much sooner, like in Insurgent.
Sadly, the ultimate resolution to the main plot conflict left me dissatisfied. There was emotional turmoil-- oh, so much turmoil-- but the end seemed too easy for me, considering the buildup. I will admit I neared tears at one point, but I won't spoil it here. If the novel had ended after that crux, I would have been very disappointed.
But that epilogue! It gave me the closure I and the characters needed. It was very necessary, and I applaud Roth for it. It is beautifully crafted and closes the trilogy wonderfully. So while I did enjoy Allegiant, I have to say, I was a little underwhelmed with the culmination of the conflict, but the culmination of the character development was spot-on.

Would I Recommend This Book? Of course. I can't very well recommend the first two books and say don't bother with the third, can I... actually, I think I did with Scott Sigler's Infected trilogy, but that's a very different case. Anyway, Allegiant delivers on Insurgent's promise for answers, and whoa, those answers! I am bolstered by the hope at the end of this book while I don't really agree much with the way things really ended. I do see Roth's reasoning, it just didn't seem fitting to me, but we are different people. She gets high praise for tackling the challenges she set for herself in Divergent and Insurgent. I give Allegiant a reset 4 of 5 stars.

For more information on the author, visit