3. Divergent by Veronica Roth
In the wake of The Hunger Games, I can't help but anticipate Divergent's popularity soaring to even greater heights. Right now, it's a slow buzz, but it deserves to grow and fans of The Hunger Games and dystopian lit with a strong female protagonist everywhere will be pleased.
Beatrice Prior was born into Abenegation, one of five factions formed after an apocalypse. Those who blamed selfishness chose Abnegation, those who blamed stupidity chose Erudite, those who blamed cowardice chose Dauntless, those who blamed dishonesty chose Candor, and those who blamed aggression chose Amity. On her sixteenth birthday, Beatrice will be allowed to choose which of the factions she will spend her life with. Faction comes before blood and if she chooses a different faction, she may never see her family again. On the day of her choice, however, Beatrice discovers that she does not fit neatly into one of the categories, but is instead Divergent, a dangerous mental state that can get her killed if the wrong people find out. With this knowledge, Beatrice chooses Dauntless over her birth faction and embarks on a rigorous and dangerous training program that may result in her death in any number of ways before or after she becomes a member.
Beatrice is my favorite kind of likable, kick-ass girl protagonist. She's got plenty of guilt and embarrassment from being raised to think of others before herself, but her natural instincts to assert and protect herself arise in her new faction. She's like any "good girl" learning to love her wild side, down to flirting, tattoos, and daredevil stunts. Her love interest, Four, is not a sweetie pie like Hunger Games' Peeta, instead he's older, cynical,and demanding as her training instructor, but with an integrity and emotional strength that matches hers. Roth is at her best in depicting the realistic tension between them. Overall, Roth demonstrates an acute understanding of characters and relationships between people, and that, again, is my favorite part of the book.
I enjoyed the slower pace of the book's first half and how we are allowed to get through most of the fascinating Dauntless training process before the inevitable debacle against Divergence begins. Unfortunately, the last third or so of the book goes at such a fast pace that it's impossible to process all of the twists and turns. While it keeps the pages turning, there's nothing really so remarkable about what happens, and slowing it down would have given certain events the impact they needed.
*SPOILER ALERT* At one point, Four is turned against Beatrice, a devastating turn that could have had a lot of emotional power...had it lasted for more than a few chapters. I was expecting it to last until the next book, since there's a sequel coming out this year! *END SPOILER*
I do appreciate that Roth gives this book a concrete ending, as so many series writers do not. I found Divergent a quick, enjoyable read and will be looking forward to the next book. It may or may not go on the SFF Lit list, it may have too many similarities to The Hunger Games without the same level of writing/plotting skills to back it up, but Roth is definitely a writer to watch.