Thursday, February 27, 2014

February Series of the Month #2: The Divergent Series

Hey, y'all! So, my plan was to read books 1 & 2 of the Miss Peregrine series in February and to start on the Divergent trilogy in March. However, I finished both Miss Peregrine's and Hollow City by halfway through February, so I decided to get right into Divergent, since I had been wanting to read it for quite a while. I finished Hollow City one evening, and then read 7 chapters of Divergent. The next day, I read the rest of Divergent. I was just so engrossed in the story and the characters that I could hardly put it down. Then, that evening, I started Insurgent, which I spent a little more time with.

Warning: Spoilers ahead! If you don't want to be spoiled, don't read my reviews if you haven't read the book! Trust me, I saw a huge Allegiant spoiler after finishing Divergent and it nearly ruined me.

Divergent

As many of you already know, Divergent is a dystopian novel set in what is now Chicago. At some point long before this novel, it was decided that in order for life to run more smoothly, people should divide into 5 different factions based on how they perceive the problems of the world. Here's a brief rundown of the factions and their beliefs/ symbols:

The people of Abnegation believe that selfishness is what causes problems in the world. They practice extreme selflessness by wearing only grey, drab clothing to not bring attention to themselves. The Abnegation hold the government positions due to their selfless stance. They don't get along with Erudite.


The people of Amity believe that war and fighting are what cause problems in the world. They are peaceful- verging on hippie. They appreciate the arts and dress in red and yellow. They make decisions democratically, without one true leader. They don't get along with Candor.


The people of Candor believe that deception is what causes problems in the world. The people of Candor are honest to a fault, valuing honesty over anything else. They dress in black and white/ suits. Because they are so anti- dishonesty, they are exceptional at interpreting body language and knowing when someone is lying. They don't get along with Amity.


The people of Dauntless believe that fear and cowardice are what cause problems in the world. The Dauntless value bravery above all else and are in charge of the security of the city. They wear all black and have several tattoos, piercings, and often color their hair odd colors. As the guardians, the Dauntless are neutral with all factions. 

The people of Erudite blame ignorance and lack of knowledge for the problems in the world. They value intelligence and devote their lives to education. Although Abnegation hold the government positions, there is a single Erudite representative- the most intelligent Erudite- who also holds a government position. The Erudite don't get along with Abnegation. 

OK, so there's the rundown of the factions. When a teenager reaches the age of 16, they take a test to determine which faction they are best suited for. In the choosing ceremony the following day, they then get to choose whether to stay with their family in their faction, or to transfer to a different faction. It doesn't necessarily have to be the faction that the test said that they were best suited for, although that's definitely advised. However, once they choose a faction, there's no turning back. They must go through that faction's initiation, and if they fail, they become factionless- living outside of the factions and doing the jobs no one wants for little pay. 

Now that I've explained the world, let's get to the actual plot. Our main character, Beatrice Prior, is a 16 year old who is a member of the Abnegation. She and her brother, Caleb, are only a day away from their faction tests. Beatrice has never felt like she really belongs as a member of Abnegation. She believes she isn't selfless enough to truly be part of Abnegation, unlike her very selfless brother. She takes her test- a simulation of 3 separate incidents which, depending on her responses, should tell her which faction she belongs in. But when she finishes the test, she finds out that it didn't work on her. She is told that she's equal parts Abnegation, Dauntless, and Erudite. The woman administering the test, Tori (a Dauntless), tells her that she is 'Divergent' and that she must never tell anyone because Divergents are seen as a threat to the faction system. At the choosing ceremony the next day, Beatrice is shocked to see Caleb choose Erudite. When it's her turn, she chooses Dauntless. After the ceremony, her initiation begins. 

This is the point where you should probably stop reading if you don't want spoilers. Just saying. Again. Don't say I didn't warn you!!!

The book follows her journey through Dauntless initiation (where she changes her name to just Tris), where she meets friends, makes enemies and OF COURSE, falls in love. 

The overall plot of this book is not what makes it a good book. Long-run, it's very predictable. You can tell that she and Four are going to end up together. You know that she's not going to be a total failure. Once you see the problems occurring in the factions, you know there's going to be some sort of war between factions. You know that people are going to find out that Tris is divergent and that it's going to come back and bite her in the butt. I don't know about you, but I figured out that Four was Tobias long, LONG before it was ever mentioned. My point is- the plot is formulaic, just like 95% of books are. And that's not a bad thing; it's inevitable. 

The details and smaller plot points are what make this book so great. The simulations, the initiate conflicts, the training, the world building; all of these combined make it a fascinating book. I think that the test is fascinating, as are the other simulations the initiates go through. I really enjoyed the early Tris/Four interactions and seeing them actually getting to know each other. So much better than insta-love. I loved the entire initiation process- Tris losing, rather than just automatically being great at everything. And, of course, I love the whole world that Veronica Roth has created. I find the factions really interesting. Much like Harry Potter fans sort themselves into houses, Divergent fans can sort themselves into factions, and although in the world these factions are completely flawed, it's fun for fans to find their little niche in this really cool world. 

Insurgent


Insurgent, the second book in the series, picks up right where Divergent left off. The book follows Tris as she goes throughout the city, trying to stay alive and defeat Jeanine. We see more of the Amity and Candor factions, which I thought was really interesting. But I'm just going to cut right to the chase... it was disappointing. 

Don't get me wrong, I devoured it much like I did with Divergent- though definitely not as quickly. I just think that so much was very drawn out. Tris and Four both became very unpleasant, and the book focused a bit too much on their relationship. It almost seemed like Veronica Roth was trying to drag it out to make it a trilogy. She calls upon things she's already used- simulations for example- and it gets just a little old.

I was also annoyed throughout the book that even though being divergent was supposed to be this very rare trait, it seemed like we were discovering divergents left and right. After reading past this point, it makes sense, but at the time, it was very frustrating. 

For me, the importance of this book lies in the information that Tris and the others receive at the end of the book- about how divergents will be able to help those outside the city. As you can see when comparing the length of my discussion on this book vs. Divergent, I don't have a ton to say. I just think that so much of this book was unnecessary to the series overall.

Allegiant


Seriously, if you haven't read ALL of Allegiant, STOP READING NOW. I am about to talk about the biggest spoiler of the series.

So, that Allegiant spoiler I talked about accidentally seeing after finishing Divergent? The spoiler was that Tris died. I almost didn't want to keep going, but I decided that I still needed to see what else happened, so I kept going. 

I definitely liked Allegiant more than I liked Insurgent. I was really excited to see what was outside of the fence and to get an explanation for the whole organization of the city. 

Here are my major complaints with the book: 

First, I was really annoyed by Uriah being killed. Of all the characters who could've been killed, why Uriah? I understand why a character had to die in that scenario, but I wish it hadn't been him. 

Second, I got really annoyed that Tris and Four were constantly getting jealous just because the other was talking to someone of the opposite gender. They have no reason to not trust each other, and yet they're both jealous.

Third, Tris's death. I guess Veronica did it so that the ending was dramatic, but it's just not a satisfying ending. Caleb's death would have been much more satisfying because he actually had a debt to pay. Tris spent a significant portion of the books doing selfless acts, so it seems like a fitting way for her to die, but she just didn't deserve it after how hard she fought. 

Most of the rest of the book, I actually enjoyed. I didn't think it was anywhere near as great as Divergent, but I definitely preferred it to Insurgent. The corrupt government was realistic. I liked that Four was able to finally make peace with his mom, and I also appreciated that for once, he was the one making the mistakes rather than Tris. I also appreciated that we were able to see the characters a couple years down the road and see how things have progressed. 

Overall, it was somewhat disappointing, but it was an OK ending to the series. 

Also, this has nothing to do with the actual story, but would you just look at how gorgeous the inside of this book is??

It's a really minor detail, but my favorite color combo is red & black, and I love the kinda scratched looking red and the cloud-like black/grey. It's just really pretty.

Overall Series Impression:

This series started out SO strong. I gave Divergent a solid 5/5 stars on GoodReads. I thoroughly enjoyed it and finished it in a day, despite it being more than 500 pages long. The other two books were... OK. I gave them both 4 stars on GoodReads, although Insurgent was closer to a 3.5 and Allegiant was a solid 4. I'm sure that upon a re-read these might fluctuate a bit, but those are my initial opinions. 

Also, that being said, I do have an account on GoodReads, which I have linked HERE. I'm probably not going to review every single book I read on here, so you can check out my GoodReads account to see any reviews of books which I might have done on there and not on here. Also, I have a shelf listing all the books I plan on reading soon, in the order that I plan to read them, so if you want to see what's coming up next, you can check it out there. Lastly, I'm surprisingly good at updating where I am in the book I'm currently reading, so you can always check that out to see what might be reviewed next. 

So, that's it for this post! I know I said last month that I knew what I'd be reading for March, but since it was the Divergent trilogy, now I don't know what to read! So I'll have to figure out what to read as I go! If you have any suggestions for me, feel free to let me know. I might start on the Across The Universe trilogy, since I have the first 2 (meaning less books to buy) or I might go back to a non-fiction choice (although I can't push myself through those as quickly). See y'all here Saturday for the next chapter of The Secret Lightning Scar!

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