Thursday, 27 March 2014

Book Club: March

This year, I'm taking part in the majority of Bon's Book Club 
and it's time to review March's book, Divergent by Veronica Roth...
Good Reads description:
"In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago world, 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 alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are - and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she's chosen. 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 unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, Tris also learns that her secret might help her save the ones she loves... or it might destroy her."
My (somewhat spoiler-free) Review:
I actually enjoyed this book, despite thinking I wouldn't. It took a while to read the first 15 or so chapters, but after giving myself a morning off, a whole four hours to just read (#heaven), I rapidly flipped through page after page, finally engaged with the story. There did seem to be a lot of build-up and prep (30 chapters out of the 39 in the book) for the final 'showdown', but I'm guessing that's because this is just book one in a three-book story. 

There was lots that I enjoyed about the book: I enjoyed reading about (and imagining) dystopian Chicago, the five fractions (even if it was confusing which personality traits belonged to which fraction in the beginning), the fraction-initiation process (which is the majority of the book) and the love story between Tris and Four (even if it was a little bit corny and 'cute' for my liking - I guess that's what you get for reading a YA novel aged 29!). 

But there were also aspects of the book I didn't like: I didn't like that society was divided into groups depending upon ONE personality trait - madness! Surely as a YA novel, this book should be teaching its teenage readers that being brave, selfless, honest, self-sufficient and wise are things we should all strive for - maybe that was the hidden message, but if it was, I think I missed it! 

I think the author missed the opportunity to further explore the world she created in this book, by looking closer at the fraction-less, those people who do not pass their fraction-initiation process or who leave their chosen fraction voluntarily. I hope Veronica Roth let's Tris and Four (and us as the reader) interact with the fraction-less more in the next two books because I, for one, am intrigued. 

I also think she missed the opportunity to 'flesh out' some of the characters more - she could have spent less time on Tris and her fight to become one of the top ten initiates (and therefore become a fully-fledged member of Dauntless) and more time with Christina, Will and even Al. I hope we see some of those characters in the next two books and I also hope we get to spend more time with Four - I like him!

Book club discussion questions *contains spoilers*:
+ Who is your favourite character in the novel and why?
Four was easily my favourite character and it was reading his journey, via Tris, that had me hooked. I was so intrigued by him and I can understand why Tris was attracted to him. Theo James plays Four in the movie and they did a great job casting him - that boy is a hottie - even if he is 10 years older than the character he plays! I can see myself reading  Four: A Divergent Collection when it comes out (in June or July, I think) because I actually like him, a lot! 

+ Did you like Tris as the main character? Why or why not? Do you see her as a strong female lead?
The word that best describes my feelings for Tris is 'meh'! She wasn't the worst female lead I've ever read about but she wasn't the best either. I get that she's only 16 but man, she's too self involved for my liking. Plus, she's a bit clueless - not knowing that Four fancied her and this...
"Those were your worst fears? Why do you only have four..." My voice trails off. Only four fears... "Oh." I look over my shoulder at him. "That's why they call you--" Well duh, Tris!

+ What did you think of the ending of the book? Was it satisfactory to you?
I'm keeping an open mind about the ending of the book because it's not the true ending is it, it's just the ending of book one. I've ordered book two and can't actually wait to see how the whole series ends.
I will say that I did think the mindless robot Dauntless did kinda come out of nowhere. It was a great way to confirm that Four is, in fact, Divergent too, but I think the ending gives a really bad message - that knowledge is ultimately dangerous. It's Erudite that value knowledge and they also want power, ergo knowledge and power are dangerous. I'm not sure that's a very good message to be sending to teenagers. I know that power can be dangerous and is said to corrupt, but can knowledge really be all that dangerous?

+ What was the most surprising or shocking thing in the book for you?
I think the death of Tris parents is supposed to be the most shocking part of the book, but unfortunately, I think Roth assumes we will tap into our own feelings, how we would feel if our parents were killed that way, because she certainly didn't build up any connection between the reader and Tris' parents. I cared more about her mum than her dad though. I'm sure something did shock me as I read the book but I can't remember it right now :( #illbrain

The most shocking thing I discovered about the movie is that my sweet darling Jai Courtney is playing Eric. I'm sure Jai can do a convincing job but he's too sweet and his eyes are too kind to be Eric! They've also not given him enough facial piercings in the movie!!

+ How do you feel about Tris and Four's relationship? Could you tell that Four liked her before Tris figured it out?
Hell yes I could tell he liked her and I also worked out before Tris did that Four was Marcus' son. I thought it was cute that he was the only other person to transfer from Abnegation to Dauntless in the history of the Fractions. I like the idea of soul mates :)

Starting next week, I'll be reading The Night Circus by Eric Morgenstern; 
look out for my review on Thursday 24th April.
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  1. Great Review! You defo enjoyed this book a lot more than I did but I completely agreed that she needed to flesh out her characters and the background story more. I also felt a real anticlimax at the end. I really wasn't keen on the ending! Im looking forward to the next book on the list and hoping I enjoy it a bit more! Rach :)

    1. I'm hoping the characters and the background will be fleshed out more in the next two books. I'm defo looking at this book as the first chapter of the three chapter story. Finger crossed you enjoy Insurgent more ;)

  2. I enjoyed the book too. I wish she fleshed out other characters too, especially Tris' mom. I was so bummed when she killed her because there could have been such a great side story there with the two of them.

    1. Yeah it would have been nice to learn more about Natalie's time at Dauntless and why her father encouraged her to choose any other fraction that she'd be safe in. Thanks for the comment :)

  3. I'm glad I'm not the only one who enjoyed this book! I agree about the death of her parents not being that shocking. Though I wish they would have built up to it more and made it more emotional for the reader. Like you said it was kind of bland.

    1. Yeah bland is the word I was looking for, Bex! I really didn't care when Tris' dad died, which is a shame. I would have loved to know more about her mum! :)

  4. Great review. I really wanted to know more about the factionless, too.

    1. Fingers crossed for the next two books, Sarah! Thanks for the comment :)

  5. Tell me more about 'Four: A Divergent Collection' what's this all about (clearly I live under a rock!!)

    1. 'Four: A Divergent Story Collection' is some short stories told from Four's perspective. Apparently they're going to give us Tobias choosing Dauntless, his initiation and two other stories that bring us up to date with when he first meets Tris - I think it's right up my street :) Here's the link to it on UK Amazon: :)