Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Book review: The Divergent series by Veronica Roth

Bookshelves are full of dystopian young adult fiction at the moment, but the Divergent series is in my opinion possibly the best offering. If you've read my previous reviews you'll know I really wasn't impressed with the Hunger Games trilogy, mainly because I didn't like the way the main character developed. In contrast, Divergent manages to create a heroine who has plenty of character development while staying believable and, most importantly, likeable.

I got the whole series in a box set, which contains the trilogy of Divergent, Insurgent and Allegiant, as well as Four, a collection of short stories exploring the back story of the character Four. I suspect it was released to coincide with the film release of Allegiant. All the books are, of course, available individually as well, and the short stories that comprise Four are also available separately. The books are interlinked through a larger story arc, but each could also be read as a standalone story (with the caveat that if you started with Allegiant then you may get confused with the number of characters, who are introduced in the previous books more slowly).

The stories follow Tris as she breaks away from her own faction, where selflessness is highly valued, to join the brave and foolhardy Dauntless faction, before getting involved in a battle between the factions and the factionless, which leads to the revelation of a secret which changes their world completely. Tris is flawed, occasionally idiotic, but eminently likeable, while the world she lives in is imaginative and unique.

There is plenty of action, with fights, guns, explosions and conflict, and there is a lot of violence, but the stories aren’t gory at all, with the possible exception of one scene in the first book, depending on how squeamish you are. There is a sex scene, but it's written in such a way that it doesn't really show anything but still conveys the emotions of the scene. In an interview with The Independent newspaper, Roth said that was entirely intentional so as to not alienate younger readers. She said: "I was concerned about not alienating my very young readers. I remember reading books at that age and stopping because I wasn't comfortable. I'm not trying to talk down to them. It's definitely a scene of great intimacy. That's what was important. I didn't want to have smut on the page. I don't want to titillate."

I really enjoyed the books, the stories, the characters, the world, the quality of writing, the descriptions, dialogue and the way the series resolved, which is not how you might expect! I definitely recommend the series.

  • RRP £12 for the box set
  • Published by Harper Collins
  • ISBN 0007591374

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