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A Critical Review of Divergent, by Veronica Roth

Updated on March 20, 2013

Have you ever picked up a book, expecting to be disappointed by it? I was anticipating feeling let down by Divergent and I figured that there was no way that it could reach my expectations of teen dystopian fiction, which had been set for me by The Hunger Games. I thought that it was very likely that this book wouldn't be able to meet the expectations that I had, and that it couldn't possibly be as good as I'd been told it was.

Well, once again I was totally wrong. Divergent didn't disappoint me in any way at all. In fact, I was tremendously impressed with the story that this book tells. I had expected to be let down in terms of characterization (as I have been frequently with teen fiction lately) and plot, but Ms. Roth shone in both areas, restoring my faith in the Young Adult genre (and I'm glad that she did, because I was getting close to giving up on reading this genre after the last book I finished).

One of the best things about this book was that the romance was understated instead of making the romance the central theme of a novel that didn't need it in the first place. The characters were solid and believable, realistic and sympathetic. If any book is trying to be the teen dystopian trilogy, this one comes the closest to comparing to The Hunger Games. And in some ways it was better.

In my review of Divergent I'll tell you what I loved about the book, what I disliked about the book, and make a few comparisons to The Hunger Games to boot.

This is a spoiler-free book review of Divergent, by Veronica Roth.

The UK Cover for Divergent.
The UK Cover for Divergent.

A Brief Summary of the Novel

Beatrice Prior lives in the post-apocalyptic city of Chicago, Illinois. The city is largely in ruins and is protected by a fence that goes around the entire community. Within the city there are five factions, each faction based on a virtue. These factions are: Abnegation (selflessness), Amity (peace), Erudite (intelligence), Dauntless (fearlessness) and Candor (honesty). At the age of sixteen, each student in Chicago undergoes aptitude testing to determine into which faction he or she would best fit, and is then required to make a decision about which faction to belong to.

Once the faction is chosen, however, there is no going back, and choosing a faction into which you weren't born means leaving your family behind, and possibly never speaking to them again. Faction before blood is the motto of this dystopian society, and faction is your family once you've chosen.

But something goes wrong with Beatrice's test, and she must choose her faction more carefully. Will she choose to abandon her family or to remain with them in Abnegation, giving up everything of herself? What threats await her special status as a citizen of Chicago? Her decisions may affect more than herself and her family. They may affect the entire city.

Initial Reactions

I got into the middle of this book very quickly, and it only got better from there. The book is fast pace and it gets straight into the middle of the action in the first three chapters of the book. There's no delay before the story gets started, no slow and tedious introduction of the characters, no struggle to get through page after page of info-dump (which is a more and more common occurrence in teen fiction).

That being said, I was also struck by the fact that this book is written to a juvenile audience. I get the sense that what was classed as "mid-grade fiction" ten years ago would now be classed as "young adult" fiction now, with the "young adult" fiction of ten years ago being classed as "new adult" today. Roth's characterizations are powerful, but her writing style didn't seem to suit her audience.

But that's okay. I was able to overlook the writing style because the characters were powerful. I want to say that the story was amazing as well, but this book, while action packed, is a bit wanting in the story department. I'll get to that in a moment.

What I Liked about Divergent

I liked the fact that it didn't take me 100 or more pages to get involved in the story. I was introduced to the dystopian society of Chicago, got a feel for the factions, had an understanding of the conflict in the story and delved straight into Tris' head, where I was able to settle down and enjoy her.

I enjoyed the fact that Tris was realistically sixteen years old. I believed her age in spite of the dystopian society (which can make teenagers more mature than they might be in our modern societies). I loved that she was weak in some ways and strong in others. I felt that she was an appropriate heroine for teenagers to read and enjoy because she is an example of a self-assured and competent young woman.

I enjoyed Four. I thought that he was also realistically flawed without being perfectly imperfect. I liked the way that he treated Tris, and the way that he treated other people. He was enjoyable to read and the first hero in a dystopian romantic novel that I've ever liked straight from the start.

I loved Eric as a villain. You'll have to read the book to see this one for yourself because he's hard to describe, but an excellent antagonist.

4.9 out of 5 stars from 7 ratings of Divergent, by Veronica Roth

Do you plan on reading Divergent?

See results

What I didn't like about Divergent

As usual, I'm going to do this in list format, and as usual, this list will probably be longer than the list above in spite of my five star rating of this book. While I loved this book, there are some serious flaws.

  • I felt that it was written for a younger audience. There are volumes in Harry Potter that are written at a higher level than this book was written. This isn't a criticism of Roth's writing so much as it is a statement of the fact that I think she may have been writing for a younger (than teen) audience. Or this is becoming a trend in teen fiction, which is also possible.
  • The characters are stronger than the plot. There's a definite plot here, but it didn't need a book this long to tell the story of this version of Chicago. That's frustrating. Most of the book is taken up with the initiation period that Tris experiences in her faction. This is time consuming, and while thrilling (as we wait to find out if she'll make it through initiation), I'd have liked to have seen more storyline.
  • It's extraordinarily violent. This is coming from someone who read through The Hunger Gameswithout ever becoming especially squeamish about the violence. There is a lot of blood and a lot of bloodshed in this novel and that's something that I wasn't prepared for.

A Comparison to The Hunger Games

First of all, I am reasonably confident that readers who enjoyed The Hunger Games will enjoy Divergent. When I first heard this recommendation and connection, I thought it was ridiculous. After all, I was also told that Harry Potter fans were bound to love Twilight and that Twilight fans would enjoy The Hunger Games. The problems with these connections is that they are very flimsy. There is no connection between the fantasy of Harry Potter and the paranormal of Twilight or the paranormal and the dystopian society of The Hunger Games.

Below is my assessment of the two novels, in comparison.

The Hunger Games
Protagonist Gender
Protagonist Age
Protagonist Qualities
Self-Centered. Strong-Willed. Stubborn.
(Mostly) Selfless. Strong-Willed. Aggressive.
Romantic Hero?
Yes. Love Triangle.
First Person
First Person
Recommended For...
Older Teens and Young Adults. Adults.
Young Teens through Young Adults.

Will there be a movie?

Yes! Divergent will be a movie. It is set for release on March 21st, 2014. Yes, I plan on seeing it.

What did you think of Divergent?

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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      That was very helpful so know when I read the book i will not be scared that it will lower my expectations

    • profile image

      natalie lobo 

      5 years ago

      amazing review!

    • AnastasiaMcGowan profile image


      5 years ago from United States

      Thank you for this review! You said things that I thought of while I was reading, I really enjoyed this book but felt that it was for a younger audience.

    • Torrs13 profile image

      Tori Canonge 

      5 years ago from North Carolina

      I have read The Hunger Games but would like to read Divergent and the other two books now that I have seen the movie. Thanks for this review!

    • Everyday Miracles profile imageAUTHOR

      Becki Rizzuti 

      6 years ago from Indiana, USA

      I'm going to finish it pretty soon, I think. I want to finish (re)reading TFiOS first and then I'll pick Allegiant back up, I think. I'm hoping it's bookmarked.

    • Ghonx profile image


      6 years ago from UK

      Say nothing of Mockingjay! I have yet to read it!

      I can understand your reluctance at finishing Allegiant, it does shift the narrative in quite a drastic direction, belittling everything set up in the previous books. I didn't want to read on at one point, but this was for the right reasons...

    • Everyday Miracles profile imageAUTHOR

      Becki Rizzuti 

      6 years ago from Indiana, USA

      I enjoy boy trilogies. I've had a lot of problems with Allegiant and so far have not been able to complete it. Sad, given that I bought it on release day. Mockingjay was no different though, to be honest!

    • Ghonx profile image


      6 years ago from UK

      I've got to admit, up until reading Divergent, Hunger Games was my preferred example of young adult Dystopia at its finest.

      But having read the entire trilogy (In the space of a month no less!), Veronica Roth has won me over. Goodbye Katniss, Hello Tris!

    • kschimmel profile image

      Kimberly Schimmel 

      6 years ago from North Carolina, USA

      What did you think of Allegiant? I loved the whole series as a mom/librarian/reader.

    • xkamronx profile image


      6 years ago from Utah, USA

      Loved the books, great review as well.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      6 years ago from USA

      I read the book as a way of connecting with my young teen daughter and the books she is reading. I hate Harry Potter and generally don't like anything "fantasy" or "teen dystopian" but I kept an open mind and ended up enjoying this book for its character development and lack of reliance on silly action that plagues many books. I liked the book 4/5 stars and only wish that there had been more attention to some of the other factions other than Abnegation and Dauntless. I plan to immediately read Insurgent as a follow up.

    • Sloan0713 profile image


      6 years ago from New Jersey

      I felt the same way when I originally decided to read Divergent. But, I was not disappointed. I too plan on seeing the movie as well. Insurgent was a good book too, I can not wait to read the third one this year.

      Question, do you get a lot of traffic with book reviews? I was thinking of doing a few myself for my favorites. Have a great weekend :o)

    • Everyday Miracles profile imageAUTHOR

      Becki Rizzuti 

      6 years ago from Indiana, USA

      I'm not even getting a romantic sense off this one at all. I don't abandon books very often but I might wind up abandoning this one. I had read that it was "like" The Hunger Games, but. . . No. It's not.

    • theluckywriter profile image


      6 years ago from Canada

      Oh, I didn't like Matched. At all. I have to say, though, that I'm pretty picky with dystopian fiction. I expect it to stand on its own merits, and not just to be a sappy romance (even worse if it's a love triangle) dressed up in dystopian clothes.

    • Everyday Miracles profile imageAUTHOR

      Becki Rizzuti 

      6 years ago from Indiana, USA

      I've heard that about Insurgent. I'll still read it because I enjoyed Divergent, but I'm aware that it might not be the greatest sequel to a book that I've ever read.

      I'm reading Matched right now and THIS is slow.

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools Hogg 

      6 years ago from North-East UK

      Interesting review which certainly made me want to read the book - I will get back to you when I get a chance to read it :o)

    • theluckywriter profile image


      6 years ago from Canada

      I liked Divergent a lot! It's definitely a page-turner! Unfortunately, I found the sequel - Insurgent - to be a bit of a slog. I'll still read the third, though, just to find out what happens.


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