The Norman Transcript

N-town reviews

July 7, 2014

Dystopian societies in the pages of ‘Divergent’ and ‘Alas, Babylon’

NORMAN — By Mary Newport

Transcript Staff Writer

Divergent (2011)

Veronica Roth's hit novel, “Divergent,” whirls readers into a dystopian society segregated by personalty traits. Members must define themselves as honest, selfless, brave, peaceful or intelligent. To lack a defining trait – or have more than one – is a death sentence. The premise is fetching, but diluted by the wash of teen dystopia works on the market.

What makes it stand out is the take-charge protagonist, Tris. On the eve of picking her faction, Tris is torn between what she wants and what her family wants for her – but she isn't the kind to sit around moaning about it. Where many main characters stumble into adventure or are pulled into conflict by greater forces, Tris is a vivid individual who pushes the action instead of waiting for it. She dives headfirst into her future, where secret plots, crazy stunts and near-death experiences are daily occurrences.

Tris's leap-before-looking attitude is an apt reflection of the book itself. The pace is fast and action-packed, with a refreshing lack of introspective moralizing. Roth leaves it to readers to weigh the merits of her characters' actions; the characters themselves are too busy jumping onto trains, off buildings and into trouble.

Roth also knows how to build a budding teen romance readers can root for. It fits into the action seamlessly, without being unnecessarily soppy or awkwardly sexy. Even better, it's realistic – Tris doesn't have every male in the book falling at her feet; she has romantic ups and downs like anyone else.

The only downside to the constant action is that scenes that should be emotionally gripping feel a bit rushed, and Tris sometimes comes off as cold in the face of death. This may, however, simply be the price for refusing to slow down. All in all, “Divergent” is a nail-biting, page-turning, edge-of-your-seat thrill ride neatly packed into less than 500 pages.

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