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Divergent  - Veronica Roth I'm still mulling over what I think of this one. I mean, I blew through it, because I couldn't stop reading....if I hadn't gotten sick and spent half a day asleep I would have finished it in no time. A couple things kind of bothered me about it, but in the end, not enough to keep me from loving it.

I really loved the characters. I'm sorry, but I thought Veronica Roth did the whole dystopic game-of-survival story a lot better than The Hunger Games... Katniss is always said to be a really tough character, but for me, she just never really....did anything. The events of the Games seemed to happen around he, and she never seemed to really suffer and fear for her life -- I mean, that last moment of panic when your enemy is looming over your broken body and you can't fathom how you'll escape...that kind of fear for your life. There was a general sense of "I have to win or it means I died," but...the immediacy wasn't there. Tris, on the other hand, struggles daily to win a place among the Dauntless. She gets thoroughly beaten on several occasions. And sometimes she doesn't find a way to win against all odds. That made her very real to me, and made her struggle very real. She was tough as nails but had to learn -- the hard way -- the difference between being brave and being heartless.

There were some things that made it a not-quite-5-star book for me, though. The pacing felt a little uneven...the book is very long, and some passages/events felt repetitive. Also, what ended up being the real climax of the story seemed to come up very abruptly in the latter part of the book, and got (partially) resolved just as quickly. I really wanted to know more about the world. Why are there factions? When did this come about? What's going on in the rest of the world? Is the rest of the United States even intact, and if so, do they have factions too? I suppose that'll be the topic of the next book, but I'd have liked some hints about the past. Certain details didn't make sense to me either -- for instance, the Dauntless seem to rely on these trains to get around, but what trains, and why? I got the impression they were like regular old freight trains with empty box cars with open doors. Why were they going around and around the city? Who drove them? No one rides them except the Dauntless. They don't transport any goods, apparently. They don't seem to go anywhere important. They just felt like a convenient plot tool, really. And the technology all felt very early 21st century to me, too. Computers with hard drives? How soon in the future does this take place? These things bothered me a little, but obviously not enough to make me dislike the book.

Also, I felt kind of cheated that both of her parents met the same fate, within pages of each other, and her brother had the same reaction both times. Tris's reactions built up a little bit, but we moved on so quickly it just felt...I don't know. It wasn't quite as emotionally charged as I thought it should have been.

And it was never really explained why Divergent people could manipulate the simulation. And when Four got so angry with Tris for changing the simulation to beat it (so much that he had to delete the footage so no one would see it), how the heck was she able to manipulate ALL of the fears in her fear landscape, with the panel watching her, without raising any suspicions? AND manage to beat everyone? That felt like a huge plot hole to me.

Like I said, I really enjoyed the characters. I loved Tris's internal and external struggles. Four was wonderful, even though he sometimes got a little too....squishy and dramatic for the tough bad-A character he is the rest of the time. And I figured out who he was by the second chapter we saw him...so I kept wanting to smack Tris for not making the connection. ;-) But this was a really fun read, and I'm definitely looking forward to Insurgent!