Consider a world where humanity’s most valued traits define the lives of people so much so that their jobs, dispositions, and education are essentially decided for them, based on where they fit in. Five factions, each revering their own brand of righteousness, each preaching the gospel of existence in a particular flavor: courage, honesty, selflessness, peace, and knowledge. Veronica Roth’s Divergent posits such a world, with Beatrice (Tris) at the center of it.
As a lover of dystopian fiction, I was excited to read this book. I had put it off for a while, but decided to grab it on a whim. I read it in less than a 24 hour period, which should show you that, indeed, it is an engaging read. The world and the characters are well crafted and make you keep reading just to learn more.
At 16, all young people are allowed to make a choice; they can stay with their faction and family, or they can pursue initiation into another faction. As Olmec from Legends of the Hidden Temple might say, “The choice is yours, and yours alone.” If they choose to leave where they were born, they can no longer see their family. A risk also exists of becoming factionless, which is viewed as an unthinkable fate.
Tris grows up in the faction that values selflessness. When the time comes to make her choice, Tris gathers the courage to join the courageous, and takes her life in a new direction. You follow Tris through initiation and her realization that she is different; she is Divergent. She makes friends and enemies as she tries to mold herself into what she wants to be. Her character is a big draw to the book for me. She is constantly considering herself and what she wants out of life. Even though she has left her old life behind, essentially deeming it inferior, she still gives credit to what it taught her and reveres certain traits that she sees as worth keeping. I can relate.
Eventually, Tris finds out that there is more going on than she ever imagined, and that she is in danger for being Divergent. The seeds of war begin where humanity’s flaws are illuminated through an intense focus on desirable traits. Tris must begin to understand what it means to be Divergent – and human – in her dystopian world.
Throughout the novel, more and more is revealed. Rather than satisfying the need to find out more, it simply makes that need intensify. Though the reasoning behind some of the occurrences toward the end of the book seems a little manufactured and confusing, it is acceptable in light of the rest of the story. After describing it to my boyfriend, however, he gave me a shifty-eyed look of disdain. I myself can look past it, but I don’t think everyone could. So be warned!
Perhaps the most important aspect of the book is the thought it provokes – namely, that these traits are not incorruptible Courage can lead to recklessness and a need for dominance. Selflessness can rob you of the same rights you strive to ensure for others. Knowledge can crave power, honesty can be brutal, and peace can be, well, too passive.
It’s a little bit Harry Potter and a little bit Hunger Games, though it can stand own its own. My only true qualm with the book was that after you turn the last page, the author has inserted an acknowledgment page that is basically “Yay, Jesus!” This isn’t a big issue, I just don’t often like to be stabbed in the face people’s religious affiliations, or affiliations in general – it can color the book in a way that can easily ruin it. Religion is present in the book, but not at all emphasized, by the way.
So in short, Divergent was a pretty good read. I swept through it, thought a little, smiled a little, frowned a little, and was ultimately left to contemplate which faction I would choose. Also I learned some new words!