Author: Veronica Roth
Publication date: May 3, 2011
Genre: YA dystopian fiction
Rating: 4.5 Crowns
Sixteen year old Beatrice Prior is about to make the biggest decision of her life so far-which faction she will belong to. In futuristic Chicago, the city is divided into five factions that value a single virtue: Abnegation (selflessness), Erudite (knowledge), Candor (truth), Amity (peace), and Dauntless (courage). The factions were created in an attempt to prevent future wars. A test determines the factions that the initiates can choose from. Beatrice's family belongs to the Abnegation faction and her dad is one of its leaders. It should be easy for her to make her choice but it isn't. She has never felt selfless enough to belong there but if she doesn't pick Abnegation, she'll have to leave her family for good. Her choice is only the beginning-there is a difficult initiation to get through and those that don't make it into the top ten will be Factionless, cut apart from society. The day of her test brings complications that could prove dangerous for Tris. On top of that, there is animosity building between some of the factions and war may be on the horizon.
What makes Divergent stand out from the crowd of YA dystopian fiction is the conflicted heroine Tris. Veronica Roth could have easily made her a super strong character like Katniss Everdeen of The Hunger Games but instead Tris is not very strong physically and quite realistically unsure of herself and the decision she makes. She is torn between what is expected of her as Abegnation and the kind of person she is on the inside. Tris has a lot to learn about the world she lives in and what she is capable of. I think Tris's weaknesses and struggles make her a more relatable character.
Tris's Chicago is divided into factions because it is supposed to be better for society, a way to eliminate what causes people to harm each other. The system has been in place for years and people thought it worked but Tris can see the cracks in the infrastructure. This is the kind of dystopian world seen in The Giver or Matched-people have accepted a certain way of life and its rules and regulations because they buy into the belief that it is what is best for them. The factions were created with a noble intent but greed, corruption, and complacency have caused people to lose sight of the original aims. Dauntless used to be about bravery and protecting people but now it has become a faction of cruelty. Erudite's search for knowledge and desire for intelligence has been turned into a hunger for power. Even Abnegation which is supposed to be all about selflessness and helping others has become a Puritanical group which controls its members with guilt.
There are deeper themes that are explored in the novel but Divergent is also filled with action and violence. There is a bit of romance as well between Tris and her mentor Four but I was glad it didn't overshadow the plot and there was no love triangle. For all its many positive attributes, I had some minor issues with the book. I didn't quite buy the reasoning behind why people went along with dividing into factions or believed that members of Candor wouldn't lie for example (they can lie just like members of Abnegation can be selfish). It just seems really naive of that society. I had some questions that went unanswered and I think the back story of why the factions exist could have been more developed but perhaps that will come in the sequel, Insurgent. Overall I thought Divergent was a well written page turner that would please fans of The Hunger Games trilogy and Delirium by Lauren Oliver. It is certainly my favorite book of 2011 so far.
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