Divergent is written by Veronica Roth. It is the first book in the Divergent trilogy. It was published in 2011 by Katherine Tegen Books. Roth’s blog can be found here.
Genre: Dystopian, Young Adult
“In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is–she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.
During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are–and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.”
I look at Caleb, who now stands behind the Erudite. He stares back at me and nods a little, like he knows what I’m thinking, and agrees. My footsteps falter. If Caleb wasn’t fit for Abnegation, how can I be? But what choice do I have, now that he left us and I’m the only one who remains? He left me no other option.
I set my jaw. I will be the child that stays; I have to do this for my parents. I have to.
I open my eyes and thrust my arm out. My blood drips onto the carpet between the two bowls. Then, with a gasp I can’t contain, I shift my hand forward, and my blood sizzles on the coals.
I am selfish. I am brave.
“What?” I demand.
“You’re Divergent,” he replies.
I stare at him, fear pulsing through me like electricity. He knows. How does he know? I must have slipped up. Said something wrong.
I should act casual. I lean back, pressing my shoulders to the wall, and say, “What’s Divergent?”
“Don’t play stupid,” he says. “I suspected it last time, but this time it’s obvious. You manipulated the simulation; you’re Divergent. I’ll delete the footage, but unless you want to wind up dead at the bottom of the chasm, you’ll figure out how to hide it during the simulations! Now, if you’ll excuse me.”
Warnings: Violence, death.
Recommended Age Range: 16+
What I Liked:
According to my personal ranking of dystopian trilogies, the Divergent trilogy is right behind The Hunger Games, making it my second-favorite dystopian series. I gobbled this book up the first time I read it and absolutely loved it; the second time through, it was just as good. I’m way more well-versed in YA than I was when I first read Divergent, so a few things jumped out at me this time that didn’t before, but that didn’t change my overall impression of the book.
First of all, and I’m sorry if this is a little spoiler-y, but I am so happy that Roth didn’t include a love triangle. Now, I don’t know what’s going to happen in Allegiant, the third book, but if she introduces a love triangle in the last book, I’d be pretty surprised. I think I love Four and Tris even more just because there’s no stupid love triangle. And Four is one of the better YA love interests. He’s mysterious, okay; handsome, yes; but he’s more nuanced, more likeable, and much, much sweeter than most YA love interests. His concern for Tris is touching (and it really shows in Insurgent; not so much here) and makes their romance much more solidly-based than just the standard “love at first sight” that’s the norm.
When I first read Divergent, I had no clue who Four really was. This time, I noticed that it’s a little obvious (just because it’s a very YA plot-line, and as I said before, I’m very well-versed in YA formulas by this point), but I think I didn’t notice it the first time until maybe right before the revelation, if that, because of the fact that Roth really only mentions it once, right at the beginning, and I quickly forgot based on the circumstances Tris found herself in. It’s a pretty negligible fact to remember, in light of everything else, which is why I didn’t notice it.
Interestingly enough, as I was reading Divergent, I couldn’t help but think of the Harry Potter series. In Divergent, the people are divided into five factions that focus on one specific trait, much like in Harry Potter where the students of Hogwarts are divided into four houses that also feature one specific trait. There is a lot of harm that can be done by emphasizing one trait over all the others, as is clearly seen in both series, and there is equal harm that can be done by developing one trait over all the others. For example, in Candor, truth is valued above all else, so speaking one’s mind is done regularly. While honesty is important, honesty that’s not tempered by, say, peace, or respect, can be very damaging. Roth shows very well how focusing too much on one thing is dangerous and harmful and ultimately destructive, and that having honesty with respect, or selflessness with bravery (people who are Divergent, such as Tris), is ultimately more satisfying and just plain better. Speaking of which, I love the exploration of bravery and what it is to be brave that is shown in this book, as Tris herself struggles to discover what it means to be brave.
What I Didn’t Like:
Some of the writing was a bit choppy and for some reason, I found myself struggling to get into the first-person present tense.
The representations of the factions are very stereotypical, but…now that I think about it, I think that’s the point.
Also, after seeing the trailer for the movie, I actually like this book less. Don’t ask me why. But it made such a strong impression on me that I probably will not go see the movie (also, Theo James makes Four look WAY too old).
Divergent gets big points from me just for not having a love triangle, as well as for the lovely relationship and character development that Tris and Four have. The separation of the five factions brings up some good points about focusing too much on one particular trait to the detriment of the others. Tris’s struggle to see what bravery is and to act out that bravery shows the reader what bravery should or should not be, as well. In addition, the book is packed with action, a good plot, and enough romance to whet your appetite for the sequel.
You can buy this book here: Divergent
Coming Up Next: Insurgent by Veronica Roth