Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent takes place in a futuristic post-apocalyptic now dystopian Chicago.  It is a world divided into five factions and the member of each faction are supposed to be the embodiment of that factions central virtue.  Those in Abnegation value selflessness; in Dauntless, it is bravery;  for Erudite, it is intelligence; Candor values honesty and Amity embodies peacefulness.  At 16, children are give an aptitude test to determine which value they are personally disposed to.  And after getting the results, they face a Choosing Day ceremony and pick the faction they believe they will best fit into.

Beatrice Prior, 16, the book's narrator, was born into Abnegation, but has always known that she did not belong there, that a life of absolute selflessness would be impossible for her.  So it is not surprise that after her aptitude test, sh is told she is Divergent, meaning that she does not fit into a particular faction.  And at the Choosing Day ceremony, Beatrice picks Dauntless as her faction and Tris as her new name.

Being in Dauntless isn't easy.  First, there are the physical feats to accomplish, like jumping onto a moving train, or jumping from the roof of a tall building.  And it is especially hard when you have to keep it a secret that you are Divergent.  They truly believed in Faction before Blood and Tris is warned that past Divergents ended up dead in Dauntless.  But Tris turns out to be somewhat of a daredevil, even if some of her Abnegation traits sometimes surface.  And she makes friends with other Dauntless initiates.

There are only 10 spots open in Dauntless to the more than  20 initiates who have chosen it, and everyone figures the Dauntless-born initiates have an edge.  And failing to be initiated into a faction means your are factionless, which is very much like being homeless.  But Tris isn't the type to back away from danger and soon she is gaining ground over other initiates.  And gaining enemies!

I had heard Divergent compared to The Hunger Games so much, that I was hesitant to read it.  And while there are indeed similarities, I thought that there were enough differences to make it a worthwhile book to read.

I thought that Tris, as the main protagonist and narrator, was a well thought out character, strong and independent, in a world that seems to value conformity.  She is brave, sometimes to a fault, but in choosing Dauntless, she never fully gives up her Abnegation traits of caring about her fellow human beings.  And of course, even as she is in a fight for her place in Dauntless society, there is a love interest and his (nick)name  is Four and there is a definite reason they are attracted to one another, but to talk about that would be a *spoiler* and some parts of this story are too good to spoil.

I also thought that Roth's world building was pretty good.  She mentions enough of Chicago's landmarks that you can more or less figure out where the characters are.  And ironically, I found I never wondered where the rest of the world was and how they were governed, a experience I also had reading The Hunger Games.  It was all so nicely self-contained.

But the virtues are what really caught my attention.  The world of Divergent  had been set up in faction ever since the Great Peace, in an attempt to prevent future wars that were based on mankind's inclination towards evil.  So each faction was formed by people who blamed certain qualities or vices in man for the "world's disarray." (pg 43)  For example, Abnegation was formed by those who blamed selfishness.  What's interesting about virtues and vices is that they are just two sides to the same coin and seeing how they play out in Divergent.

This was the first dystopian novel I have read with the same enthusiasm I felt when I read The Hunger Games.  And now I really can't wait to read Insurgent.

This book is recommended for readers age 13+
This book was purchased for my personal library.

HarperCollins offers a very useful discussion guide to readers of Divergent that can be found here


  1. Like you, I was intrigued by the virtues that make up the factions in Divergent. I read it before The Hunger Games but I think I preferred The Hunger Games (overall). I also didn't think beyond the boundaries of either world - they are well contained. I preferred Divergent to Insurgent though...

  2. Interesting. I also felt that Divergent reminded me somewhat of The Hunger Games (which I loved), but felt there were enough differences to keep me reading. I received Insurgent for Christmas, but haven't read it yet. I'm very curious about it though.


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