Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Divergent by Veronica Roth
Katherine Tegen Books, 2011
487 pages
YA; Dystopian
4/5 stars

Source: Library

I originally avoided this book because I didn't like the cover but then I kept seeing loads of positive reviews so I thought I would give it a try, hoping for a fast-paced, fun story.  I ended up thinking it was good, not great.

In future Chicago, people are divided into five factions passed on specific priorities.  Candor values truthfulness and plain speaking; Amity values peacefulness; Erudite values intelligence; Dauntless values bravery; and Abnegation values renunciation of self in the service of others.  Beatrice is born into the Abnegation faction but she has her opportunity to choose after taking a test.  Those test results are inconclusive as she shows aptitude for three factions, meaning she is "Divergent," a powerful but also dangerous position.  When the time comes, she chooses Dauntless feeling herself unequal to the selflessness of Abnegation.

When she arrives at her new faction she chooses the name Tris, makes new friends, gets several tattoos, and meets an intriguing boy named Four.  Now all of the descriptions of her settling into her new faction are interesting with many great scenes and lots of action.  But they definitely could have been edited down so that we could get into the meat of the story faster; namely that there are power-hungry people in Erudite who are planning to use the people of Dauntless in an army to overthrow the current leaders of the government (who all come from Abnegation and are theoretically the least likely to be self-serving).

Because of Tris' status as Divergent, she has special powers (of course) and she must gather her wits and marshal her forces to stop the machinations of Erudite and protect her family.  I appreciated the deaths in these scenes, which drove home the danger of their society and made life much more difficult for Tris.  There's also a bit of romance, between Tris and Four, which at first I wasn't into but after they spent a lot of time together, talking and being pretty vulnerable, especially Four when he revealed his deeper fears, I think they are a couple I can get behind.

One last thing I liked was that there wasn't a giant cliffhanger. Don't get me wrong, there are questions aplenty about what how the society will recover and restructure following the events of the last pages but we are provided with breathing space and a measure of contentment because Tris relaxes with Four.

I guess the biggest problem for me (which is stated by Four later in the book) is how thoroughly everyone buys into the virtue of their particular faction instead of wanting to have parts of all of them.  I mean, those are all good traits to have so to scorn possessing all five in favor of just one seemed ludicrous to me.  I'm not sure how long this has been going on but surely other people within the society had those thoughts. Are we all so into groupthink that we can have our personalities subsumed? On a more personal level, I hated that Erudite Faction had the plotters because I'm pretty sure that would be my faction although it makes the most sense that Erudite would have the plotters because Amity wants peace, Candor and Abnegation couldn't be hidden and manipulative enough, and Dauntless isn't smart enough.

Overall: A good debut and I'm sure I will read the sequel at some point.

Cover: Is that fire the sign of Dauntless or the sign of Divergent? Or something else entirely? Not sure if that was explained.

Some SPOILER questions for the next book: why are so many Divergent born in Abnegation? Is Tris' mom really dead-she won't be resurrected for plot convenience or by some evil Erudite plan? How many survived the killings (which kind of reminded me of Anakin slaying the Jedi in Episode III)?

1 comment:

  1. Excellent review! You make some great points. I felt the same way about why people are buying into the whole idea of factions and ignoring the other virtues. I thought it was naive for them to believe that because someone is in Candor, they wouldn't lie or that people in Abnegation make the best leaders. What a lot of brainwashing! At least Tris and Four challenge those beliefs. I also want to know what caused them to divide into factions-was there a big world war? And what is going on outside of Chicago? Those are some of the questions that I hope are answered in Insurgent.


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