(Cover picture courtesy of Veronica Roth’s blog.)
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.
(Summary courtesy of Amazon.)
My feelings about Divergent are pretty mixed for two reasons: One of the themes hits close to home and Veronica Roth perpetuates a terrifyingly common stereotype that has been around for thousands of years. I don’t like bringing my personal life into reviews so I’ll discuss the latter point, which is not mutually exclusive.
I don’t like the portrayal of the Erudites, the group that is devoted to knowledge and learning. The Erudites are the bad guys who are logical to the point of being emotionless and extremely greedy for wanting more progress in society. Meanwhile, Dauntless (except for a few schemers) are portrayed as virtuous and self-sacrificing and Abnegation is humble and does all of the charity work in the city.
Tris is mad at her brother for being good at lying and hiding his intellectual tendencies, even though she should be happy for him. It’s funny how Erudites as a whole are portrayed as the only ruthless, greedy sect that has been corrupted by a thirst for knowledge. All this definitely falls in line with the smart=evil that popular culture seems to think. Apparently if you’re smart, you are an unfeeling robot, even though anyone who has met a truly intelligent person knows that isn’t true. This falls in line with the very religious tone of Divergent because, according to Christianity (to use just one example, although a lot of religions are guilty of this), it was mankind’s thirst for knowledge that led to our banishment from Eden.
The idea of five different factions is interesting, but also pushes at the boundaries of credibility. People don’t fit nearly into 5 (six if you count the factionless) factions, no matter what you do. I know the factions are supposed to be just about the virtue you value the highest, yet in practice they only push that one virtue. There would be a lot of Divergent people if such a society really existed. However, the rest of Veronica Roth’s world-building is basically sound and she does have a unique premise.
Tris is an okay character. She’s brave and when she falls in love it isn’t Insta-Love. Four is an interesting character as well with an intriguing backstory that I would really like to learn more about. The secondary characters are decent enough, but they’re nothing to brag about either. What redeems Divergent, however, is the fast pacing and Veronica Roth’s admittedly addicting writing style. It will be interesting to see where she steers the narrative in Insurgent.
I give this book 3/5 stars.