In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago, 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 to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating 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 a growing conflict that threatens 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 decided to read Divergent for two reasons. First, it happens to be a YA dystopian novel which I have found I like fairly well and second, lots of people seem to think that if you like The Hunger Games that you will like Divergent. I wasn’t blown away by The Hunger Games, but I liked it well enough, so I figured I would give Divergent a shot.
Veronica Roth has some interesting ideas that she’s exploring in Divergent, but at the same time she keeps to the popular conventions of a first person narrative, a strong (or at least seemingly so) female protagonist, and at least a hint of romance. Thank heavens it isn’t a love triangle situation though, we’ve had enough of those in YA literature for the time being.
Tris Prior is the main protagonist and she’s reached the age where she has to choose which part of society she’s going to spend the rest of her life being a part of. Will she choose the group that focuses on selflessness where she grew up? Or, will she try to join the group that lives by bravery or maybe the one obsessed with intelligence. It’s a tough choice and ultimately the choice she does make opens up an entirely new world for her to live in and experience.
On the whole I enjoyed Divergent, but there were a few things that had me letting out a sigh of disappointment. The most glaring of which is Tris’ constant self-doubt. I get that a teenage character is going to have some reservations about things and maybe worry a bit about if they are doing the right thing, or even if they have what it takes to succeed. But, that doesn’t mean it needs to be a constant theme that gets mentioned every other page. The second thing that sort of bothered me is that the book ends rather abruptly. It’s pretty clear that the trilogy was probably written as if it could be published as one really long book and then chopped into three pieces. There isn’t a whole lot of resolution at the end of Divergent and a reader is going to want to have the second book on hand when they are finished.
I the end, I think I enjoyed Divergent more than The Hunger Games, but only by the slimmest of margins. Divergent isn’t filled with the whole “kids killing other kids” theme that The Hunger Games has, but it has its own somewhat disturbing moments as well.
Length: 501 pages