Review: Divergent

This was a Christmas gift, and I’d had a hunch it might be, so I purposefully didn’t check it out of the library when I was there the week before! (Though, I’ve since learned that the waiting list for these books is quite long, so I probably wouldn’t have been able to anyway!)

Yes, this is young adult fiction, and yes it is extremely popular, and yes, I liked it.

Divergent by Veronica Roth is a dystopian style novel that takes place in the future in what is today known as Chicago. **Side note: I’m currently a pretty big fan of dystopian literature, and if you want to read my post on why it’s perfect for the language classroom, head over to my other blog!!**

As a teenager, every citizen has to take an aptitude test. This simulation test reveals to students what faction they are best cut out for: Amity, Candor, Erudite, Dauntless, or Abnegation. The test basically forces the teens to react to circumstances, and through those reactions, it is determined what they value most: Peace, Honesty, Knowledge, Bravery, or Selflessness. Then, once their results have been given, the students must choose which faction they will be in for the rest of their life.

It’s a huge day for everyone. The teens have the option of choosing a faction other than what they grew up in, but doing so means that they cut off their family forever. Factions live together and only mix in school and some careers. The point of the factions is to create a society in which people value what they most believe will eliminate war and fighting (or prevent it, as society as a whole is at peace . . . currently.)

But what happens when the simulation test gives inconclusive results? How does one make the choice then? And what if those inconclusive results not only make the choice harder, but influence the rest of your life from here on out? What if those inconclusive results mark you as a divergent?

Beatrice grew up in Abnegation, where the people believe that selflessness is what society needs in order to remain at peace. If only citizens would put the needs of others before their own, always, there would be no strife or contention. Beatrice struggles in this culture. Selflessness is not natural to her, nor easy. So, when her test results come back inconclusive, she doesn’t know what to do.

She makes the choice to join the Dauntless, the faction of bravery, meaning she turns her back on her family and walks away with the group of people she has always admired from a distance. The group who dons black, has tattoos and piercings, and performs crazy stunts like jumping off of moving trains. Initiation begins as soon as the new members of Dauntless leave the ceremony and find a speeding train waiting, or rather not waiting for them. Initiation carries on where the new members learn how to fight, control their emotions, and face their fears. Not all initiates will make the cut, but those who do will forever after be proud members of the Dauntless faction.

But, something more is underfoot. This year is not normal . . . as hard as society has worked to maintain peace amongst all citizens, something has gone wrong. And the divergents are stuck in the middle . . .

————–

When I started this book, it was with mixed emotions. I was hoping it would be as good as the Hunger Games Trilogy, but I didn’t want it to be just like The Hunger Games. I was afraid it would be too similar, and that would ruin the story.

To clear things up: this story is totally different than The Hunger Games. Whew. Now, I will say that I didn’t like it quite as much as The Hunger Games, but I still really liked it. This was an action-packed story without an obvious story line, which of course, makes a good story! I was kept guessing from the beginning until the end. I’m really excited to get my hands on the next book, because this is definitely one of those series that you need to keep reading. There are some deep questions running through the book, but I don’t think that I’m ready to fully address them until I see where the story goes.

That being said, there is the overarching question of: “Does one value in isolation lead towards a better/more peaceful society?” This was a really interesting proposition. The members of Candor could never lie, they always told the truth. Is this desirable? Does this better society? (Please note, I’m not saying that lying benefits society, but is always saying exactly what you are thinking the best way to interact with others?) Another really important question that was raised in the Dauntless faction is: “What is real bravery?” Does real bravery mean that you can perform any violent or difficult act? Or, does real bravery sometimes mean acknowledging a fear and backing down, perhaps being selfless?

I’m really excited to see these concepts developed more in the coming books.

The one issue that I did have with Divergent was that it was rather mature, or intimacy-focused, for what is Young Adult Literature, in my mind. I realize that I may be overly sensitive and sheltered when it comes to intimacy/sex/adult content in books (as in, I always try to alert readers in a review of possible objectionable material, and I may be more sensitive to ‘objectionable material’ than lots of other people.) However, I was surprised by the focus of dating relationships in the book. It is in a way central to the story, but I felt that a measure of the detail was unnecessary. I am not sure how comfortable I would be with my own teenage children reading this book without guidance and discussion (thankfully, I have 13 years until I have a teenager in the house and have to make this decision! I would highly recommend that parents read this first, before making the decision. For some teens, this book will be fine, their level of maturity is probably high enough to handle it. I don’t know if I would have been comfortable reading it as a teenager.)

So, to summarize, I like the story, I like where it’s going, I think that Roth did a great job creating an intriguing plot. I would caution readers to be aware of the emphasis on romance and romantic exploration that is in the book, so that they can make an informed decision when deciding whether or not to read it.

With all that being said, I’m sure you’ll be seeing an Insurgent review up here once my library gets a copy in!!

{finished: 4 January, 2014}

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *