Divergent by Veronica Roth
Series: Divergent #1
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on April 25th, 2011
Shelve It: Goodreads
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.
Divergent, though at times a heart-pounding, adrenaline pumping thrill ride, was slightly overwhelmed by poor world-building, lacklustre characters and the inability to persuade me that this future was possible.
Imagine a world where society is divided into five factions, each which represents a particular virtue – Candor (the honest), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), Erudite (the intelligent) and Abnegation (the selfless). A little simplistic, but with a slight suspension of disbelief, still plausible. Tris originates from Abnegation, a faction she never truly felt connected to. Having reached the wise age of sixteen (please note the sarcasm), Tris must now decide which faction she would like to commit the rest of her life to. This was the first issue I had with Divergent. How can a sixteen-year-old be expected to understand the implications of a life-changing decision? I still struggle with the question of what I want to be when I grow up, and I know had I been forced to choose at sixteen, I would be regretting that decision now. I did admire that Tris was brave enough to follow her heart and choose Dauntless – knowing that she would be removed from both her parents and the home that she grew up in – but the fact that she deviated from the expected path after watching her brother do the same made her bold statement seem less courageous.
Having now pledged her allegiance to Dauntless, Tris quickly learns that the Dauntless have earned their reputation of thrill-seekers – her first task, after jumping on to a moving train, is to jump off of that train on to the roof of a building. Throughout the book we watch Tris perform these “brave” feats, but the more I watched her hurl herself off of something moving or participate in a fight with another Dauntless initiate, the more I felt like the actions of the Dauntless weren’t done out of bravery, but out of stupidity. And Tris (along with the majority of the other initiates) just accepted that by performing these stupid acts, she would become brave and thus gain acceptance. This was my second problem with Divergent – the holes in the world building. I just can’t fathom a world where this would be seen as a plausible solution to whatever issue we got ourselves in to. How does risking your life in order to be transported from one location to another accomplish anything? (Although I must admit, it would look pretty cool to watch on the big screen!) Maybe if there had been any explanation as to how the world had reached this point, I could have understood the reason behind all of the theatrics. There was also never any explanation as to what existed outside of the walls of Tris’ society – had the rest of the world also divided itself into factions? And what was the point in having the factionless? If someone wasn’t fit to be a part of any faction, why were resources wasted on their survival – why weren’t they outcast into the world beyond? It just didn’t make sense to me to label these people as outcast, and then worry about their well-being.
The characters, though enjoyable, also fell a little flat for me. I enjoyed watching Tris progress through the various Dauntless initiations, but I never truly connected with her. Her success seemed to mostly come from her divergence, which limited how much courage I could attribute to her actions. Was she persevering because she was truly brave, or because her divergence made everything easier for her? Her actions throughout the book became more and more self-centred, which I’m attributing to her acceptance of her Dauntless nature and the release of her old Abnegation habits, but it still surprised me. I did enjoy the development of her relationship with Four, as it progressed slowly and didn’t feel forced, but because I didn’t connect with Tris, I didn’t feel the deep connection she told me she shared with him. I loved Four and watching him work at overcoming his fears, which was one of the only moments of true bravery that I saw in Divergent. The other characters were all necessary to move the plot forward, but not particularly memorable.
I do wish the fear behind divergence had been explored more, since the concept being underdeveloped had me wondering what all the fuss was about, and there were times when I felt the level of violence was unnecessary – again, many Dauntless acts seemed more like stupidity then bravery. But, that being said, I really enjoyed reading Divergent. It was a fun, fast read and it kept me fully entertained from start to finish.
Disclaimer: I originally posted this review in October of 2011 on Radiant Shadows. In an effort to have a comprehensive list of all of my reviews on Pretty Little Reader, I will occasionally be reposting older reviews, usually before I review/post something about its sequel.