Author: Veronica Roth
Series: The Divergent Series
Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s Books
Publish Date: January 1, 2011
Genres: Young Adult, Dystopian, Romance
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.
In recent years, dystopian novels have been filling the shelves of booksellers worldwide. Many of these books reiterate the same plot, characters, romances, etc. These similarities tend to make dystopian novels fairly predictable and a bit boring by the fifth or sixth book. Divergent, however, was a refreshing change that surpassed all of my expectations, which were set quite high to begin with. I was taken aback by the unique plot, likable characters, and dramatic ending.
Beatrice Prior grows up in a seemingly utopian society in which individuals belong to one of five factions: Abnegation, the selfless; Candor, the honest; Erudite, the knowledgeable; Amity, the peaceful; and Dauntless, the courageous. Each of these five factions coexist in harmony, each serving a distinct purpose in society. Every year, a Choosing Ceremony occurs, in which all sixteen-year-olds must chose to remain in their current faction, the one that they were born into, or transfer to another faction. In an attempt to prepare these sixteen-year-olds to make a decision that will dictate the rest of their lives, an aptitude test is administered, recommending a single faction that each individual is best suited for. When Beatrice takes her aptitude test, however, her results are inconclusive, leaving her upset and confused. She was relying on the aptitude test to point her in the right direction, but now she must examine her true identity and choose just one faction. Her decision is one that she must live with for the rest of her life.
I absolutely loved the characters! Beatrice is initially portrayed as a timid, meek girl struggling to find her true identity. Throughout the novel, her character visibly progresses, maturing as she begins to make her own decisions and is exposed to the true horrors and imperfections in her society. I found her transformation mesmerizing; the Beatrice at the beginning of the book is nearly unrecognizable when compared to the Beatrice at its conclusion. Beatrice can hardly be pegged as a damsel in distress – she is proactive in finding a solution to her problems and facing them head on, instead of lounging around and waiting for a significance other to do so for her.
That brings me to Four, the mysterious yet charming gentleman of the novel. His bad-boy reputation immediately captures Beatrice’s attention, despite his initially cold demeanor. Once they get to know each other, however, he serves as the only constant in Beatrice’s life; he is there to support her, no matter what. This sense of commitment forges an unbreakable bond between the two characters, to the point where they are willing to die for one another. Their romance, while cute and relatable, could have been furthered developed as the book progressed. They had a number of awkward, strained encounters that didn’t seem to match up with their relationship status at the time. On a similar note, it would have been nice to see a bit more romance; there were a few brief kisses here and there, but that was the extent of their love. The novel left something to be desired in that respect.
While I loved many aspects of Divergent, there were a few components that I couldn’t overlook. For example, the “utopian” society and premise for the series share many similarities with The Hunger Games. Both societies emerged as the resolution to a devastating war, which dictated many of the rules and regulations imposed upon their inhabitants. Despite the conclusion of these wars, the citizens are unhappy and their demands for change fall on deaf ears. Consequently, these citizens rise up in an organized revolt against the established government, standing firmly by their beliefs.
The plot was exciting and action-packed, keeping me on the edge of my seat the entire time. It moved along at a rapid pace, jumping from one event to the next in a matter of paragraphs. While there were a few scenes containing violence, I was able to overlook it, and it didn’t detract from the book as a whole. Roth’s technique and writing style was also flawless, and I quickly fell in love with it. She had a magnificent ability to construct narratives that send readers on an emotional roller coaster, constantly rooting for their favorite characters. I am certainly interested in reading some of Roth’s future works and would recommend the Divergent series to fellow readers in a heartbeat!