Divergent by Veronica Roth was a good read. I definitely enjoyed it. As I detailed in my review of the movie, society in Divergent has become stratified into five factions: Erudite, Candor, Amity, Abnegation, and Dauntless. I’m sure the society is more nuanced than we were shown, but each faction became known for its representative career track, i.e. scientists, lawyers, farmers, civil servants, and police, respectively. Each teenager takes an aptitude test that reveals which faction they belong to, though most stay with their family. Some choose to jump factions at this junction in their life. And some discover they don’t belong to any faction at all.
This is what happened to Beatrice Prior who discovered she had aptitude for Abnegation, Dauntless, and Erudite—selfless, fierce, and sharp. You wouldn’t think such qualities would be considered detrimental, but Divergents were feared by Beatrice’s society, and she was encouraged by the tester to never speak of her test results to anyone.
Once Beatrice switched to Dauntless, she took on the name, Tris, and was on her own and hip deep in political intrigue, romance, and danger. Could she survive the training process? Could she keep her divergence a secret? Could she figure out what Dauntless and Erudite leadership were up to? This is what the first book in this trilogy focused on.
Roth wrote very strong characters and a gripping plot line, so it isn’t hard to see why the series earned such devout fans. I found Tris’ transformation from Abnegation to Dauntless convincing and engaging. I also enjoyed trying to understand not only what was happening, but why Tris’ society had developed this way. Frankly, I couldn’t put the book down, which is why I rate it so highly.
There were a few elements that bothered me. One of the main problems with Divergent is that Roth created a dystopian society on the verge of collapse, but didn’t go into details on how such a society arose in the first place. The factions seemed like such an arbitrary and artificial societal construct. Who isn’t born with more than one strong attribute?
The problem with this was that Roth was saving the answers for the third book. I won’t spoil any surprises, but if you find yourself scratching your head and wondering how any of Tris’ world could possibly have happened, just hang in there. This long game, however, sometimes created awkward conversations. People felt more like chess pieces being moved into place by the author than living human beings realistically reacting to the world around them. There was an artificialness to some of the setup where the majestic hand of the author could be felt intruding into the scene to block me from seeing a truth too early.
Then again, the story kept me turning page after page, so Roth’s compelling writing style more than made up for some of these shortcomings. If you watched the movie and wanted to know more about the world that Tris came from, Divergent is a great place to start. Best of all, you won’t have to wait until next year to find out that big reveal in the theaters. All the books are already in print.
Release Date: May 3, 2011 (USA)
ISBNs: 0062024027 (9780062024022)
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (social, background)
Language: 1 (mild swears)
Sexuality: 2 (heated smoochin’)
Violence: 3 (fighting, violence, death, suicide)