Divergent by Veronica Roth
(Divergent # 1)
HarperCollins Children’s Books, 489 pages
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.
It’s been a while since I read some dystopia, and to be perfectly honest, I think I may have lost some of my taste in them. Oh, don’t worry, I still like it a lot, but I guess I have this feeling that I’ve run out of really good and credible ones that make my heart race, or make me rave like the way The Hunger Games or The Knife of Never Letting Go did1.That, and I’ve been enjoying immersing myself in fantasy and contemporary, so that other little sub-genre of seeming despair, destruction and surviving some sort of end of the world or society as we know it has taken a back seat.
This pause of dystopia stopped because of Divergent by Veronica Roth. I’ve heard so many good things about this book that it’s made me curious, and it doesn’t really help that the cover of the book looked, well, fiery. Well and fine, so I got the book in hardcover in case it is what everyone said it would be and I’d want to keep a hardbound copy for my collection. In case it wasn’t…well, with bookish friends, it’s become easier to dispose of un-rereadable books.
In a future Chicago, the society is divided into five factions that uphold certain virtues that are believed to be a solution to the evil in the society: Candor the honest, Amity the kind, Erudite the intelligent, Abnegation the selfless and Dauntless the brave. Every year, all 16-year-old would take an evaluation that would tell them which virtue they display the most, and are given the choice to choose which faction to live with for the rest of their life. Beatrice Prior is Abnegation, but she knew she was far from selfless. On her choosing ceremony, she leaves her faction and joins the Dauntless, intrigued by their recklessness and bravery. She renames herself as Tris, and what follows is a series of challenges for her and other batch mates for the Dauntless initiation, and surviving it means being able to join the society and upholding the faction’s beliefs. Failure is not an option, as it means either death or worse, factionless — forever shunned by everyone but Abnegation. But Tris has a secret that makes her special and wanted and dangerous, and she discovers that her secret is related to the growing unrest in the seemingly perfect society.
Divergent was interesting. It’s definitely a little different from what I’ve read before, with the society focusing on something as abstract as virtues to make it run. This makes it a bit hard to wrap my head around the society because I don’t think a human being can be just only brave or selfless or intelligent. Virtues are hard to quantify, and I’d think that everyone will be evaluated as Divergent at the start because everyone can exhibit all those virtues, even if one is dominant over the other. So this should really be a deal breaker for me in this book, but here’s the thing: somewhere while reading, I find myself accepting the world the author created, faults and all. It didn’t really make sense if I think about it too much, but a part of me decided to say, “Who cares? Just let it go and read on.”
Perhaps what contributed to this acceptance is the fun readability of this. Divergent is addicting. It’s been a long time since I find myself immersed and somewhat invested in a dystopian world. I guess being set in the Dauntless faction and reading about the training is really fun. I liked how the trainings were set up. It’s action packed, bloody and almost brutal — as in knife in the eye socket brutal. There are a lot of themes explored in the book, and I liked how they tried to define bravery. I liked how one of the lines in the Dauntless manifesto says this:
I believe in ordinary acts of bravery, in the courage that drives on person to stand up for another.
It’s heavy without being really too heavy, if you get what I mean? Tris is also an excellent heroine, IMO. I loved how she’s no pushover, and how she can be cold and calculating and vengeful one time and guilty and compassionate after. I also liked her little group, and the moments she spent with them softened their hard times and gave them a more human side. It somehow reminds the readers that even if they’re being trained to shoot guns and beat other people up, Tris and company are still teenagers.
The only other complaint I have in this book is it’s a tad too predictable — two of the three twists I managed to predict pages before it was revealed. I don’t know if it’s the same for everyone, but I guess I managed to pick up on the other clues in the book too easily to predict these twists. Also, I may be one of the few who’s not really that interested in the romance aspect in the story. Not that I thought the guy wasn’t hot — he is, but perhaps he’s just not my type. Heh. Or I’m just nitpicking.
Despite all that, Divergent is a fun and addicting read. A little bit on the violent side, but not too gory. To address the question of comparison with other hit dystopias: this book is no Hunger Games, but it’s entertaining. I really like it enough for me to be curious about the rest of the trilogy.
My copy: Hardbound from Fully Booked
Cover and blurb: Goodreads
- I do have the rest of the Chaos Walking trilogy on my TBR, but I need to be emotionally ready to read it [↩]