Divergent, by Veronica Roth, 2011, Book Review

divergentI’m becoming more and more a fan of the dystopian genre. I’ve read some very good ones this year, and Divergent ranks high.

Beatrice lives in what used to be Chicago, but it has become a land of factions. Five faction, to be exact, which all follow their own philosophy about how to live in peace: Abnegation, in which she grew up, steeped in the ways of selflessness. Candor, who value honesty above all else. Dauntless, the brave. Erudite, who figure knowledge will keep the world safe. And Amity, who dislike aggression. At sixteen years of age, the time has come for Beatrice to make the decision that will affect the rest of her life: stay in Abnegation or choose a different faction. The problem is, Beatrice knows she isn’t selfless, at least, not selfless enough. How can she stay in Abnegation knowing she’ll never live up to the standard? But what other faction would she choose? And how could she abandon her family? Even worse, aptitude tests show she has tendencies toward three different factions, making her a Divergent. And if that information became public, it could cost her her life.

Author Veronica Roth is only 23 and she’s already spent weeks on the best-sellers list (I’m so jealous!). She does a fabulous job creating this beautiful, complex character of Tris (Beatrice). The evolution of this character is fascinating as she identifies her strengths and weaknesses, her loyalties, beliefs and friends. And as she discovers an attraction for her instructor, Four, who also ranks among her list of fears.

Roth made this futuristic world come alive for me. Details are tight and believable, fully explained. It felt real, possible. And with it came a sense of dread. The tensions created by competing factions add a tremendous amount of suspense. I had huge sympathy for Tris, and she ends up in such a horrible predicament, I had to keep reading. But it also caused me to reflect, which I don’t tend to do in a novel of this sort. How would I respond in such a situation? What kind of influence would my beliefs and upbringing have on my decisions? What would I learn about myself? How would I change?

I love that Roth kept this one clean. (There are two instances of OMG, and one minor profanity.) Tris’s developing sense of her own sexuality after her Amish-like upbringing is beautifully and appropriately rendered. She and Four share some intimate moments, but I love the respect between the characters, the high value Four places on Tris, and the way Tris thinks things through. There is desire, but there is honesty and restraint. If anything, the restraint adds to the suspense of the story. I’m not a romantic by any means and usually like a very subdued romantic element, but I’m captivated by this relationship. And I’m curious to see if Roth maintains a sense of propriety in the sequel or if she takes it to an easy, predictable ending.

Divergent didn’t glue me to my seat quite like The Hunger Games trilogy did, but I’d be much quicker to recommend this one to my own daughter.

The sequel, Insurgent, is due out in May 2012.

2 thoughts on “Divergent, by Veronica Roth, 2011, Book Review

  1. Dystopian is a futuristic setting that’s the oposite of utopian. It’s supposed to be utopian, but the governments are actually repressive. It makes for some pretty creative conflicts. The books are usually not ones I’d let my kids read till high school, however, like The Hunger Games and The Maze.

    I just learned what steampunk is. 🙂

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