Allison's Book Bag

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Posted on: April 2, 2014

Some books one loves; others one hates. Then there are books like Divergent by Veronica Roth. At its heart, Divergent is a coming-of-age story, something I always like. Being dystopia, it has an added twist. This life-changing twist added enough tension to the main character’s life to keep me up late one Friday night to finish reading Divergent, but not quite enough to make me rush out to borrow the sequels.

Beatrice Prior’s family belongs to the faction of Abnegation, which cultivates the virtue of selflessness. At the age of sixteen, Beatrice must attend The Choosing Ceremony, where she will decide on a faction. One might equate this to picking a trade or a college. The difference is that if Beatrice picks any faction other than the one to which her family belongs, she must leave her family. FOREVER. Although Beatrice feels as if her destiny has been known all her life, in reality it has not. When the moment of truth comes, Beatrice picks the faction Dauntless. This is no different from the teen who grows up in a musical family, but decides instead to attend college on an athletic scholarship. Except once Beatrice picks Dauntless, she must prove her worth to them. Otherwise, they can kick her out. And then she will cease to belong to any faction. EVER. This leads to some cutthroat competition. And so I kept turning pages to find out if Beatrice (who in another step towards independence renames herself Tris) will survive. And at what cost will survival come?

Figuring out what left me blasé at the end proved a struggle. It could simply be that Divergent suffers the sad fate of too much hype. After all, by the time, I elected to read it, trailers were already out for a movie. Or it could be that Divergent faces the disadvantage of being another entry in a market already saturated with dystopia novels. If it had been one of the early contenders, it have less of a need to stand apart. As I discussed my nagging discontent with my husband, I pinpointed a third reason. In contrast to other dystopia novels, Tris seems to have the most choice about her future, and her choice bothers me.

Yes, I realize that Tris had to pick a faction. However, characters in most other dystopian novels don’t normally even get an option. And, because Tris could pick her faction, she had the most choice about whether to live a thrill-seeking life. At its core, Dauntless focuses on learning to defend oneself and to fight others. While many of our dystopian heroes and heroines do end up taking on a role of power, it generally seems to be one that has been forced upon them. Which isn’t the case with Tris, who seems to seek out the chance to be kickass. Even Roth herself has admitted, “I would choose Dauntless … who doesn’t want to think they’d be able to jump off a moving train and zipline off the Hancock building?” While I know there are ones who would answer yes, those of us who wouldn’t might feel less satisfied with Tris. And ultimately with Divergent.

And yet because Tris choose Dauntless, Roth can raise the question of when should one use violence? And when are there other better ways to handle conflict? Tris finds herself struggling with the answers to these questions, as she sees her friends bullied and later her parents at risk for their lives. Divergent also ends as one might expect, with the factions divided within and at odds with each other. With these high stakes, I do wonder what will happen in the rest of the trilogy.

Divergent was a fun weekend read. I always like it when a novel grabs me enough to keep me reading in the wee hours of the night. The faction idea is also an intriguing one. I enjoyed taking the quiz to learn more about my personality. Yet ultimately I didn’t care enough about the fate of the characters to check out the sequels. What about you? Which faction are you? And have you read beyond the first book?

My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.

How would you rate this book?

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