Divergent by Veronica Roth
Decades ago our ancestors realized that it is not political ideology, religious belief, race, or nationalism that is to blame for a warring world. Rather they determined that it was the fault of human personality--of humankind's inclination toward evil, in whatever form that is. They divided into factions that sought to eradicate those qualities they believed responsible for the world's disarray. [...] Those who blamed aggression formed Amity. [...] Those who blamed ignorance became the Erudite. [...] Those who blamed duplicity created Candor. [...] Those who blamed selfishness made Abnegation. [...] And those who blamed cowardice were the Dauntless. (42-43)Beatrice Prior, who grew up within the self-sacrificing Abnegation faction, has reached the age when she must make the biggest decision of her life. She, like all sixteen-year-olds in her post-apocalyptic Chicago, is evaluated to determine the faction for which she's best suited. While the evaluation results are stored, they do not determine placement. Using the evaluation as guidance, Beatrice must chose with which faction to ally herself. She'll still have to pass her chosen faction's initiation. If she doesn't, she'll spend the rest of her life as a factionless on the outskirts of society.
On the day of her evaluation, Beatrice is unsure about which faction she'll choose. When her result is anomalous, Beatrice has more questions than before and only one day to make the decision. Beatrice goes with her gut and chooses Dauntless2 despite the fact that her decision might mean that she'll never see her parents or brother again. The Dauntless initiation is much more intense than Beatrice, who renames herself Tris, imagined and the things she learns during it make her question the status quo.
I really enjoyed Divergent (I assume that's obvious based on what I posted above) and, while it wasn't perfect, it didn't disappoint me. Readers don't receive any information about what big, apocalyptic event (if any) caused society to break down and reorganize in this way. They also don't learn anything about the world outside of Chicagoland.3 This didn't bother me too much because it's quite possible given what we do know that the individuals living in Roth's Chicago have no contact with the outside world (if society even exists out there).
At first I thought that Divergent would have been a stronger novel without Tris' blossoming romance. That it wasn't necessary. That Tris and the other character could have played off each other without their relationship developing into a romantic one. I thought it would have been better to leave this particular romance out or to leave it unstated and/or unrequited until later in the series (because, yes, Divergent is the first in a series). But then I remembered the final scenes and I'm not sure how some of them would have played out if Tris and the other character hadn't been in love. I guess I'll just say--for the people like me who are tired of the "instalove" often portrayed in YA novels-- that Tris' romance is not quite of that ilk. They don't instantly fall for each other, there is tension, and they have much more in common than either of them realizes.
Tris is a relateable heroine, despite the fact that things sometimes seem too easy for her (and there is actually an explanation for that ease). The society Roth depicts is interesting and different than any other I've read thus far. Divergent also works well as a first-book-in-a-series. There's world building and the revelation of an overarching storyline, but the novel has a satisfying conclusion. One of the areas in which Divergent excels is in not getting bogged down in world-building and backstory. Divergent is fast-paced and full of action. It is a bit heavy on the violence, but I think the story itself is so engrossing that even individuals who are sensitive about violence can push on past those sections.
Insurgent, the sequel to Divergent will be released in May 2012. It's going straight on my wish list.
- Bumped by Megan McCafferty (see post) and Delirium by Lauren Oliver (see post).
- The encircled flame on Divergent's cover is the Dauntless seal. Though, I think that the stamped version on the hardcover itself is more striking than the burning image on the dust jacket.
- Chicagoland isn't a term used in the book. It's just an informal term for the Chicago metropolitan area. As far as I remember, Roth never names her imagined society.