Saturday, June 2, 2012

Divergent, by Veronica Roth

Title:  Divergent
Author:  Veronica Roth
Publisher:  Harper Collins
Year:  2011
Pages:  487
Genre:  Dystopian
Themes:  Identity, First Love, Coming of Age
Age Range:  7th Grade and Up

Summary:  (from Goodreads)
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.


This book was all over the place last year, and was voted the readers' favorite book on Goodreads in their Reader's Choice Awards.  It obviously has wide appeal to the same audience of YA readers that loved The Hunger Games, and they proved it by making it a huge bestseller.  I think that part of what took me so long to read it is that I am leery of know, like all of the vampire/werewolf/normal girl love stories that came out after Twilight hit it big.  But since everyone I know that's read it has raved about it, I made it the first book on my summer reading list.

And the praise they heap on it is well deserved.  It does not feel like nearly 500 pages, even as a young adult book.  The action is well-paced, and interspersed with enough of Tris's internal struggles to make it more than just an action book, but less than navel-gazing.   And what an interesting character Tris is.  While obviously the protagonist and a sympathetic character, I didn't always like her or approve of her choices.  I was turned off by the violence inherent in the Dauntless lifestyle, and how easily it sometimes was for her to use violence.  But I liked the book more for my ambivalence.  It made the story more thought-provoking.

Though really it didn't need much more than the basic premise to be more thought-provoking.  The idea of my city falling to pieces, the lake replaced by a giant dead marsh, with five different factions running the place gave me plenty to think about.  I think that this book would be an excellent choice for a teen book club.  I don't know that there is enough literary substance there to make it a teachable book for a whole class, but as a way to get reluctant teen readers to read and discuss what they are thinking it would be great.  What I think could produce the most discussion in a book club setting is the re-ordering of society.  I loved the fact that only the selfless could go into leadership and public service-makes what's happening in today's political culture seem small-minded.  And I imagine that a good discussion could also center around which faction the people in the group would choose.  I know what my answer is, and it is not Dauntless, that's for sure.  

Like most YA fiction, there is a love story.  What I appreciated about it was that it appeared to be an even partnership, with each person having power in the relationship and neither one having to change who they were to be together.  I also appreciated that it did not become the focus for the action of the story.  It was great that they fell in love, but it was not the main driver for why they did the things they did in trying to save their city.  It also did not completely conform to gender role stereotypes.  Tris, though diminutive in physical stature, was both strong and sometimes cold in her ability to do what needed to be done, which is often a masculine trait in media.  Tobias, while physically strong and skilled, was often shown as being emotionally vulnerable-a female trait, according to society.  

The ending was very up in the air, so don't expect a tidy conclusion.  But the second book in the series, Insurgent, came out May 1st, so if you are the kind of person who needs to know now, I suggest you buy both books together!


  1. I just finished Divergent about a week ago (I think). I loved it! YA dystopian is easily one of my favorite genres to read.

    I'm so glad I stumbled upon your blog! I love to read (and write) YA and middle grade fiction, so I'm always looking for new books to check out in these areas. I'm a new follower!

  2. I want this book so bad it hurts lol, but I refuse to buy it until I finish Possession because I know I will drop what I am currently reading to read Divergent.

    maycee of Themed Gift Baskets