Divergent was a great read. I have been big into the dystopian thing lately, so was really excited to find this book. In Roth’s dystopian Chicago, there are 5 factions– Amity, Candor, Erudite, Dauntless, and Abnegation. Each person chooses one faction when they are sixteen years old. One’s faction determines their career, their family and friends, and their personality. Supposedly keeping people in factions based on their best traits will eliminate the evil traits in human beings and end war and misery. The faction-choosing reminded me a bit of the career-assignment in The Giver. Except that in Roth’s book the kids had at least the appearance of free choice in picking their faction.
Our main character is Beatrice AKA Tris, a born-and-raised Abnegation. She takes the faction assessment given to kids before they get to the choosing ceremony and finds out that she doesn’t fit into any faction– she is Divergent. Divergence is dangerous and Tris is told to hide her results from everyone, even her parents. She makes the difficult decision of going Dauntless and this book covers her training and initiation into the Dauntless faction and the dangers of Divergence.
There were several things I really liked about this book. The first is Tris. While she is way more of a daredevil than I’ll ever be, I felt myself relating to her in some ways. She is skilled in more than one way- she is a bit Dauntless, a bit Abnegation, and a bit Erudite- and while being well-rounded sounds like a great thing, it makes it really difficult for her to choose one path or to fit in easily in any one faction. (Side note: I always felt that way when I was choosing a major in college… so I ended up choosing a liberal arts degree with multiple concentrations- history, literature, philosophy, foreign languages, and then rounded out my electives with math, science, and social sciences. Same thing in grad school, where I ended up specializing in the history of medicine with a focus on women and gender. I can’t pick just one thing, apparently.) She is also incredibly smart and cares deeply about her family…
…which brings me to the second thing I really liked about this book. I loved how important Tris’s family was to her and how much her parents were willing to sacrifice for her. I sometimes feel like YA characters exist in this weird universe where teenagers are free of parents and siblings. (I love John Green, but his characters are frequently only children. Which drives me bonkers.) And if they actually have families, there is often not much love involved. (I know, I know, characters are so much more FUN without the tethers of families.) So, thank you Veronica Roth, for giving me a teenager who loves her family members, misses them when she leaves them, and recognizes that her family members are multidimensional people who have their own personal struggles.
And the third thing I liked about this book was the romance between Tris and her Dauntless instructor, Four. Four sort of reminded me of Mr. Rochester as he was all brooding and moody and jerky, but you can still tell he totally digs Tris. In the end, though, my Mr. Rochester comparison falls apart because Mr. Rochester was actually a pompous jerk and Four seems to be playacting that role to hide his feelings/keep Tris safe. But anyways, Four was cool because he was okay with being weaker than Tris and was very open and vulnerable around her. I really love the cool-exterior-but-soft-interior man trope, as horrible as that may be.
Anyways, I enjoyed this book and I think it has a little bit of something for everyone- dystopia, romance, action. I am eagerly awaiting book numero dos, Insurgent, which comes out in May!