“Human beings as a whole cannot be good for long before the bad creeps back in and poisons us again.”
It’s a triology. It’s about a “dystopian” society that’s taken over Chicago… one that’s divided into organized groups based on human qualities that rule individual mentality: Abnegation (the selfless), Candor (the honest), Amity (the friendly), Erudite (the intellectuals), and Dauntless (the brave). Despite the outward similarities with the coming-of-age strong female lead and the ability of the protagonist to outwit the central dictatorship, The Hunger Games this is not. With a slow start and elementary literary features, Divergent lacks the depth that attracted me to The Hunger Games. With that said, I did enjoy the read and am looking forward to the release of the film starring Shailene Woodley next Friday, March 21st. Don’t let the 487 pages scare you; you can finish the novel in the next week if you start this weekend!
At the age of 16, every citizen takes an aptitude test that reveals to them where their qualities will help them most succeed in their society. Each citizen considers their results and at the Choosing Ceremony publicly declares where their mind and heart has led them. Many choose to stay within their own faction, but others choose to “abandon” their families and the ideals they were raised to uphold and switch to another. Any decision to leave is often seen as a betrayal to their family and to their faction, and they believe that you can never return home afterward. Each 16-year-old becomes an initiate that goes through a process of training into the new ideals of their adulthood and sometimes new faction before they undergo a test that accepts them into their new faction… or doesn’t.
Why You Should Read It
The pace of the novel starts slow, but if you are a fan of these dystopian young adult trilogies I urge you to get through to the end. It goes from zero to Hunger Games Mockingjay quickly, and I can’t wait to see where the next installment goes. Beatrice who renames herself Tris as she prepares herself for adulthood demonstrates many characteristics of a superbly single girl. She is in tune with what she wants and follows her heart, even if it means facing the unknown. She learns to make new friends in a new environment. She gives her all to her training. And through it all she stays true to herself.
SPOILER ALERT AHEAD. Do not continue reading if you haven’t finished the book, as it contains minor spoilers.
“But our minds move in a dozen different directions. We can’t be confined to one way of thinking, and that terrifies our leaders. It means we can’t be controlled. And it means that no matter what they do, we will always cause trouble for them.”
My Book Club Thoughts
The organization of this dystopian society based on human qualities was less believable than others. No one lives by one part of their personality alone. We are complex; it is the mixture of interests and strengths that make us unique, and to stifle most of who we are to remain true to one part of ourselves only is a waste of potential. I also believe that society as we know it is moving towards change to embrace these differences and diversities, so I wouldn’t see our world moving in this direction. By the end of book one, we also realize that it’s not just the Divergent that are intellectually strong enough to fight back against the revolution. So what does it really mean to be “Divergent”? Perhaps we’ll better understand the idea in the books to come.
Roth’s novel had a couple redeeming qualities. One was the turning over of “faction before blood,” when we realize Tris’s mother is originally from Dauntless. It is in Tris’s blood to make the choice she does at the Choosing Ceremony. Perhaps Roth uses the next two books to uncover the complexities of humanity that this first one minimizes to a fault. I also find the presentation of choice and identity interesting. How do you choose who you are? How do you choose to be one person and not another version of yourself? What is identity when you strip away all of the conventions that society bestows upon you? I am excited to see where Roth takes us next.
What did you think of Divergent? Are you excited for the film?
Catherine Abalos is founder and editor of The Single Diaries.