Genre: Young Adult, Science-Fiction
Publishing Info: 2011 by HarperCollins
Back Page Summary:
THREE FLYING BIRDS… ONE FOR EACH MEMBER OF THE FAMILY I LEFT BEHIND
Sixteen-year-old Tris is forced to make a terrible choice. In a divided society where everyone must conform, Tris does not fit.
So she ventures out alone, determined to discover where she truly belongs. Shocked by her brutal new life, Tris can trust no one. And yet she is drawn to a boy who seems to both threaten and protect her.
The hardest choice lies ahead.
A terrific central concept and a breathless narrative that isn’t afraid to take risks makes the first novel in Veronica Roth’s Young Adult trilogy an easy but very enjoyable read.
Divergent was released in a period that saw Young Adult literature flood the market, especially those with dystopian and science-fiction undertones. Reading this a decade later, it is very impressive how the central concept still manages to stand out. This concept sees a city’s society divided depending on a key personality trait that appears to pass from parent to child, such as selflessness, bravery and kindness. Those who break from their familial society in a coming-of-age ceremony can be shunned, or even left factionless. The title refers to a small group of people who appear to be a combination of two or more factions, which leaves them vulnerable to being targeted, attacked or even murdered. This central concept evokes a fear in many young people that they will disappoint their family by choosing their own path, even when their parents expect them to follow them in vocation, beliefs or lifestyle; as someone who has experienced these fears in my teenage years, this element stands out to me. With the protagonist one of the rare Divergent individuals who leaves her familial faction to work out who she is, and society as a whole being taken over by one small faction who intends to control others in order to create a perfect society, this novel is definitely supportive of young people who want to forge their own path and discover who they truly are.
The book may be nearly 500 pages, but the pacing means that this book is never a chore to read. Starting in the selfless Abnegation faction and following Tris as she comes of age and chooses to move to the brave Dauntless, with the middle third an exciting affair as Tris takes part in a series of physical and mental trials to get one of the places in their faction. The final third sees a huge increase in intensity and danger, as the sinister plans of those wanting to take control of the city’s society begins. The suddenness of this switch takes the reader by surprise, spending most of the book in the background of training, trials and romance. The ability to surprise a reader who has been mostly comfortable with the direction the narrative is heading is another strength of Divergent, for the most part. It is also a bold move to kill off characters who readers expect to last for longer than they do, either due to the focus they had in the book previously, or due to their proximity to Tris. Roth has created a dangerous society in this book, and these deaths highlight this, and again prevent the readers from getting comfortable, as can be done with the first book in a Young Adult dystopian series.
Roth takes plenty of risks in her storytelling but seems to play a bit safer with the romance between the Tris and the intriguing Four, a largely secretive individual tortured by his past experiences. Some effort is made to make Four feel like a real person, including revelations about his real name and why he is known as Four. However, it is tough to knock the feeling that he doesn’t stand out much against male love interests in similar Young Adult series. The best written characters, aside from Tris, are those who join her in the Dauntless trials, feeling like real people with their own motivations and desires. As a whole, character development and character writing is a bit hit-and-miss in Divergent – this must surely be a result of the sudden switch up in the final third, which abandons characters we have been following for hundreds of pages and replaces them with background characters. This is ultimately why certain character deaths are more effective than others – those that are sudden and for characters we have been following hit much harder than others. In spite of this, I understand and appreciate the motivation for Roth to make these narrative choices; highlighting that it only takes one decision for a character to be maimed in this dangerous society.
Divergent is a great first book in Veronica Roth’s Young Adult series of the same name. It utilizes its strong and unique concept of a society split into factions to good use, not being afraid to surprise the readers with the intensity of the final third. The risks taken in the narrative, and the amount of promise the series has, means that I will definitely continue on to the second book, Insurgent. I would definitely recommend this book to any lovers of Young Adult dystopian fiction.
Star Rating: 4/5
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