Wednesday, August 7, 2013


After a terrible war the dystopic society of what we know today as Chicago divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue they consider the one that could have prevented the war.  Each faction values the opposite trait of that which they blame for causing the war in the first place: 1) Abnegation, the selfless who blame selfishness; 2) Candor, the honest who blame deceit; 3) Amity, the peaceful who blame war and fighting for human nature's faults; 4) Erudite, the intelligent who blame ignorance; and 5) Dauntless, the brave who blame cowardice.

Every year the sixteen year-olds in this society must take an aptitude test determining which faction they are best suited for.  Then they must make the most important decision of their lives: will they remain with their families in the faction they were born into, or will they forsake their families and transfer to another faction?

For Beatrice Prior the decision is more difficult than most.  While she loves her family and respects the way of life of Abnegation, Beatrice has never felt like she truly belonged.  Selflessness had never come naturally to her, like it is supposed to.  She is naturally curious and sarcastic, totally unacceptable in Abnegation.  When Beatrice’s aptitude test is inconclusive and shows that she has equal aptitude for three factions (Abnegation, Erudite and Dauntless) Beatrice is labelled “divergent”.  The volunteer destroys Beatrice’s results and warns her to never reveal this information to anyone, not even her family, as being divergent endangers her life.  There is, however, no time for further discussion without raising suspicion and Beatrice is sent home.  Confused instead of reassured, Beatrice has less than 24 hours to make her choice.  Will she remain with her family in Abnegation, or will she transfer; either to Erudite which will embrace her curiosity, or to Dauntless – the thrill seekers whose total freedom and abandonment has always pulled at her?
If you don't want to know what faction Beatrice chooses, stop reading now

A film version of Divergent is currently in the works, and if you have seen any of the released stills it is quite obvious what Beatrice chooses.  My favourite moment in Divergent is during the choosing ceremony when Beatrice has to choose her faction.  Will she perform the ultimate selfless act and prove herself worthy of Abnegation by staying solely to comfort her parents?  “I am selfish.  I am brave”.  Beatrice chooses Dauntless.

Tris' first look at the Dauntless compound

Life in Dauntless is not at all what she expected.  A new life deserves a new name, but unwilling to completely deny her previous life, Beatrice renames herself Tris.  Once inside the compound the new initiates learn a terrifying truth: Only the top ten initiates will ultimately become Dauntless, ten will become factionless, rejected from society and forced to live on the street.  Tris is by far the smallest initiate, physically her chances don’t look good.  Will her bravery be enough to secure a place in the top ten? 

Tris doing fight training during the first phase of initiation 

Tris’ choice to transfer to Dauntless is considered to be quite radical as Abnegation transfers to Dauntless are extremely rare – while not as hostile as the relationship between Abnegation and Erudite, Abnegation and Dauntless can’t seem to see eye to eye.  This complicates Tris’ new life even more.  Members and initiates of other factions are hostile towards Tris, especially the Dauntless born as they have little respect for the peaceful and selfless way of life of the Abnegation, which they interpret as weakness and cowardice.  The Dauntless provides the military defense for all the factions, and the Abnegation in turn do not approve of violence or weapons, as weapons (even when used in self-defense) are self-serving.

While Tris does make some friends among the transfer initiates, she is not secure in these friendships as her new friends alternate between exploiting what they know to be her weakness (her physical strength), and deeply resenting her strength (her mental strength) and progress.  When an unplanned encounter and test of bravery leads to Tris being the only transfer to befriend Dauntless born initiates and members alike, and enters the dining hall among Dauntless born who have obviously accepted her into their ranks, her fellow transfer initiates grow even more resentful and Tris soon finds herself in danger from friends and foes alike. 

Tris also forms an unlikely friendship with the transfer initiates’ instructor, Four, even though he seems to have just as much of a problem with her Abnegation roots as everyone else.  While they seem to have a connection, Four’s behaviour is unpredictable.  When he and Tris are alone he is unguarded, compliments her and gives her advice; in front of the other initiates, though, Four seems to be harder on Tris than any of the others.  Despite this, Tris can't help but react to him.  "Then I realise what it is. It's him.  Something about him makes me feel like I am about to fall.  Or turn to liquid. Or burst into flames".  Having spent her life in Abnegation, where couples don't even hold hands, Tris finds her attraction to Four confusing and unnerving.  Figuring out what exactly is going on between her and Four is, however, the least of Tris’ problems. 

Tris and Four

Abnegation, despite being peaceful, neutral, and calm, have a fierce ongoing rivalry with the Erudite.  Abnegation is the faction in charge of the Government, and the Erudite, who seek power, believe that Abnegation are in fact selfish people who only provide for their own faction.  When Erudite starts releasing reports heavily critising Abnegation, Tris seems to be the only one onto the seriousness of the matter.  She suspects that Erudite is planning to overthrow Government and destroy Abnegation.  But how can one lone, lowly initiate prove it?   And more importantly, how can she stop it?

Divergent by Veronica Roth is the first book in the Divergent Trilogy.  The second book, Insurgent is already available and Allegiant, the final book in the trilogy will be released in October 2013.

The Divergent trilogy has frequently been compared to Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games Trilogy.  Are they similar?  Yes.  Are they on the same level?  Not quite – in my humble opinion.  I enjoyed Divergent, but it doesn’t have the same pull or intensity that I experienced with The Hunger Games trilogy.  While I was reading I enjoyed it, but once I put the book down I never experienced the urge to get back to reading as soon as possible.  Don’t get me wrong, the book is not bad at all, and I look forward to the movie (which will be released in 2014) and I will definitely continue reading the series.  It’s just not the best YA series I’ve ever read.  Yet.  There is a lot of potential for this series and I look forward to continuing the story in Insurgent.  It is very possible that this series could turn out to be exceptional by the end.  

I really like Tris as a character.  While small, she is strong and brave.  Tris is an excellent protagonist for this story and the supporting characters are well drawn and diverse.  Four is also a very interesting character and the progression of their relationship is very natural and a pleasure to follow. 

The film version of Divergent has completed filming and will hit theatres March 2014.  Shailene Woodley has been cast as Tris and Theo James has been cast as Four.  Some big names have jumped on board with this one:  Kate Winslet is playing Erudite leader Jeanine Matthews, and Ashley Judd is playing Tris’ mother, Natalie.  Tris’ father is played by Tony Goldwyn and Tris’ tattoo artist and confidant, Tori, is played by Maggie Q.  An interesting Hunger Games connection is that ZoĆ« Kravitz, the daughter of Lenny Kravitz who plays Cinna in the film version of The Hunger Games, is playing Tris’ friend, Christina.  I very much look forward to the movie; if the released movie stills are anything to go by it will do the book absolute justice.

I almost loved it, but not quite

Product Information:
Title: Divergent
Author: Veronica Roth
Pages: 487
Publisher: HarperCollins
Year: 2011


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