Posted by Cassandra T. in Book Reviews, Divergent on September 3, 2013
It’s been awhile since I picked up a good Young Adult novel, having last read The Hunger Games. When I checked the New York Times’ bestsellers list, Divergent by Veronica Roth has been on the list for 38 weeks (and counting)! Intrigued, I decided to give Divergent a shot.
I wasn’t impressed with the book initially. Divergent was a slow starter, taking me a good 50 pages before I got drawn into the story and its characters. However, it gets exciting after that! Overall, Divergent makes for a really good read. More than that, it also made me think about the divisions in our world today.
There is a great quote from the book:
“Human beings as a whole cannot be good for long before the bad creeps back in and poisons us again.”
That is essentially the crux of Divergent – regardless of how people are grouped, our differences can always give us a reason to fight.
In a future dystopian Chicago, ancestors determined that instead of political ideology, religious belief, race or nationalism, it is the human personality which is at fault for a warring world. Thus, people are divided into factions, each promoting a certain virtue in belief that this will bring world peace: Abnegation (the selfless), Amity (the peaceful), Candor (the honest), Dauntless (the brave) and Erudite (the intelligent).
Divergent is told through the eyes of 16-year-old Beatrice (later known as Tris) Prior, who must decide which faction she wants to join. However, Beatrice’s big secret is that she is divergent – someone who possesses not just one, but multiple virtues. She is brave, intelligent and selfless, and at a loss as to which faction she belongs. Also, because of her divergence, she is also a threat to be eliminated.
Initially, I wasn’t impressed with the Faction setting. It seemed too simplistic – how can people be divided according to individual traits? Human beings are much more complicated than that! We love and we hate. We can be kind to some people and unkind to others, brave in some situations yet fearful in others. We are not black and white, but multiple shades of grey.
And that is the draw of Divergent. As the plot evolves, it shows that humans are complex beings who cannot be tagged with a single label. This simplistic labelling is taken advantage of. Bullies from Candor play pranks on other kids and when confronted, lie to adults and get away with it, because they are deemed unable to lie. Kids from Dauntless taunt others because they don’t do foolish daredevil acts just to prove their courage.
Things get interesting when the story explores the depth of its characters, and I quickly get drawn into the plot, despite my skeptism earlier.
Divergent is more than just a great story. It got me thinking about the ways we divide ourselves in our world: race, language, religion, sexual orientation etc. While we have our own cultures and beliefs, we can also be tolerant and accepting of the differences in others.
Sadly it is a human trait to stereotype others, and Divergent displays that stereotype well using its own factions as division.
Divergent is the first instalment of a trilogy. Currently, only the first and second book, Insurgent is available, with the third book Allegiant set to be released on October 22, 2013. The movie Divergent is also in the works, due to be released on March 21, 2014.