Book Review: Divergent

Background Information

Full Title:  Divergent

Author:  Veronica Roth

Publisher and date: Harper Collins, 2011

Plot

       Beatrice Prior lives in a society where there are five ways of life, and only five ways.  Amity, which emphasizes peace, Abnegation, which emphasizes selflessness, Candor, which emphasizes honesty, Dauntless, which emphasizes bravery, and Erudite, which emphasizes knowledge.  These are the five futures available to all students when they reach the age of sixteen, the age they choose the paths their lives will take.  These five futures take the label of factions, and each student takes an aptitude test to determine which faction they are best suited for.  The day after this test, they participate in a choosing ceremony to officially decide which faction they will join  Many choose to stay in the faction they were born in, with their family and loved ones. 

Beatrice is born into Abnegation.  But she’s not sure she’s selfless enough.  She wants more than simply serving others for her whole life.  She wants freedom.   But getting that freedom means changing factions, a betrayal of her family,  one that could irreversibly tear it apart. 

When most students take the test, they get one result.  But when Beatrice takes the test, she gets three:  Abnegation, Erudite, and Dauntless. Her instructor tells her that getting more than one faction as a result of the test makes her “Divergent,” a special but dangerous result to receive, and that she should tell no one of her unusual result.  After some internal debate, Beatrice chooses Dauntless and changes her name to Tris.  

Tris is then bombarded with an incredibly challenging initiation process, knowing that only a fraction of those who enter the initiation will remain in Dauntless.  The rest will become factionless and live on the streets, begging for food. During her initiation, Tris’s instructor, who goes by the name of Four, starts to fall in love with Tris and, for reasons she can’t understand, Tris finds herself falling for him too. Surviving initiation would have been enough to occupy Tris,  but during her initiation,  she becomes aware that her old faction my be the target of a well planned attack, an attack that not only threatens those she loves, but endangers the fragile peace that currently exists between the factions.

Thoughts on Style 

The book is narrated from the first person perspective of Beatrice.  This style often goes hand-in-hand with supreme character development, since you are seeing right into the very thoughts and feelings of the narrator, and Roth does not disappoint in this area.  Beatrice and Tobias(Four) are both very well-developed characters, although their backgrounds are very similar.

Disclaimer: The following sections contain spoilers, I attempted to edit them out as best I could, but to truly understand the worldview and content of this book, it is necessary to discuss some sections of the book in more detail than I normally would.  

Worldview

Roth is a Christian author, but this does not really show through in her books.  The worldview expressed in the book is through Tris’s eyes, and she, having grown up her whole life in the factioned system, naturally judges the world around her through this system.   The Bible would obviously say we should not try to single out one moral and try to follow it,  disregarding all others, but there is little danger of readers attempting to follow this path, as the story-line follows this method to humanity collapsing on itself.

Tris and Tobias also become sexually involved with each other in this series, without any real sense of commitment.  In the first book this merely accounts for a few exploratory kissing scenes, but as the series progresses, the relationship continues to progress in this direction.

Appropriate Age/Content

There is a fair amount of violence in the story.  Many people are killed, a boy’s eye is gouged out, and part of the Dauntless initiation process  pits initiates against each other in rough fist fights, which don’t end until one of the students is unable to rise from the ground . There is also some sexual content, but nothing severe. There are a few scenes in which Tris and Tobias kiss in an exploratory manner, and in one scene two of the male initiates start groping a girl, but are stopped quickly.  Tris becomes panicky at one point about Tobias’s possible expectations of pre-marital intimacy.

As the books continue to progress, the sexual content continues to increase. For those interested to see the content of the final two books, I would refer to Common Sense Media‘s review of these books.

Age Recommendation:  13+ 

Final Thoughts

I enjoyed this book, but I had one qualm.  I never figured out why  Tris and Tobias’s relationship had to be as sexual as it was.   They didn’t trust each other, listen to each other, or really show any sort of affections for each other out side of sensuality.It made their relationship feel rather fake, because their “relationship” never went beyond touching.   They would be having a shouting fit or having a petty argument one minute, and then be passionately kissing the next. It just didn’t make sense.  It’s not that I thought it was such a horror to include kissing in the book, or even to include some of the things Roth does in later books, but I didn’t feel it was appropriate given Tris and Tobias’s relationship.   I did enjoy these books otherwise, though.

Final Rating:  3.8 out of 5 stars.

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