“Divergent” by Veronica Roth

The cover does make me think Hunger Games.

The cover makes me think of Hunger Games.

As with Vampire Academy and Beautiful Creatures, it’s the movie that sparked my interest in this book. I enjoyed watching the protagonist, Beatrice “Tris” Prior, develop from a shy, reserved girl into a confident, fearless young woman. I was drawn to the slow progression of her relationship with Four and, of course, I loved it when Four (played by actor Theo James) ripped his shirt off to show Tris his tattoo (…well, he didn’t exactly rip his shirt off but in my mind he did). Wanting to know how similar the novel is to the movie, I decided to purchase the book to find out.

Quick summary (spoilers):

The story is set in a post-apocalyptic Chicago, where all that remains are structural skeletons of our present society. The city is surrounded by a huge, electric fence that’s guarded by a security patrol. Something beyond the city threatens it and citizens are warned not to venture far beyond its limits.

Within this barricade is a society organized into five factions—Dauntless, for the brave; Erudite, for the intelligent; Candor, for the honest; Amity, for the harmonious; and Abnegation, for the selfless. Tris’ family belongs to Abnegation but Tris yearns to break from the restrictions of her faction. She doesn’t feel as if she fits in. Instead, she is attracted to the Dauntless and often wishes to run free with them but her loyalty to her family leaves her ashamed of such thoughts.

Those thoughts follow her into her aptitude test, designed to determine what faction a person belongs to. Citizens are administered this test at age 16; however, they are also given the freedom to choose their faction, regardless of the test results, at a Choosing Ceremony. Once the faction is chosen, the faction becomes the person’s new family and community.

Since she is conflicted about which faction she should choose—should she satiate her parents’ desire and remain in Abnegation or should she follow her yearning to break free with Dauntless—Tris anticipates the test to help her decide. But the results are inconclusive. She is revealed as a Divergent—someone who fits more than one faction; someone who this society views as a threat to their order. Luckily, her test administrator is sympathetic and warns her to keep her results to herself. Now Tris’ fate is in her own hands.

At the Choosing Ceremony, Tris picks Dauntless. Though happy with her choice, she is sorry for hurting her parents. As a new recruit, she undergoes a grueling initiation process that’s supervised by a senior member called Four, an 18-year-old boy, and Eric, another senior member that seems to get off on terrorizing the initiates. Tris proves she is a natural Dauntless. She is tenacious and harnesses her fears so they don’t overwhelm her.

But fear looms on the horizon when the Erudites seize control of the government from Abnegation and issues a serum that turns Dauntless members into robotic killing machines. The serum doesn’t work on Divergents and those Divergents who are discovered are immediately killed. With the help of Four and her family, Tris fights to destroy the serum and relinquish the control of the Erudite on the government.

My thoughts:

What faction do you belong to? (Click for a larger image.)

What faction do you belong to? (Click for a larger image.)

Divergent is an entertaining read. The plot progresses quickly and the protagonist is a strong female, which I like. Readers may find similarities to the Harry Potter novels, Hunger Games, and The Giver due to the use of factions to organize society and how the qualities of the factions determine the traits of its members. There is also the pressure to succeed at all costs that is prevalent in the Hunger Games and the illusion of choice, lack of freedom, and other restrictions placed on the society’s members, much like The Giver.

As with the majority of these YA novels, the protagonist deals with discovering who she is and finding her place in the world. And, as I mentioned above, she battles with choosing her own way in world. Overall, Divergent is a novel that many can identify with. Though the protagonist is not faultless, readers can relate to her plight and cheer her on as she fights to overcome her obstacles.

The overall identity of the factions made me think of the Harry Potter novels where the Hogwarts houses are used to help the readers quickly identify a character’s base personality. It’s also similar in how the action of one causes others to stereotype the group: The Erudite faction (like Slytherin) are considered evil because of their leader’s obsession with power. Because of their selflessness, the Abnegation faction is placed in control of the government but their strictures cause the Erudites to rebel. The Erudites, those who see ignorance as a sin and pursue knowledge to combat it, want an improved society.

There is nothing wrong with selflessness but the Abnegation faction seems to take it to another level by preventing their society from truly progressing…or so it seems to me while reading. I see no reason for the city to be so destitute…..though it’s mostly the Abnegations who volunteer to improve it. Maybe they don’t want to force anyone to do anything. Hmm…

Still, their restrictions cause Tris to seek the Dauntless, those fearless people who run headlong into danger. She believes that joining such a faction will give her the freedom she craves but when she is initiated, she realizes that they have restrictions of their own and their freedom might just be a facade. Like in The Giver, no one in this society is truly free. Even the “freedom” to choose one’s faction is rigged. If it is a matter of personal choice, then why must they also take a test? Why are they limited to just those factions and why are they penalized for not completing the initiation or fitting too many factions?

I think the ones who are truly free from the society’s control are the Divergents and the Factionless. The Divergents are executed when found because they can cause chaos. They see possibilities and can choose to break the rules. Meanwhile, the Factionless are discarded as the dregs of society to make their station unappealing. Tris fears to become one of the Factionless because they seem to lack community, thus lacking security. They do not have an identity. I guess that’s how they are kept in check. I wondered while reading why the Factionless aren’t threatened like the Divergents. Yes, the Divergents pose a greater risk to structure but if the Factionless unite, they can be a threat as well. But the lack of identity probably prevents them from massing together so instead they wander the streets as a warning to those who cannot fit the society’s mold.

I enjoyed the movie as much as the book though I could hardly stand to rewatch the entire thing after completing the novel. I just fast-forward to the part where Four rips his shirt off. I didn’t find the changes unnecessary but I’m biased towards the book and will always be somewhat upset with the changes in the movies. I did like that the movie’s producers pumped it up a bit and made the movie seem more futuristic than the book. Overall, I recommend renting the DVD then reading the novel.

Insurgent (book 2) —>

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14 thoughts on ““Divergent” by Veronica Roth

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  2. Pingback: “Insurgent” by Veronica Roth | Zezee with Books

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  6. Brilliant review, Zezee! 100% agree with everything you said and you’ve explained it so well. I gave this book five stars because despite everything it was an absolute adrenaline pumped riot and it was exactly what I needed at the time because I was stressing over final exams. However, I had MASSIVE issues with the world building and the similarities with other existing novels.

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    • Isn’t everything based on that, that came b4?
      And there was the poster!!! Meat, i think you may have suggested was tris’s pose, while mr prime beef himself hunkered down all hunkely >:) perhaps were all cuts, to be desired by the beholder.

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    • Thanks Becky! Yep, different reads for different times. When I was stressing over the mountain of essays I had to write for my senior finals, I turned to Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. I was studying for my bachelor’s and thought I would fail everything. The Stevenson’s rollicking adventure helped to relieve the pressure.

      The “MASSIVE” made me chuckle a bit. My guess is that Roth didn’t want to give away too much in the first novel, which is why she mentions things without giving more depth but I was irked by the world building as well. I appeased myself with my guesses.

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      • Okay, I’m glad it’s not just me that convinces herself she’s going to fail. 😛 I do that allll the time. It’s exhausting, but I guess it’s also what keeps me motivated? I’m not sure.
        I haven’t read Treasure Island, now I’m curious. 🙂

        Lol. Glad the ‘massive’ made you chuckle. I think you’re spot on about Roth not wanting to give everything away because a few of my questions were answered in Insurgent. There were still some underlying problems that remained though which was a shame.

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  7. A problem I have with this one (I haven’t read the book, BTW), is that I don’t buy the central premise. A society neatly divided up into five groups and members from each group fit neatly into that group, as in they won’t be able to survive in another group. It’s not a matter of choice, it’s brain chemistry. Divergents threaten the rest because their brains work differently (or should I say normally, what with them actually able to adapt the way actual human beings can?) If this was the result of genetic engineering I might have bought it, but it appears to have rather been brought about through social engineering.

    It also bugged me that we’re never told more about the factionless – why mention them at all if they never fulfil any purpose (aside from being a bogeyman motivating Tris to succeed, because she clearly can’t succeed without the fear of being an outcast for the rest of her life if she doesn’t). Same goes for the threat outside the city. We have to guard the fence, but no one knows what we’re guarding against? The “enemy within” angle is always good, but I was a bit disappointed when no attack came.

    I enjoyed the film and I like the character, but I tend to think about stuff like this and, unless I somehow get the book for free or super-cheap, I won’t bother reading it knowing what I know.

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    • Yup, like Becky I agree with you on the faults in the plot. The thought crossed my mind as well that the factions would be better explained if a bit of genetic tampering was thrown in but I thought maybe that would be explained in the books. Still, it would be better to allude to it now to strengthen the world building.

      The same goes for the factionless. I guess (hope) that they play a greater part in the other books. I thought it weird that they’re allowed to just loaf around the city and do menial jobs but not “released” like in The Giver since they do not fit in. What prevents them from demanding better living conditions? My hope is that Tris joins them in the later books and discovers that the factionless have a secret community that is plotting to take down the current government…

      I understand how you feel. I felt the same after watching Vampire Academy so I got the e-book because it was cheap. I think it was on sale or something.

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      • I think I can say (not giving too much away) that the factionless do become relevant at a later point. There’s also a measly attempt to add a bit of a genetic basis for something later on….but it’s super stingy and almost didn’t seem worth doing!

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