Cynthia Ayala ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue–Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is. She can’t have both, so she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers the unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, Tris also learns that her secret might help her save the ones she loves . . . or it might destroy her.
Divergent, the first novel from Veronica Roth’s Divergent series published by Katherine Taegen Books on April 22, 2011, brought to life the author’s fearful vision of the future. Roth explores a future in her novel where society is separated into factions that each pertain to the five main attributes that govern this society: Dauntless, Abnegation, Erudite, Amity and Candor. Factions live strictly by their code, which enforces conformity. Nevertheless, there are those who do not fit any specifications or who have attributes that fit more than one faction. This brings about the social structure, and the resultant need to search for one’s identity gives the government power it should not have to strip these identities away; as the saying goes, those who have power seek the chance to use it.
Now, since this novel shares many themes with Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, one can’t help but compare Divergent to its sister-genre novel. Young adult readers have a chance to re-explore genres such as science fiction and dystopia while following Beatrice as she seeks to understand who she is and as she faces off when her life has been put into jeopardy by her inability to conform to society. See the similarities?
However, the similarities between the novels do not diminish the charm within this one. Beatrice is on a path toward self-discovery as she tries to figure out just what being Divergent means. Within this new world, Beatrice has to face challenges that push her to the brink and force her to face her inner demons. On her path of self-discovery, she is not alone, and through her eyes readers are able to understand the need to conform, allowing readers to look at society as it is now and to subconsciously fit themselves into factions. Even in reality, you have the missionaries, the businessmen and women, the academics, and the jocks, who each play different roles in society. This novel reminds readers that it is okay to be more than one of the above, and in that respect, it is enlightening.
While Beatrice is not as well-written and structured as Katniss, Roth puts in a bit more vulnerability and naivety into her character, and Beatrice’s strong will to see what is right versus wrong allows her character to really grab the reader. Readers are eager to find out why her being Divergent is so scary, and although it’s not fully explained, readers see why being a Divergent is so fearful for the societal structure within the novel through the characters of Jeanine and those like her.
Divergent is a slowly paced novel that pays strong attention to characterization and a social structure that really is enlightening. ★★★☆☆ (B-)