Every girl in my school seems to be reading Divergent at the moment. Every time I turn around I see the front cover staring me in the face. So, when I was looking for my latest acquisition from the school library I thought I might as well see what all the hype is about – after all there is a film coming out! Now in my mind Divergent was going to resemble everything else that is currently being spewed out of the gaping maw of ‘young adult fiction’: dystopian, teen-romance, action bad-ass-female-lead, trying to attract a young female base who will drool over the male lead while the media and parents think ‘ooo its good for them because the girl is strong and independent.’ Basically attempted replications of the success of The Hunger Games.
Divergent is pretty much exactly that. However it is done very well. It pains me to say that I actually really enjoyed it. I’d like to pretend that I’m a hard-ass, zombie-watching, gun-toting, gore-maniac with no room for sappy teen romance crap, but I guess actually I quite like a lot of these books. *shame face* It’s a good world. The names of some of the factions are pretty crap, but actually I found myself getting into it and it was a good read.
Divergent is based around the concept that a dystopian city has been split into 5 factions – each valuing a specific character trait and living their lives divided and in a way which epitomises their values. Their chosen trait is based on which they thought was the most important to prevent war – some chose bravery, some chose knowledge, others selflessness etc… Over the years these factions have become even more distant from one another and distrusting in some cases. Although children are raised in the faction of their parents, upon turning 16 a child is given an aptitude test to see which faction they would most thrive in. The child must then choose their faction (they do not HAVE to choose the one of their parents or the one their aptitude test suggested, but pretty much all of them do.)
Our plot follows Beatrice (Tris) who is faced with the decision of which faction to join. Her family come from Abnegation who value selflessness, but Tris has always felt that she was no good at this. Abnegation are also in charge of the government, as it is seen that only those who think selflessly and do not seek power for themselves should be allowed to rule. Tris hopes that her aptitude test will help her to decide which faction to join, but unfortunately (or fortunately?) she is found to be Divergent – meaning that she would fit in well in 3 different factions. It is also revealed that being Divergent should be kept to herself or she may place herself in danger. Tris is then faced with the decision of whether to stay with her family faction or join Dauntless (the faction that values bravery and are tasked with protecting the city) Tris makes her decision, but it is then up to her to adjust to not only her changing life, but also the implications of being Divergent.
In some respects the plot is typical, but there are a few little hidden gems along the way that prevent it from getting boring. Tris is well written and the book is well paced and exciting. The romance is not over-done but is present throughout and in many respects I think it is one of the healthier relationships demonstrated in teen literature. Tris’ love interest isn’t all ‘I Looooove you and I think your beautiful (even if you don’t think it about yourself) and I’m going to protect you at all costs’ but instead encourages her to be strong and independent and everything she can possibly be, and proves that there is more to attraction than just looks – admitting at one point that Tris is not conventionally beautiful but why should that matter? I think that is good. So many young-adult novels take physically beautiful girls who just don’t think they are beautiful and then have guys fall in love with them, call them beautiful and then protect them from all life’s problems. Yes it is good for girls to realise their beauty, but in real life not everyone IS physically attractive and what happens to those poor girls who are plain? Does that mean that they genuinely have no value or will never be loved? Bollocks to that. Divergent shows a dude who is interested in a girl despite her plain appearance. He is attracted to her strength and personality and doesn’t try and suppress that or bubble-wrap her – but instead pushes her to be all that she can be! Telling girls that its ok – if a man loves you then he will protect you from everything and keep you safe – is going to come back and kick them in the ass (plus it is no fair on dudes) Guys are not all powerful, life will throw crap at you and you should protect EACH OTHER and fight through life together – books don’t teach that often enough! The role of a partner is at least in part to encourage you to be everything you possibly can be! I think the books I like most are like that! In this respect I think Divergent is good!
Another way it outdoes itself is its portrayal of personal development. The book primarily follows Tris’ journey and development as she discovers herself and her abilities. The Beatrice the book starts with and the Tris the book ends with show how great her personal development has been. Tris discovers she has strength she never believed possible, talents she would never have considered and perseverance above and beyond what she believed of herself. This is great. Tris becomes more independent, but the book also shows our need for healthy, strong relationships in order for us to truly thrive. Good going Veronica Roth.
Roth also doesn’t pull any punches on the violence. People get hurt. Some people get seriously hurt and the world Divergent reveals is a dangerous place often filled with pain.
My one warning to you concerning Divergent would be DO NOT WATCH THE TRAILER TO THE FILM OR THE FILM before reading the book. The trailer gives quite a bit away, plus it is crap. Everything that seems to make Divergent good seems to have been sucked out in order to make it a ‘successful teen film’. I get the feeling I will not like the film if I ever get around to watching it. All personality has been leached from the main characters and ‘plain’ Tris has been replaced with a very pretty girl and her love interest seems to be a generic, handsome, muscled dude with less personality than tofu. Just don’t do it!
To conclude, Divergent is good. As much as I would love to be a good critic and diss the hell out of it, I know that would just be for the sake of not wanting to own up to liking teen-girl novels and actually I did like it. A lot. It is a good read and a book that I would be happy to encourage impressionable young girls to read – even if all they see in it is romance. Maybe some of the healthy attitudes might rub off on them….