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Divergent Review

What have I been reading? YA of course, and more specifically I just finished Divergent by Veronica Roth.

Divergent is a utopian novel set in a       near-future Chicago where society is divided into five distinct 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 of 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 or being who she really is—she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

I especially liked the main idea of this book as it reminded me of the personality tests, or star signs, or in some religious circles the spiritual gifts tests that people are given to tell them who they are and what they are most like. Of course, the label never completely fits, does it? And therein lies the main problem in Divergent. No one is purely any one virtue (or personality trait, or star sign).

First, I have to say that I really enjoyed the book and pretty much read it in one sitting. It is the kind of book that has a fascinating basic plot idea, AND believable, imperfect characters, AND a nicely built tension and pace. I highly recommend this book.

Interestingly, I recommended it to my fourteen-year-old daughter, and she liked it until the end. When I asked her why she didn't like the end she had some very valid points. Without giving away any blatant spoilers, what she and I enjoyed the most about the book was the window into the factions of the book - how their society worked, what the rules were, how one rises in rank, etc, how romance is pursued- basically the relational politics of the thing (or what I sometimes refer to as "the girl parts").

And most of the book is a detailed exploration of all that.

But in the end, the book suddenly changes in tone to a focus on massive, militant, city-wide politics and war (these be "the man parts") and the society is, in essence, deconstructed just as the reader is getting to know it.

Both my daughter and myself felt that the author rushed into that climax way too early. I could see that kind of larger-societal climax coming at the end of the series, but not at the end of the first book.

So, I recommend it, but wish Roth would have held back and given us more of her wonderful world before she blew it all to hell.

The book does raise a fun discussion question- If you had to choose a faction and only one faction, which would you choose?

Would you choose the Candor Faction? - They value truth above all else. In order to get in you have to pass a lie detector test and reveal every one of your darkest, deepest secrets.

Would you choose the Abnegation Faction? - In joining this faction, you vow to live a life of complete selflessness, always putting the welfare of others above your own.

Would you choose the Dauntless Faction? - To join Dauntless you must face and overcome your deepest fears? You must be a risk-taker, an adrenaline junky, and an in-your-face combative rebel- piercings and tattoos definitely required.

Would you choose the Amity Faction? - These are the peacemakers- always happy, always smiling, always making a joke to dispel the tension, but they also run the justice system, so watch out. They may be smiling, but they are also painfully fair.

OR would you choose the Erudite Faction? - The Erudite are the somewhat snobby intellectuals - the gaggle of geniuses who value knowledge above all else. These are the educators, the inventors, the researchers and librarians.

Which would you have chosen at the age of sixteen?
And which would you choose now?


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 21st, 2011 07:51 pm (UTC)
At sixteen, the Amity Faction based on my home life.

Now? Erudite Faction based on life as a writer.

I think, though, I would still be happy in Amity now but I would never have really learned to love the stories within. I consider that too much of a loss.
Nov. 22nd, 2011 01:40 am (UTC)
Thanks for sharing Jenn. The stories within- I love that phrase.
Nov. 21st, 2011 09:51 pm (UTC)
... are there no artists in the world?

At 16, I'd have been in the erudite faction most likely, though there's a chance I'd have picked amity.

Oddly enough, I'm still on that fence. ;)
Nov. 22nd, 2011 01:37 am (UTC)
Sadly, no artists. Apparantly, creativity is not a virtue in Roth's utopia. I see art, paticularly writing, as some kind of combination between Candor (truth-telling) and Erudite (the desire to share our own inner knowledge with others).

I think at almost every age I have been a combination of those two main factions, but I'd have a hard time picking just one.
Dec. 30th, 2011 04:45 am (UTC)
at one point in the book, i believe will (i might be mistaken, refers to art as something people in amity would do. also, when they are at the fence and see the amity car driving past the check point, some in the car was playing an instrument(a form of art).
Dec. 30th, 2011 07:17 pm (UTC)
I do believe you are right and thanks for pointing that out.

I think it barely registered with me, maybe because as an artist, I think art often comes out of a place of discontent, rather than amity.

Not sure the great art of the world has been created by happy-go-lucky people.
Nov. 23rd, 2011 06:57 pm (UTC)
What a great discussion! Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). Isn't that the essence of life and of maturing...to find the balance in all of these qualities. You are right, no one is perfectly just one. We are all the fluctuating combination of all of these. And none of these qualities is all good or all bad. Candor can appear to be "better" than some of the other qualities but it depends on the purpose of the honesty. If I tell someone that they are ugly and obese, it may be honest but is it kind? Candor about others faults is just cruel... about our own, well that can be incredibly brave.
Cassie Hart
Nov. 27th, 2011 07:09 pm (UTC)
very interesting
after reading your review, I think I might have to read this one!

At 16, I'd have to say that I'd be joining Dauntless. Now? Well, like others, I would have a hard time deciding just where I would fit it. I'll be interested to see how the series pans out!
Nov. 27th, 2011 09:10 pm (UTC)
Re: very interesting
It is a good read, but I kept thinking that most 16-year-olds would choose Dauntless. Isn't that sort of what adolescence is about?
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )


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