Book Depository • Series: Divergent #1
Published by Harper Collins, Katherine Tegen on February 28, 2012
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 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 and being who she really is--she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.
During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are--and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she's chosen. 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 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.
I bought Divergent by Veronica Roth when it was on sale in the Nook store for $2.99 thinking, “Oh, I’ll read this soon!” Which turned into “I’ll read it before the movie.” Which turned into, “I’ll read it when the hype dies down… NEVER.” And before you dangle me over the pit, let me tell you something. I’m really sad that I waited so long to read this book. I’m sad that I judged a book by its hype.
So, what changed my mind? I decided I wanted to read Young Adult fiction with a more critical eye. Read between the lines. Use my film studies and bring it over to the book side of things. I took a class called Women in Film not too long ago. If you ever get a chance to take a film studies course, DO IT. It just really opens your brain. ANYWAY, Divergent was on the tippy top of my list. It was partly sparked by Veronica Roth’s keynote at YallFest last year in which the topic was the “strong female main character.” I saw her again just the other day at Agnes Scott College, and she harped on some of the same things. I think it really boils down to the fact that these fictional heroines being called “strong” is a misnomer. Yes, they do have points of strength. Of course. But while reading Divergent, we’re constantly reminded by Tris of how weak she is, how weak she thinks she is. She does show her strengths in her Capture the Flag tactics. I don’t think Four even points out her other strengths until that point, I think? He might have given her a tiny pointer on fighting before that, but I think it’s important to point that out. She’s not looking to him for validation at all. He’s just really damn good at knowing everyone’s strengths and weaknesses, which makes him an exceptional instructor. Basically, he views her as his equal.
Let’s be real, Tris was kind of whiney here and there, but wouldn’t you be, too, if you were training for Dauntless initiation and you had to prove your physical and emotional strength? I’d find it hard to get out of bed in the morning! Tris chose this path of most resistance. That is important. I really loved that she didn’t start off this totally meek little girl. She asked questions, she said how she felt… So it felt natural for her to change factions. Sure, she was still a stickler (Stiff, as she was often called), but that was also important to keep in her complexity. She even gets the tattoos of her two factions. We can’t forget our past. It’s always a part of who we are. We also change and grow as we move forward.
Veronica Roth is the queen of eye choreography, as she called it on Thursday. There’s a LOT that can be said in a look. In Divergent, I viewed (no pun intended) the look as gaining knowledge, as rebelling. That’s what Tris really lusts after: knowledge. That’s why it seems like her favorite word is “Why.” Okay, yes, Four is quite attractive to her, but I think a good part of that is because he’s also looking for knowledge in order to change the way their community is being run.
NOTE: This is a thing that I’m iffy about, but I thought I’d talk about anyway to see how y’all feel/think about it… We can’t talk about feminist theory without talking about the p-word. Patriarchy! Woo! Just kidding, we don’t cheer for patriarchy. I think I’m correct in saying that Abnegation is the one who really runs the government because they’re selfless. Each faction has their own representatives. Marcus Eaton and Andrew Prior are the representatives of Abnegation and are coming into question in the newspapers. Jeanine wants to shut them down, but she’s definitely got a twisted way of doing so. Jeanine is definitely the crazy person you don’t want supporting your cause because she wants to turn a whole faction into her version of the Cyber Men from Doctor Who. The patriarchal views of the citizens of Chicago are obvious with how women are treated. Specifically how Peter treats Tris. It’s the way he talks down to her and tries to kill her. In that scene when he and the other two are holding her over the pit, the novel gives some vague details about him grabbing her in a way, but basically, he sexually harassed her. He saw her as a threat to his strength and sought to demystify her. The author is in no way conveying that this is okay, hence the reason why Four beats the crap out of him.
Another awesome thing is the recurrence of Tris basically saying, “We’re all complex people!” No one truly fits in one faction, as no one truly fits into one stereotype, norm, etc.
Hey, I’ve gone this far in the review without talking about the people who are labeled as Divergents?! GASP. They’re the counter-culture. They have power, and because they’re seen as a threat to the way things have been running, they get killed.
I kind of wish we knew more about the world outside of the walls of Chicago, kind of like how we know about the different sections of the world in Legend, but it makes sense that the citizens only know this part of the world.
TL;DR – Divergent is hella feminist and super good. And hype doesn’t always mean a fluffy book. Also, I highlighted a BUNCH of passages from this book (on my ereader!), which definitely signifies how much I loved this book.