Review – Divergent
I read about this book on goodreads.com. It was voted as the best book of 2011. I don’t know about all that, but this is one action-packed YA, dystopian future. I loved the Hunger Games trilogy so I asked for this book for Christmas. Divergent has many of the same elements but the reader has less of an understanding of a bad guy, in fact, there are a few throughout. The action is constant most of the book and is one long life or death trial for our heroine Tris. But she doesn’t understand what is really going on until very near the end, right before all hell breaks loose.
So what the heck is this perfect future mankind has created for itself? We don’t get too much world building but, after the last big war society decided to put everyone in Chicago into five factions who embody a specific virtue in order to avoid evil and war again. Every person belongs in one, and each faction is pretty fanatical about only allowing their members to elicit the supporting behavior traits of the specific virtue – honesty (no lying ever, they are loud and obnoxious), selflessness (government officials, no mirrors, bland food), peacefulness (not sure but they farm), bravery (patrol the border fences keeping something out or people in??, tattoos) and intelligence (they study all day and wear glasses to look smarter). When you turn 16 you choose your faction and don’t have anything to do with the other factions, including your family if you switch away from theirs. There is this idea that people within a faction will remain pure to that faction’s ideals and won’t have any leanings towards the virtues of the other factions. I keep thinking of Jurassic Park where the scientists think the dinosaurs can’t breed – Life finds a way. Meaning of course this perfectly controlled society will break down! I wonder if Roth is writing a mankind that has genetically changed from today to be so easily pigeon-holed or if it is a commentary on today’s society. The factions don’t get along with each other (surprise! Cliques don’t work?!) and have little trust for one another as well. Tris was raised selfless (Abnegation) but knows she has selfish tendencies and has many other traits that are not allowed within her faction, so her choice is a difficult one: to follow her own hopes and dreams and selfishly choose another faction, or stay with her family in Abnegation. She has no clue what she will choose until she makes the final decision.
Tris and the reader get quite a few hints of what is to come, but she is 16, struggling to survive and therefore not too focused about figuring out the bigger picture so it doesn’t all come together until the bitter end. In fact there are a few times where things need to be spelled out for her after she freaks out and causes problems, but then she is young and was very sheltered as they don’t believe in telling kids much in Abnegation. She does blunder about a bit and there is a surprising lack of adults throughout, so you have to ignore some stuff.
So, I whipped through this book. There are some issues, but they didn’t really ruin the excitement for me. I was big time confused at her last initiation trial, I totally thought she was giving herself away and had to put the book down an walk away. You see, Tris finds out fairly early she is “Divergent”. No one tells her what that is for quite a while, but basically she thinks differently than most everyone else. In fact, all she knows is that if anyone finds out she is divergent, she will be killed, so “be careful”. Hmmm. This is a society with crumbling roads only a few cars and little food, but they have the capability to insert some sort of serum full of transmitters into their veins to run hallucinations and simulations to help live through their fears and conquer them. A trainer can see these hallucinations on a screen, so she can give herself away by doing something “no one should be able to do.” I eventually figured out why it the trial worked, but it took me a little while to reason it out.
This series is going to be a trilogy about the breakdown of this perfect society and, my guess is, end with the phoenix of hope that rises from its ashes. The story is non-stop but truly gets going near the very end of the book. People die, more choices are made, questions are answered and some big things go down. The end is a pause in the action and we are left with a gaping hole of unknown ahead, so I am excited for when I can get my hands on the next book, Insurgent. These types of books are fun and make you think. I like this particular world Roth created because the society, while horribly flawed, was not intended as a punishment for previous deeds, there is no tyrant in power and all of the current problems are from the issues with the flawed society and the manipulations by a select few. It makes one reflect and question our current society and government as well as our minds, would I be divergent or one of the easily controlled?! A fun read, though because of the thin world building and plot holes I give it 3 stars. We will see where Roth takes us next.