Beatrice has lived her entire life as a part of the Abnegation faction of her city (a ruined dystopia which was formerly Chicago). Abnegation values thinking of others before the self, and everything is about forgetting selfish needs and desires. The other four factions are Candor (the honest), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). Beatrice longs to escape the confines of selfless living, and she knows on her sixteenth birthday she will be able to choose another faction. The only problem is that if she chooses to leave Abnegation she can never come back, and she will almost never see her family again. The day comes for her to choose between staying with her family and being true to herself, and her choice leads her to a competitive and grueling initiation where she must figure out who her friends are and keep the truth about herself a secret.
Nora: So Divergent is hyped as the next Hunger Games, and for the most part I thought it lived up to the buzz. It isn’t as powerful or resonating as Hunger Games, but it is almost as exciting.
Em: I think this new series has great potential, but I’m not sure if it will rival The Hunger Games for me (which is ok, not all books have to be that good). The big difference between the two first installments of these two dystopian YA series is that Divergent felt more like a set up for the series than a solid book in itself, whereas The Hunger Games could stand alone without the next two books. So much of Divergent was focused on initiation and it wasn’t until the very end that we get deep into the conflict. It is a great lead up to the second book, but I guess I wish it was a great lead up to the middle of the first book instead.
That being said, Roth did a great job of creating characters and conflict that I want to see further developed in Insurgent (the next book in the series). And I enjoyed the world-building even though I didn’t buy the premise. I still want to learn more about how this society works (or doesn’t work) and what the world outside of the city is like. I’m also hopeful that Roth won’t turn the series into a love-centered storyline – I loved The Hunger Games, but once it became all Team Gale vs. Team Peeta, I kind of gagged a little.
Nora: I agree that the love triangle part of The Hunger Games is one of the weaker parts of the story. I do think that it will work better in the movie…sometimes I need a visual to get the story. With Divergent I actually like the romance element. I think the boys are way more interesting than Peeta and Gale.
Em: Tris (Beatrice) is a solid protagonist. She’s complex. She has flaws. She’s tough, but not without her soft-side. And I love her relationship with Four – it seems natural and not too soppy – no insta-love here. All the other side characters are pretty fascinating too – from Tris’ parents and brother to friends Christina and Will and of course Peter who could prove to be a favorite character (not in a let’s be friends kind of way). Character development is a real strong point in this series thus far, and I am excited to carry forward with those that made it through book one (yup, Roth can be brutal, and I appreciate that!).
Nora: Beatrice is a little too self-doubting for me. I would like it if she got angrier, and was more complex with her actions and emotions. I also think it is a weakness that the characters can’t really interact with their families after they divide into factions. I just didn’t feel like Roth did a good job justifying why they had to separate completely from their families.
The Sorting Hat
Nora: My favorite thing is the Harry Potter-esque way in which one can sort oneself and their friends into the different houses – sorry I mean faction. I think I am either Amity or Erudite. I could NEVER be Dauntless – all those paths that lack railings and jumping on and off of moving trains would kill me instantly – my ankle still hurts after spraining it horseback riding six years ago, so there is no way I could make it through combat training and all the other stuff they do. And Abnegation? Well, the details make Abnegation seem like a crazy religious cult where there aren’t any mirrors and people wear gray sack-like outfits. Not for me.
Em: We can be faction roomies! If I had to choose a faction, I’d either go Amity or Erudite (though I think factions are stupid). But I’m definitely Divergent. When I take those Myers-Briggs style tests, I’m always split down the middle on the various traits. But Myers-Briggs says I’m an ideal teacher, so I guess I should go Erudite and then secretly be true to my Divergent self.
Nora: Let’s go for Erudite. We can just be nice on the side when we feel like it, but it won’t be a constant requirement.
Em: While the story is at times reminiscent of previous dystopian novels (The Giver and The Hunger Games in particular), the writing, character development, and overall action make Divergent stand out. This is an impressive debut from Veronica Roth with great potential for being an exciting series. I will definitely pick up Insurgent and highly suggest that you give Divergent a try, if you haven’t already.
Nora: I agree. I think it is worth reading, and is for the most part exciting and engaging. I wish more boundaries were being pushed though.
Em’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Nora’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Author: Veronica Roth
Publisher: HarperTeen (May 2011)
Note: ARCs received from April at Good Books and Good Wine and from publisher for honest review.