In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago, 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.
Divergent is the kind of novel that introduces readers to a world that is simultaneously familiar and foreign, fascinating and terrifying. In this new society where people are categorized, trained, and sectored according to their prevalent personality traits, those who show no predilection for a particular faction are considered dangerous. To be labeled divergent is to be handed a death sentence, to even say the word is to call unwanted and dangerous attention to one’s self.
Initially, the concept of Divergent seems comfortably fictitious; however, the further into the book I got, the more I noticed parallels between Tris’s world and ours. We live in a society so fond of labeling and categorizing people—it’s not hard to imagine this becoming a way of controlling the masses. As I read about the different factions, I was reminded of India’s caste system. The factionless described in Divergent called to mind the untouchables—those people who are considered the most lowly and expendable. Readers will no doubt find themselves considering the faction they would want to join and which faction The Test would have them join.
Tris is a great protagonist. She is conflicted and beautifully human, making her entirely relatable. Divergent is a character-driven novel and Veronica Roth has succeeded in creating a brilliant cast. Equal attention is given to the development of each of the players in the novel. Readers will find themselves taking sides and changing opinions of each of the characters as new details are presented, as nothing (and no one) is entirely as it seems in this new world.
This is a brilliant first novel and I’m eager to see what surprises Ms. Roth has in store for the next entry into this trilogy.