Divergent by Veronica Roth was the hottest new dystopian release of 2011. My 17-year old son read it as soon as it came out and kept saying, “Mom, you have to read this!” I also read many great reviews of it and watched with interest as it showed up on many Best of 2011 lists. I finally found time to read it last week and discovered that all that hype was well-deserved; Divergent is an exciting, original novel.
Among the decrepit buildings of Chicago and the enormous swamp that used to be Lake Michigan, the community has been rebuilt into five factions, each with their own unique role in society: Abnegation (the selfless who govern), Dauntless (the brave who defend the city), Erudite (the intelligent who pursue knowledge), Amity (the peaceful who grow food), and Candor (the honest who always tell the truth).
At age 16, each person must choose their faction. While most choose to stay within the faction they were born to, some change factions at this time. It is a decision with life-long consequences, determining whom they will live with, what kind of job they will have, and even their core beliefs. Beatrice has lived happily and peacefully in Abnegation with her brother and parents her whole life, but she isn’t certain it is where she really belongs. She is worried about her aptitude test and the Choosing Ceremony the following day and has no idea which faction she will choose.
I don’t want to say anymore about what Beatrice chooses or what the consequences of that choice are – no spoilers here! But things are not quite as simple as they first seem in this new kind of society, and there are some conflicts brewing behind the seemingly peaceful surface. As Beatrice goes through her initiation (whether you are born into a faction or transferred in, you must go through initiation when you become an adult), she learns things that are disturbing and makes some new friends as well as some enemies.
Divergent is a fast-paced, action-packed story with lots of surprising plot twists. I remarked to my son that it was more violent than I’d expected, and he rolled his eyes and teased, “Mom, you are such a girl!” Yes, I am! And yes, some of the violence did surprise me, though it is a very common element of dystopian fiction. Despite that, I was totally absorbed into this story and hated to set the book down to go to bed each night. I finished it yesterday and was immediately ready to read its sequel (Insurgent, which is due to be released May 1, 2012). And that is the sign of a good book.
496 pages, Kathryn Tegen Books (imprint of HarperCollins)
Can't get enough of Divergent? Check out the Divergent fan site.
P.S. I was just as fascinated by the author’s backstory as I was by the book itself. Veronica Roth is a very young author, just out of college, with a very big success with her first novel! Read more about her at her blog.