“People tend to overestimate my character,” I say quietly. “They think that because I’m small, or a girl, or a Stiff, I can’t possibly be cruel. But they’re wrong.”
Divergent was a fad that again I was too slow to catch up to. In my regular Sydney fashion, I failed to get on the Divergent train on time, just like Hunger Games or the Millennium series. I was skeptical, to say the least — I happen to be very mostly skeptical of YA (young adult) fiction; and then when I discovered that Veronica Roth wrote it during her senior year of a creative writing degree at Northwestern university, I might have been a bit too jealous to have been motivated to read it. Keep these biases in mind as I write my review now.
Divergent is a novel about a dystopian future, set in Chicago. The human society is divided in factions: candor for the honest; amity for the peaceful; erudite for the intellectual; dauntless for the brave; and abegnation for the selfless. Our heroine, Beatrice or Tris, is raised in an abegnation family, but when she turns sixteen she has the chance to join another faction, and to be trained in the values of that faction. Beatrice doesn’t naturally feel like she belongs in this faction, and when she takes the mandatory aptitude test, her innate feelings are proven right; her test shows that she belongs to none of the factions, but instead contains strengths in each. They call this phenomenon divergent, and Beatrice is told that she must keep it a secret. During the Choosing Ceremony Beatrice finds herself choosing the Dauntless as her faction, and from there a hard journey of physical training and self-discovery begins, while the world is threatened by sudden political instability.
The world of Divergent is a world, I admit, I couldn’t naturally grasp. It’s a world that I found hard to believe logically; I didn’t understand the necessity of dividing the world in factions, or forcing people to live in such black-and-white terms. While this world mirrored a lot of our world, it also contained a highly militarized tone of urgency. Why train children to be soldiers this young? Who are the enemy? While I’ve been told that these questions might be better answered by reading the sequels Insurgent and Allegiant, I find myself skeptical.
Of course at the same time, I wonder if I’m reading Divergent too much behind the lens of the Hunger Games. It’s hard not to constantly draw comparison. It isn’t really fair to the novel. When I read Brave New World just last week, I didn’t read that novel with Hunger Games as deeply mind, and I found myself overlooking illogical aspects far more. It’s funny as soon as you say Huxley I think of an intellectualized commentary on society; when you say Veronica Roth I think of a writer just trying to jump on a trend of shallow dystopian teen-lit. These are my biases.
Many critics lauded Roth’s talent for writing a fast-paced novel. I have to agree – the action scenes were some of the best in the novel, and I suppose it was these scenes that really carried on my urge to keep reading. Pulling it on the other side were the fast number of make-out scenes and wonderings on falling in love, sometimes I found a little misplaced (especially when they came after really intense, traumatic scenes.) It’s a novel like this that makes me realize how funny it is that we find it acceptable for sixteen year-olds to find the loves of their life barely out of puberty, but heaven forbid we let them decide they’re only looking for sex and nothing more.
I think I’ve decided to try my hand at YA. I’ll write about a sixteen year-old girl on a journey of self-discovery who has sex, who has sex and doesn’t fall in love.
The first page from Divergent is read by Wendy, a student here at ISH from Zimbabwe. A lot of Tris’ strengths as a character (and I do like her as a character, even if I was a little critical towards the book) I could feel in Wendy’s voice as she read the passage. The critical, harsh feelings Tris has, and the carefully measured way she tries to see herself really come through. In Wendy’s voice I truly believe it.
Books Read: 6