Veronica Roth’s Divergent originally came across as the poor man’s version of The Hunger Games. Dystopian fiction, young adults, factions…it all felt a little too familiar. It wasn’t until I actually cracked open the cover of her bestseller that it began to dawn on me why exactly it has been so popular. Because like so many novels in the YA category, Divergent is a little two sweet, a little too nice, but damn addictive.
There are five factions in the dystopian world of Divergent: abnegation (selflessness), Amity (peacefulness), Candor (honesty), Dauntless (bravery) and Erudite (intelligence). Each faction is separated both literally and metaphorically – you don’t interact with someone outside of your faction. Once they turn sixteen, members of this dystopian society undertake an aptitude test that determines which faction they best belong to. The next day, they have to make their decision – stay with their friends, their families and everything familiar, or change to another faction and never see them again.
The protagonist of Divergent, Beatrice Prior, not only has all of this on her plate, but more – she’s divergent. She doesn’t fit to any specific faction, which makes her a threat to the community and a target for those who want total control. After Beatrice chooses to leave Abnegation for Dauntless, she’s also in for more shocks: if she doesn’t rank in the top ten initiatives, she becomes factionless, a life that leads to desolation, poverty and eventual death. To make things all that more complicated, Beatrice also has a crush on the head instructor, Four, as well as an enemy in fellow initiative, Peter.
Divergent isn’t particularly well-written, at times the storyline was so corny I wanted to groan aloud and give up on the storyline, but honestly, it was an absolute page-turner. The storyline was fast-paced and action-packed and I had to keep reading to find out what would happen to Beatrice: would she become part of Dauntless? Would Four show his feelings for her? Will she stand up for herself against the Erudite? And while at times I wanted to laugh at the plot developments and slightly clunky writing, if I had read this when I was 15 (the intended target market) I would have absolutely adored it. Essentially, it is the latest craze that has replaced The Hunger Games and Twilight. Which is fine, because if it encourages petulant teenagers to actually pick up a book, then I’m all for it.
There are definitely aspects of Divergent that aren’t particularly original, and at times it felt like Roth was recycling aspects of other popular novels: there was the ‘bad boy’ Four, who resembled Edward Cullen, right down to his aggressive behaviour but complete desire to protect Beatrice; the factions in a dystopian society that resembled The Hunger Games districts; and even the different factions resembled the different Houses in Harry Potter. Heck the only real difference between Erudite and Slytherin is that one has green as their colour and the other has blue.
In saying all this, Roth has still created a novel that is great fun to read, and she has raised some thought-provoking ideas about how society works. Reading Divergent it is easy to see how pointless it would be to lump people together based simply on their characteristics – but isn’t that what we do in most societies? The beautiful and rich spend time together, the academics spend time together, the poor and homeless are left neglected and excluded. The other great bit about Divergent is that Roth has created a female protagonist that is strong, capable and very likeable – yet she is also human, capable of love and fear. There is a trend in dystopian YA fiction where strong female protagonists star, and Divergent is no exception. In a genre that was once dominated by men, it’s fantastic to read.
Divergent isn’t particularly well-written, but it is a fun, enjoyable read that will only take a weekend. I’d recommend this book if you’re interested in all the hype, or just want something that is easy and quick to read.
Have you read or seen Divergent? Are you a fan of Dystopian fiction? Let me know!