Dee Reads: Divergent

Posted: March 24, 2014 by Dee in Dee, General Media, Literature
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Beware, there be spoilers ahead!

Whenever I go on vacation, the #1 thing I need is a heckuva lot of books. I speed read to the point where on my trip to Cancun I read seven decent sized novels without any trouble. And that was taking breaks and socializing with other people. I got a Kindle specifically for travel, because it’s a huge relief not to have to lug an entire bag full of just books in order to keep myself from getting twitchy at the pool. This time around I got the Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth because everyone’s talking about it, and several of my friends recommended it. I reasonably like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, so I felt this was a natural progression from there to the newest shiny series. I’m going to do quick reviews of all three and probably the last one I’ll analyze the whole series. For now, this is the first one.

I hate first person narrative. I understand that in young adult fiction they do that so the readers feel personally connected to the lead, although I’d like to point out that Harry Potter was third person and people definitely connected to Harry. In general I find first person very limiting. I could probably do an article on this, maybe for another day. So it gets a point deducted for that. Beatrice “Tris” Prior is the main character. This is a post-apocalyptic style world, set in what appears to be future Chicago. In classic The Giver sense, or Equilibrium, or you know a bunch of science fiction, the world was dark and violent as humans regressed. They decided to make a perfect society where certain tendencies were stamped out in favor of peace and order. In this case, people are specifically forced to choose one “faction” where they will dedicate their life. They’re all forced into a certain box: Dauntless, the aggressive group, Candor, the brutally honest/logical, Erudite, the intellectuals, Amity, the peaceful, and Abnegation, the selfless. Tris is in Abnegation, so she starts out very bland.

From the get go Tris knows she doesn’t fit in with her division, because she isn’t selfless enough and she doesn’t keep her mouth shut and accept the way things are. Oh yay, a rebellious teenager, we never see that! I know, I know, let it go Dee, that’s a popular trope. There is a testing ceremony before where they have to see where their best tendencies lie, and then they make a decision in public. Tris shows herself to be Divergent, meaning she can fall under a number of different options, and that she seems capable of controlling the simulations everyone falls under. She is warned not to let it show, although not told why, because people are cryptic and then the book would be over fast. At the ceremony, she is surprised when her brother Caleb picks Erudite, because everyone was certain he would stay with his family. He’d been hiding his true nature all along. She feels obligated to stay with her family, but then she’s daring enough to go with Dauntless instead.

This leads into Tris leaving with the Dauntless and having a harrowing experience. It’s very easy to be killed during the training, and everything is a test of strength and endurance. Many of them die and they’re kicked out to be factionless if they don’t pass the tests. Or if they get injured and can’t continue on. At first she struggles, and she makes friends with some of the others: Christina, Will, and Al. Al has feelings for her early on, but it’s a one sided affection. Tris instead makes eyes at the serious and withdrawn trainer Four. He’s named for only having four fears in the fear scape, a place they have to experience so they can see their fears and overcome them. It’s also part of a simulation. Tris starts rising through the ranks, and the jealousy of the others means they try to kill her. Her friend Al included, who let his envy get the best of him. He commits suicide after realizing what he did and that he had no other way out. Four is Divergent himself, and he actually comes from Tris’ faction too. His father is a leader, an abusive man who terrorizes his son, and Four’s real name is Tobias Eaton.

Anyway eventually Tris grows to like her new family, but she’s alarmed by the dangerous situations they’re in, and feels this coming dread. She meets the head of the Erudites, a dangerous woman named¬†Jeanine. She has been putting mind control in the drugs from the simulations, and she wants to destroy¬†Abnegation. Why, well there are a few reasons, but they’re not immediately known to Tris or the readers. She takes control of the Dauntless and have them march on Abnegation, slaughtering the people there. Tris and Tobias are able to fight back due to being Divergent, and try to save the others. While running, Tris is faced with her brainwashed friend Will, and she kills him in self defense. She watches as her mother and then her father are killed in front of her, before she and Tobias end the simulation. He’s under control at first, but he breaks it due to his love for Tris. Afterward they decide to flee to Amity, where others are seeking refuge. She still is not aware at this point about what it all means or why her parents were willing to die for whatever information they have.

I could have probably summarized that quickly, but I couldn’t help getting into detail. Like I mentioned above, this isn’t exactly a surprising set up for a plot. I don’t like first person so I couldn’t say I really appreciated Tris, although she’s more relatable than I expected. I like that the story frankly accepts her situation, how dangerous it is, and she reacts to it in a logical way. She’s scared, she’s overwhelmed, she’s confused, she’s grieving, she’s lethal when she needs to be and that also scares her. She has no idea what being Divergent means, and no one’s willing to give her answers. I appreciate that her love story has no triangles in sight, and it’s built in a realistic way. The two of them meet and are strangers at first, but have an attraction. It grows and changes over time and they share things together, until it turns to genuine feelings. Despite bigger things at work here, it’s also a personal story for Tris, who is still a teenage girl learning about the world and love and how to navigate personal relationships.

I will say that while I saw the mind control coming, I could still be unnerved when I pictured the Dauntless silently going around murdering people. I felt the dread of how horrified they would be when they woke up. I was shocked in the best sense when both her parents died. I was pleased with how she killed Will, because it presented a moral and difficult position. One that was certain to pay off later. I think Veronica Roth made some surprising decisions, and I have to respect and tip my hat to that. It reminded me of other material, but I was still intrigued by her choices, and by how she kept trying to go into depth. I can’t say I think it’s extremely well written; it’s decent. It’s on par with Hunger Games at least, and it was clear. I didn’t come to the end really loving it, but I did want to keep reading, and that’s a success right there. Would that continue to be true? Well we’ll have to see.

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