Divergent is the first book by Veronica Roth. She’s only 22, and Divergent was branded the Buzz Book of 2011. It’s sequel, Insurgent, was released earlier this year. Yes, this is another multi-booker, which means I’ll have to wait another year to find out what happens after Insurgent, only to have to wait another year after that, probably, to get to the end.
For a while there, we were inundated with vampires. But The Hunger Games is now the new “It” franchise. And on its heels, it’s Dystopia everywhere. Is the future so bleak? Is Tris another Katniss Everdeen?
The comparisons for “self-discovery of a girl hero” are inevitable. These are two girls who must survive in a very, very violent world. Beatrice’s not too distant future reality is set at a time when everyone is categorized by dominant personality traits into one of five factions: Amity (for those who are spacey and happy all the time), Dauntless (for those who are courageous), Erudite (for people who like learning and stuff), Candor (for those who are honest, even to a fault), and Abnegation (for those who are selfless).
At the age of 16, every citizen must choose to which faction they belong. We meet Beatrice when she’s about to decide how she’ll live the rest of her life. And then she has to train to meet the faction requirements that will determine the rest of her life. And of course there’s a boy and some friends and some sinister stuff that goes down, and I was tearing through the pages only to reach the end and that sinking realization that there is still three people ahead of me on the hold list for the next book‼
Why do I like Beatrice? I like her because she’s not pretty. And she never becomes pretty. At no point is she “transformed”. In other words, when people like her, it has everything to do with who she is. That’s a message I can get with. I also like Beatrice because she’s not perfect. Like Katniss, she is selfish, she withholds, she knows she’ll regret her slyness and she goes ahead and deceives people anyway. She makes all the mistakes you expect from a 16 year old girl who is trying to make friends and fit in and excel all while, you know, staying alive.
Why do I like the story? It’s a pretty compelling plot. And while Veronica Roth isn’t quite as thorough or as organized in description (when she’s laying out the Divergent world) as Suzanne Collins – that might come with experience, after all she is only 22 – her pacing is excellent, and she holds you, right from Beatrice’s initiation, through her preparation with her classmates, and just as it was in The Hunger Games in the Arena, these are the best parts, full of creativity and action and suspense and tension and conflict and romance. Here’s where Roth may have succeeded over Collins. I wasn’t into Peeta or Gale in The Hunger Games one way or the other. But this guy? In Divergent? Super hot. I’m into it.
Thematically though, behind the formulaic elements that give Divergent its Young Adult classification, the book explores the universal and very modern struggles of social integration. Segmentation exists today – legally, morally, arbitrarily. Debates about segmentation and rights are still happening. Laws are passed that deny certain segments certain freedoms. More lines are being drawn and walls built on top of them then the ones that are being erased and torn down. As is the case with good Young Adult fiction, Divergent was written for a wide audience, of all ages, and the questions it asks are worthy of discussion among teens and among those who are beyond teen. These questions are especially relevant right now, and I’m sure you won’t have to look far to find evidence of the fractures that philosophical, political, racial, and doctrinal alignments can cause.
Simply put, as I’ve said before, those who dismiss the YA Genre are shortsighted. The true stars of YA are those who make the reading fun, and get you thinking at the same time. Divergent delivers.
Still need a reason to pick up this book? According to Deadline the screenplay for Divergent is ready, the film adaptation is currently in pre-production and filming is expected to begin later this year. 2012 is already half over, which means we’ll be angsting about casting soon. If only it were 10 years ago, Ellen Page would totally be my Tris. Yes, I am nagging you to read this book. At least you won’t have to wait for the sequel, right? And in another year, when all the entertainment shows start talking about it, you can exhale loudly, a proper know-it-all and declare that you’ve known about it for a long time, ok?
Click here to watch a short video of author Veronica Roth describing Divergent.