Divergent by Veronica Roth


Summary: A utopian future that realizes it dystopian potential.

If you are impatiently waiting for the Hunger Games movie, you should pick this up.  It is a trilogy as well, but only this first book is out.  The second book will be released May 1, 2012.

The main character Beatrice, is part of a faction devoted to selflessness.  As she approaches her time of choosing which faction to join (the others are devoted to bravery, knowledge, truth telling and peace) she realizes she is not nearly as selfless as she should be to continue to live with her family’s faction.  The factions were established to keep peace and create the perfect society after the last great war.  However, the tentions between the factions are increasing.

Beatrice knows she cannot join the faction devoted to knowledge (they keep attacking her father, one of the selfless leaders).  She is not very peaceful and she has never been all that good at telling the truth.  The problems is that she has tendencies toward more than one faction and that is not normal.  She is told in hushed voices that she is Divergent and that she needs to do whatever she can to hide it.

This is the type of young adult novel I love.  It is a coming of age story.  It is in a future world.  It plays with ideas and concepts.  It has strong characters.  I am also reading Alan Jacobs’ book Original Sin: A Cultural History and Ally Condie’s Matched.  Jacobs’ book talks about this cultural history of the concept of original sin.  And Divergent has a significant theme of sinfulness (never using that word).  The leaders of the factions believe that it is possible to solve cultural problems by eliminating the opposite of their value.  So Amenity (Peace) believes that society would be fine if there were no more war and fighting.  Dauntless (Bravery) believes that society’s problem is that people are afraid to do the right thing.  Roth lets us know that there are weaknesses in all of the factions because there are weaknesses in people.

Ally Condie’s Matched is another dystopian utopia, but it is more of the big brother type of utopia.  So it is interesting to compare the two views.  Divergent definitely seems to be the more possible of the two societies.  And it seems to be slightly older in theme and writing.

Divergent isn’t a perfect book.  It is set in Chicago, which I love since I lived there for about 15 years.  But the size of the societies and the reality of the size of the city and building do not seem to match.  There are only five factions and there are less than 100 kids that are Beatrice’s age.  So the society is only about 10,000 people or less.  But no one seems to be worried about food production (or any other kind of production).  All of the groups live in the greater loop area and Lake Michigan is now a large marsh.  There must be a world outside of their’s but it does not come up.

Apart from the problems of reality, this is a very good book.  It has been several years since I have read Hunger Games, but I believe this is as good, maybe better.

Purchase Links: Paperback, Hardcover, Kindle Edition, Audible.com Audiobook

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