Book Review: Divergent, Veronica Roth (2012)

March 13th, 2013 3:49 pm by mad mags

Starts With One

fiveout of five stars

Not so much a review as a random collection of thoughts (so many feelings!), but you get the idea.

  • The plot, in brief: Set in Chicago sometime in the unspecified future, the hallmark of Divergent is its unusual method of social organization. The population is divided into five factions, each of which embraces a different virtue: Abnegation (selflessness), Candor (honesty), Erudite (knowledge), Amity (peacefulness), and Dauntless(ness) (bravery). Purportedly the faction system arose after the last major war; people blamed the conflict on different flaws fundamental to humanity, and adopted the opposing traits as a means of preventing future violence. Amity, for example, signaled out human aggression and adopted a position of non-aggression coupled with forgiveness and understanding.

    A person’s life is all but dictated by her faction membership: faction housing is segregated, and different factions assume responsibility for those jobs appropriate to their skills (Amity is involved in agriculture; Erudite produces the city’s scientists and innovators; and, owing to their unrelenting selflessness, Abnegation is entrusted to run the government) mediathekview kostenlos downloaden. Aside from political leaders, members from different factions rarely interact, and inter-faction marriages are unheard of.

    Those who find themselves without a faction – because they failed their chosen faction’s initiation, or later left or were cast out – compromise the city’s homeless, who rely on Abnegation charity and menial labor to get by. To be factionless is considered by many a fate worse than death.

    At the age of 16, children – who are raised (read: indoctrinated) in their parents’ faction – armed with the results of aptitude tests administered to determine which faction best suits them, can either choose to stay in their current faction or join a different one. “Transfers” are rare: those who leave their faction may never return, as the choice is a lifelong one. Since members of different factions have little occasion to interact, this often means saying goodbye to one’s family of origin. In more extreme cases, a transfer may be shunned as a traitor. Few adolescents even consider leaving, since they’ve been trained from birth to share in the hive mind of their own faction; different ways of thinking are foreign, even terrifying.

    Of course, not all of Chicago’s citizens can so easily be categorized and classified: unbeknownst to most, there’s a sixth “faction” (the factionless not being considered belonging to a faction, though we’ll see in Insurgent that this is far from the truth), that of Divergent: those rare individuals who demonstrate a flexibility of thinking and aptitude for two or more factions garmin forerunner 235 trainingsplan herunterladen. Young Beatrice Prior is Divergent, in a time when it’s dangerous to be so.

    We meet Tris – as she’s later christened – as she’s on the cusp of choosing her faction. Told from her point of view in first-person narrative, Divergent follows Tris through the process: high-tech aptitude tests, choosing ceremony, and initiation. While her brother Caleb decides to leave Abnegation for Erudite, Tris chooses the daredevils of Dauntless, and the freedom they represent. In just a month, she must learn how to be Dauntless; among the skills she will need to master are weaponry, hand-to-hand combat, and strategy. She must also learn how to conquer her own most primal fears through a computer simulation known as the fear landscape. The initiates aren’t just working against themselves, but are pitted against one another as well: only the top ten initiates make the cut. The rest are cast out into the factionless.

    As if this isn’t enough for Tris, her initiation comes at a time when the gears of war have again been set into motion: led by the Erudite, several factions are on the brink of war, with both the Abnegation and the Dauntless – Tris’s home and chosen factions – caught in the middle auto simulator games for free full version.

    Oh, and she’s also got the hots for her instructor. Talk about yer teen angst!

  • Interestingly, in the bonus materials (“Veronica Roth Talks About Utopian Worlds”) the author suggests that the world depicted in Divergent began as a utopia: “[I]f I were going to create a utopia, I would make a world in which people are focused on their personal, moral obligations, and strive to be the best possible versions of themselves. They would be allowed to choose whatever path they wanted in life. They would know what was expected of them, they would have a clear purpose, and they would have a strong sense of group identity and belonging. And there would be five factions….” (page 24).

    Divergent demonstrates how seemingly positive traits – honesty, bravery, selflessness, peacefulness, and a thirst for knowledge – can prove toxic if taken to the extreme and valued above all else. Brutal honesty can sometimes be cruel; a policy of stubborn non-aggression prevents citizens from standing up for the oppressed, or at least when push comes to shove (and mass murder and mind control). Sure, knowledge is a good thing – but not when your science involves testing on non-consenting humans (or nonhumans, for that matter. Vegan in the house!)

  • Speaking of, I got the impression that Amity grows all of the city’s food – and yet, the Dauntless can be seen dining on hamburgers word as a student. How does slitting the throats of sentient beings jibe with peacefulness again? (Oh, speciesism! So pervasive that you even pop up eons into the future – and in “utopias” to boot! See, e.g., the mulefa in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials.)
  • Comparisons to The Hunger Games are inevitable – but mostly superficial: both trilogies are narrated in the first person by 16-year-old girls; both take place in a dystopian version of America, set in the unknown future; and both of our heroines play a key role in the coming war/revolution. Thankfully, Divergent does not feature a “love triangle” (scare quotes because it isn’t much of a triangle if one the apexes is less interested in entering into a romantic relationship than inciting a revolution), but the relationship between Tris and Four (Tobias) is rocky enough to provide the romance junkies a fix.

    While they’re very different characters, both girls exhibit similarly low levels of self-esteem and are socially awkward/inept (though in Tris this lack of social expertise seems limited to her interactions with Four). Whereas Katniss’ lack of social grace stems from the simple fact that her childhood was preoccupied with matters of survival which superseded “frivolities” like making friends and flirting with boys, Tris’ selfless-to-the-point-of-masochism Abnegation upbringing is almost surely the cause ds spiele für r4 karte kostenlos downloaden.

  • Tris and Four’s relationship, though seemingly not always the healthiest (damn that Abnegation selflessness – a little self-care goes a long way!), is still a refreshing model of equality. Four saves Tris from a possible murder attempt-turned-sexual assault; time and again, she stands up for him against his abusive father. Neither of them are damsels in distress (or “kicked puppies,” in Four’s words), but people – people in need of the occasional help.
  • Trigger warning for sexual assault and general violence (obvs).
  • Some reviewers have complained that the character of Four is written inconsistently, especially in his interactions with Tris. Though I at first had the same impression, it’s important to keep in mind that his tone toward her often changes according to who is watching (e.g. Eric). After all, he is her instructor, and even absent Dauntless rules against initiate/instructor dating, a public romance would most certainly lead to cries of favoritism youtube videos downloaden vlc. Not to mention, make Tris a bigger target than she already is. (“Freeing Four,” a bonus chapter in Insurgent, recounts the knife throwing scene from Four’s perspective – and helps to contextualize his feelings and actions toward Tris.)
  • Likewise, some readers have trouble believing that people would voluntarily separate themselves into such narrowly-defined groups. I am one of them. That said, if you’re able suspend your disbelief, Divergent (and its sequel Insurgent; book #3 is schedule for release in October 2013) is an enjoyable, gripping read. Plus the ending of INSURGENT gives me hope that Roth will expound the origin of the faction system in the next and final book.
  • Fans of The Hunger Games seem rather split on whether they like Divergent; I greatly prefer The Hunger Games – at least so far, it seems a much more complex and sophisticated story, with multiple layers of meaning – but see no reason to hate on Divergent because it’s not THG. It’s not as good, but it’s still quite good.
  • A one-month initiation might cut it for Amity or Candor, but Dauntless? C’mon, boot camp is nine weeks long – and that’s all physical training, no fear landscapes required.
  • The cast of Divergent is racially diverse; this is good. There are worries that the film will be whitewashed; this is bad. I remember reading somewhere (tumblr, probably) that Roth has come out publicly against casting non-white characters with white actors; however, links now escape me stemmen voor tomtom gratis downloaden. Anyone?

    [Updated to add: found it! See also this post about the whitewashing of Four.]

  • Divergent seems be a post-racial world, in that faction membership – rather than race or ethnicity – is the primary means by which people identify and label themselves and others. Yet, discrimination is still rampant (even on the structural level; e.g., only the Abnegation are allowed to govern, members of other factions considered too “corruptible” to be trusted), as people make assumptions and generalizations based on faction-based stereotypes.
  • At their best, factions are supposed to foster a sense of community, belonging, and purpose; faction is family. However, even this virtue has been corrupted by the faction system: when Dauntless members become “too old” to be of use (or suffer from a disability) they’re expected to either kill themselves or leave rather than “burden” their fellow Dauntless. Though the Erudite insist that it’s a passion for knowledge – rather than raw intelligence – that they value, we learn in Insurgent that this isn’t so: members who fail an intelligence test are assigned janitorial work or sent to live with factionless wie kann ich bilder für whatsapp herunterladen. For all the sacrifices a person might make to join a faction – leaving his biological family behind, for example – the faction system offers precious little security or stability.
  • Those who have ever called Chicago home will especially dig the setting. The city landscape is so ubiquitous that it’s practically a supporting character in the story.
  • Bonus materials include a Q&A with Veronica Roth, a Divergent playlist, a list of quotes that inspired the story, faction quizzes and manifestos, and the first two chapters in Insurgent.

    I especially love the Dauntless manifesto: “We believe that cowardice is to blame for the world’s injustices. We believe that peace is hard-won, that sometimes it is necessary to fight for peace. But more important than that: We believe that justice is more important than peace. We believe in freedom from fear, in denying fear the power to influence our decisions download files from homepage. We believe in ordinary acts of bravery, in the courage that drives on person to stand up for another. We believe in acknowledging fear and the extent to which it rules us. We believe in facing that fear no matter what the cost to our comfort, our happiness, or even our sanity. We believe in shouting for those who can only whisper, in defending those who cannot defend themselves.” (Emphasis mine.)

  • Surely I’m not the only who wishes that Tris had chosen “B” as her new faction name? (Five by five, yo.)
  • Veronica Roth started writing Divergent while in college. She is now 24. I’m going back to bed; wake me up never.

    (This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

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