Tuesday, August 30, 2011

[Review] Divergent by Veronica Roth *****

I have actually had this book on my to-read list for awhile, and it wasn't until a couple friends of mine started reading it and couldn't stop gushing about it that I finally picked it up. Picking it up was a bad idea, as I finished it in two nights.

The Story

Beatrice is a girl raised in the world of the selfless Abnegation, one of five factions that divide the people of this futuristic reality. Society has divided themselves into five aspects of human principles; the honest Candor, the brave Dauntless, kind Amity, genius Erudite and selfless Abnegation. Each of these factions raises their children to embody their individual virtue to become members of society, but at sixteen you can choose. Will you stay or do you truly embody another faction?

When it comes time for Beatrice to choose her place she finds that she is a mix of three, Dauntless, Abnegation and Erudite: Divergent. This makes her a threat to the tipping balance of society.

What's So Great About It?

Personally, my favorite aspect of this book was the factions and what they mean for human society. Imagine if humanity decided that we were going to highlight only one aspect of your personality and that was how you lived? Would you be fearless and brave like the Dauntless, or dedicate your life to the pursuit of knowledge and power? Divergent really puts the idea of human character and what it really means to embody these characteristics to the max. It shows how with even the best of intentions, humanity can, and most likely will, still twist its principles.

Ever since The Hunger Games I have truly become a fan of protagonists that have obvious flaws. Tris (Beatrice) isn't necessarily the ideal heroine that many novels create. By joining the faction she does, she brings out the more brutal aspects of her personality and becomes a very different person by the end than what you met in the beginning. This shows character growth and change, something that I feel is at the heart of a really great YA novel. In the same sense, she also becomes aware of her true self and what morals and beliefs she can not live without.

Did I mention Four? Because Four is amazing (and definitely sexy). Thank you Veronica Roth for not creating a story around the relationship of these two characters. Don't get me wrong, I don't necessarily find anything wrong with centering a YA novel around the relationship of two protagonists, but this does not define them. Tris would not be who she is without the lessons that Four has taught her, however, she is independent of his character as well. Throughout the novel you can see both of them grow and learn. I would definitely look forward to reading some of the novel from his perspective.

Oh yeah, and did I mention the novel has tattoos? I love tattoos.

Why This Book?

I may reference The Hunger Games a couple of times when reviewing this book, but Divergent is not The Hunger Games. The freshness and intellectual/sociological depth of this novel is really refreshing and exactly what I, as a teacher, would look for when choosing a book for the class. There are an endless number of discussion topics and important, thought provoking questions that arise when reading this book. The story is a fresh idea in a vein of fiction that could easily suffer from the copy-cat syndrome. Roth does an amazing job fleshing out both her world and her characters and make you truly feel like you could walk outside and live between its walls.

I would give Divergent 5 out of 5 stars for readability in the classroom. I would definitely recommend this novel for anyone teaching the topics of society and culture, human morality and character.

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