Book Review: Divergent

Divergent, by Veronica Roth

The “about the author” text on the back envelope of the book states that Ms. Roth wrote the stories that became this book, the first volume of her dystopian trilogy about young people rebelling against their corrupt government [1] rather than doing her homework as a student in creative writing at Chicago’s Northwestern University. Although I am a studious person, I think that her devotion to this story even as she honed her craft as a creative writer was definitely a well-placed priority, even if she makes the intellectual and ambitious Erudite faction the enemy in this series. This particular volume serves to introduce the reader to a dystopian world divided by design into five factions with clearly defined (even stereotypical) identities through the story of the sympathetic and attractive heroine Beatrice Prior, who after an inconclusive result in her assessment test and leaving her home Abnegation faction to join the brave Dauntless changes her name to Tris.

The particular version of the novel that I read was fairly large print (extending almost 500 pages) but not particularly difficult to read given its straightforward language and narrative. The story in many ways is a coming of age tale about leaving one’s home and family, charting and independent path, yet retaining a love and loyalty for one’s family as well as one’s new friends, finding love, and acting bravely and in defiance of corrupt authorities in the midst of a highly dangerous world for those who are different who often find it difficult to feel truly at home. These all appear to be concerns of young people, whether as teens or young adults. Perhaps my own experience is a bit atypical, but these concerns appear to be entirely reasonable in light of this world’s dangers [2]. The book presents the idea that those who combine different approaches are dangerous because they cannot be easily controlled and because they recognize the artificiality of the world and its simulations of reality. Many of the readers of the book (myself included) are likely to feel as if they are themselves Divergent, belonging possibly to multiple factions because of a combination of self-sacrifice, candor, bravery, intellect, or friendliness.

The author’s rich use of personal inspiration is evident in the skillful design of the book. The author uses her home area of Chicago as a way of demonstrating local knowledge in setting a detailed physical geography for the novel, including buildings and parks and neighborhoods. The relationship between this city and any sort of larger world is unclear, as there appears to be a strict city-state form of political organization, despite the presence of advanced technology. What dangers and threats exist in the world at large, apart from civil disorder, also appear unclear from this novel alone. Of particular interest is the author’s use of her own relationship with her mother as the template for Tris’ relationship with her brave mother, given the author’s touching dedication of this book: “To my mother, who gave me the moment when Beatrice realizes how strong her mother is and wonders how she missed it for so long.” Given that this is a book that is focused to young adult audiences, the author’s touching dedication to her mother and its demonstration of the loyal love of young people for parents, even parents who do grave wrong (as is the case of Tobias’ father, deposed leader of the city and also father of Tris’ love interest), is a touching and realistic portrayal of love and ambivalent feelings in an environment of chastity and restraint but also considerable passion. There is much to appreciate in this novel indeed.

[1] This is a frequent theme of dystopian young adult literature and their film adaptations. See also:

[2] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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8 Responses to Book Review: Divergent

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