Veronica Roth’s Divergent: A Review of Training, Teachers and Virtues Gone Wrong

As you read this, I will be happily burying myself in Veronica Roth’s Insurgent. While you read, I’d like you to picture me curled up under a blanket with a nice cup of tea, alternatively reading obsessively and trying to convince my cat that being a toe warmer is what she was born to do.

However, that is in the future. Right now, all I have is the first book in Roth’s series, Divergent, which is a book that I love so much that when I first finished reading it, I turned the whole thing over and began reading it again.

So while I pine after Insurgent, I thought that I might write a review of Divergent and maybe try to articulate the pure love that I have for that book.

Divergent is (say it with me now, you all know the words) a young adult novel set in a dystopian future. In this particular future, society is separated into five strictly separated factions: Amity, which values co-operation and friendship; Erudite, which values intelligence; Candor, which values honesty; Abnegation, which values selflessness; and Dauntless, which values bravery. When kids reach the age of sixteen, they are given the option to switch out of the faction they are born into and join another that is more suited to them if they so wish. However, if they do they will forsake their families. Faction before blood.

Our (say it with me) first person narrator is named Beatrice and she was born into the Abnegation faction but she feels like she doesn’t belong. She’s always admired the Dauntless with their crazy fashion sense (black with tattoos and piercings, oh my!) and daring feats of bravery (pssh, like what?…Jumping out of moving trains, you say? That’s… well okay, then)

The deciding ceremony is tomorrow and now our intrepid hero has a choice to make. Will she be selfless and stay with her family? Or will she be brave? And why is an inconclusive aptitude test so dangerous?

No points for guessing which choice she makes.

I have a bad habit of being sarcastic about the things I love (you may have noticed that in previous reviews) so I apologise if I just made Divergent sound lame. It’s anything but.

You see, Divergent is one of my favourite types of novels: the training novel. Just like Rocky or the Karate kid, the majority of the novel is taken up with Tris (Beatrice’s new, hardcore name) going through the initiation into the Dauntless faction. There’s lots of training with various weapons, hand to hand combat and facing of fears. Everything to turn Tris from your average brave girl to the ultimate badass.

I’m not sure why I like training sequences so much. Maybe it’s because I like watching characters grow as they learn all of these skills I associate with awesomeness. Maybe (more likely) it’s because I like to picture myself in those scenarios and then like to imagine that I, too, have all of that training.

How hard can it be?

Regardless, there’s something about those types of novels that I enjoy immensely. Not to mention that, now armed with all of these awesome skills, there is great potential for some major badassery in the future and I’m always up for that.

Another thing that I’m in love with is the book’s lack of a love triangle. I’ve talked before about my dislike of the love triangle because of my penchant for cheering for the losing side and in Divergent there’s no losing side but there is conflict. Mainly because Tris and her loverboy are a bit too tough and guarded for their own goods but also because of a sexy student-teacher-forbidden-love vibe that prevents them from crossing any lines while they give each other meaningful looks and casually put each other’s lives at risk (it’s a thing).

I love the meaningful looks stage of any romance story. The part where your protagonist and their love interest are busy getting to know each other and realising that they may want to take it beyond the stage of wordless longing? Gives me shivers. The best part? Because loverboy is introduced as an instructor (albeit, a good-looking one with deep, unspecified angst), he’s not immediately pegged as ‘the love interest’. I’ve read too many books where a dark and mysterious stranger pops up on the second page ready and waiting to be adored and this was a nice change.

What I most liked about Divergent, though, was its message about good intentions turned bad. Each of the factions was started with a goal and virtue in mind, one of that would better and benefit not only those within the faction but also society as a whole. However, even virtues, when pursued relentlessly, can be corrupted. Pursuit of honesty can lead to hurtful bluntness and the revelation of things best kept hidden. Pursuit of friendship and peace can lead to deceitfulness and hidden agendas. Knowledge can lead to hunger for power and pure selflessness can become rampant doormatishness (totally a word) and much misguided for-the-greater-good-ing. And, of course, a focus on bravery can become confused with stupidity and cruelty.

Roth’s exploration of a dystopian society where supposed virtuous factions can go horribly wrong is fascinating and makes for addictive reading and I, for one, simply cannot wait to get my hands on the next volume! If you haven’t picked up Divergent yet, I highly recommend that you stop reading this right now and go track down a copy!

And of course Insurgent STILL hasn’t come in. Words cannot even express how disappointed I am.

I guess instead of finding out what’s beyond the fence and revelling in the pure badassery of Tris and Loverboy, I’ll be spending my time eating chocolate and watching Doctor Who. The tea and the blanket with a built-in, purring toe warmer is still most definitely on the cards, though.

Life is hard.

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About Meg Laverick

I can never be found without a cup of tea in my hand or a notebook in my bag. In between university and generally being awesome I read, write and nerd (that's a verb, right?). I also like analysing things that are probably best left alone.
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5 Responses to Veronica Roth’s Divergent: A Review of Training, Teachers and Virtues Gone Wrong

  1. Ben says:

    In truth, most cats don’t require a lot of convincing on the whole purring toe-warmer thing.

  2. phoenixandtiger says:

    *sings* I know what I’m doing over the summer….

  3. Pingback: Roth’s Insurgent Delivers A Trustworthly Message « Reading 'En Vogue'

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