Divergent is a dystopian future where society is split into 5 different “factions,” each valuing above all else a single virtue. It is all in all a well written book, but as I call it, “A good idea poorly executed.”
First, a summary on Divergent. The dystopian world is divided into five different “factions,” or political groups. The people in this world live their lives based upon their ideal virtue, which differs from faction to faction. At age sixteen you have to choose whether you stay in your natural-born faction or choose to abandon your family and live with different people forever. Also, an “aptitude test” is given before the choosing–a simulated experience where you have to make decisions. The results are then studied and the test administrator tells you which faction you belong in based upon your actions and choices during the simulation.
Unfortunately, when the heroine, Tris (then called Beatrice) takes the test, her results reveal that she has aptitude for not one, not two, but three different factions. The test administrator deletes her results and tells her that it is very dangerous to be “Divergent,” the name that is given to people with multiple aptitudes.
To make a long story short, Tris leaves her home faction–to the chagrin of her family –and joins Dauntless, the faction valuing bravery. She has to learn to fight, shoot a gun and perform in fight simulations. Tris falls in love along the way, and discovers a conspiracy against Divergent people and Tris’s home faction.” Tris and Four (her boyfriend, later) end up having to fight for their lives and try to save the political leaders from being brutally killed by the mind-controlled Dauntless.
Now, a few complaints. The factions are an interesting idea, but the thought that the vast majority of people would only have aptitude for one virtue is laughable, at best. At worst, it’s worrying. In a world where people only value one virtue, “their personal” virtue, you’re just asking for political dispute. Also– how do you agree upon anything? All terms are based on what we as a whole value most. If America was split into five parts, and one part disagreed that freedom was a base right of man, where would we be?
For another thing, where are the other virtues–chastity, prudence, fortitude? In a world where these and other virtues are absent (for the most part), what keeps the world from turning into a free-for-all, where you can do whatever you want and it’s morally permissible–as long as you keep your virtue in mind.
Finally, on to the story itself. I felt very excited after finishing the first book in the series, but it all went downhill from there. (If this next part is me being a “hater,” I apologize!) This is getting into the entire trilogy as well, and there are SPOILERS if you have not yet read the books, so I’ll give you the gist right here in case you don’t want it spoiled–the books are not worth reading because they are filled with overly violent battles, overly intimate romances not appropriate for people under high school (and even some people in high school!), and overly fake “Virtues.”
At the end of the second book, there is a scene where the characters are watching a video where people are being brutally killed and bloody images of that kind. Tris says that “it went on and on until I wanted to scream.” Or something like that. Well, that’s all fine, but I can’t understand why the video was any different from the life Tris was living.
I mean, seriously. She saw someone fall off of a roof and die. She saw one of her friends’ dead bodies after he killed himself. She shot one of her best friends when he was under mind control. She saw her mother shot and killed. She shot another guy in the arm. She saw another friend get filled with lead. I could go on!
Tris is living a bloody, battle-filled life, and I can’t see why Ms. Roth is trying to make Tris out as not being desensitized to this horror when she obviously is. Innocence is good. Fake innocence is not.
For another thing. You can have emotional intimacy and wonderfully appropriate romance together. I have read so many books labeled ‘romance’ with no intimate scenes whatsoever that were beautifully written (Jane Austen!). In Pride and Prejudice, one of the best romance novels of all time, Darcy and Elizabeth never even held hands! It was good enough for them in the 18th century, and it should be good enough now. Divergent is not labeled a ‘romance’ book at all, and yet there are multiple intimate scenes in the second and third books! Come on, guys. We’re better than this. Who do you think would be happier, Darcy and Elizabeth at Pemberly, or Tris and Four (Tobias) in this post-war, post-apocalyptic half-destroyed city, mowing down Dauntless and Erudites with machine guns if they get too close?
One final point. When I finished Divergent, I was excited and interested in the trilogy. By the end of the second, my brow was constantly furrowed and I kept flipping back to make sure this was the book I wanted to read. By the last book, I almost ditched it in disgust before I even finished it, but a friend is the one who made me finish. The plot overall was half-baked, in my opinion, and the seemingly meaningless twists only made me more bored.
A disclaimer. I am hard to please. I appreciated (SPOILER!) Tris’s sacrifice at the end of the final book, as well as many conversations Tris had with Four (not the romantic ones! The ones where they talked about worthwhile things, and virtue!) and her disgust with the suicide as well as other things. I enjoyed some parts of this series, and there were many worthwhile scenes. But I’m sorry, they don’t balance out the bad, boring, and weird parts.
I would not recommend this series. The overall plot is boring, the intense romantic and violent scenes are far too much, and the virtues are not enough to make up for it.
By the way. I have a lot of friends who obsess about this series. I am not judging them, nor am I judging you if you like these books. I am judging the writing.
Sorry this is so long!