April 5, 2013

Divergent by Veronica Roth

I stare into my own eyes for a moment. Today is the day of the aptitude test that will show me which of the five factions I belong in. And tomorrow, at the Choosing Ceremony, I will decide on a faction; I will decide the rest of my life; I will decide to stay with my family or abandon them.
-from Divergent by Veronica Roth

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Like many other readers, once I finished reading The Hunger Games trilogy, I wanted to find similar books or series that might fill the void and capture my attention in the same way. I wasn't very successful, although many people recommended Veronica Roth's Divergent series to me. For some reason it took me almost a year to get to it and I only wish I had picked up this book sooner! If you're looking for a dystopian young adult series in the same vein as The Hunger Games, look no further because this is the best I've found yet.

In the first installment of Veronica Roth's Divergent series, protagonist Beatrice Prior is a sixteen year old girl living in dystopian Chicago where the population is split into five groups called factions. Each faction is dedicated to a specific virtue that governs their lifestyle: the Amity promote peace, the Candor promote honesty, Erudite promote intelligence, Dauntless promote bravery, and the faction in which Beatrice is born into, Abnegation, promote selflessness. During the Choosing Ceremony each year, each 16 year old must choose which faction in which they wish to spend the rest of their life. In a society that dictates "faction before family", this means completely abandoning your family should you choose a new faction. When Beatrice learns new information about her strengths during the aptitude test preceding the Choosing Ceremony, she must decide whether to honor herself or selflessly honor her family.

Beatrice's conflict of choosing a faction is covered in the beginning of the novel; the rest of the book focuses on her initiation into the faction she chooses and the continued internal struggle of who Beatrice is, what she stands for and how she should use her strengths in the world that is not as perfect as she grew up to believe.
I love how Roth separates five virtues, all seemingly positive and valuable, but once isolated exhibit flaws that have potential for corruption and greed. Since the factions are not allowed to blend and members are not allowed to transfer any time other than during the Choosing Ceremony, these values are not allowed to be blended in this society. This idea reinforces that these virtues are most potent when utilized together. Furthermore, this emphasizes the strengths of Beatrice as she exhibits a combination of virtues that set her apart in her story, and also set her apart as a heroine in young adult fiction.
While the writing is simple and easy to understand (it is young adult, afterall), the story and message behind it are complex and entertaining. With action-packed fight scenes and a sprinkling of romance, Divergent uses the same recipe that made The Hunger Games one of my favorite series without feeling like I was reading the same story at all. (Like I alway say, I hate comparing books to THG, but since you've probably already read it, it's a good example to use!)
Bottom Line: I recommend this for anyone who loves action, adventure, and/or dystopian YA fiction. You will especially love it if you've read The Hunger Games. If I had a preteen/teenager I would totally have them read this book for its message! 5/5

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