Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Veronica Roth’s Divergent: A Book Review

A quick post here on another in a string of young adult novels I have tackled, this time being Veronica Roth’s Divergent. The modern members of this genre seems to carry a similar style whether dealing with the end of the world in a mythological sense or a dystopian future. Life is at a terminus point: things as we know it could end through revolution and the central character and narrator stands at the center of the conflict. As often noted, Divergent follows in the footsteps of The Hunger Games, presenting a future we dread, systems of inequality, and the basis of our future tied to an unwitting heroine only looking to find her own way in life.

Divergent presents Tris, a member of one of five factions set up to break people into sects of likeminded individuals, thus preventing war and allowing for the purification of society in a future marred by war. Taking place in a dilapidated version of Chicago, the text follows Tris from the day in which she takes an aptitude test to determine whether she should remain a member of Abnegation, a faction of selfless individuals who is thus responsible for governing society, or move onto one of the other four factions. Predictably, Tris is different. Her test is inconclusive, yielding aptitude results that show that she fits multiple factions. For no legitimate reason, this result, henceforth known as Divergent, is seen as dangerous to society and thus becomes the secret of the text. Why this fact exists one does not know, and it is here that Roth misses many an opportunity to expand upon this novel.

Tris, who defects to the fearless army faction known as the Dauntless, spends the remainder of the novel surviving. First she must become a warrior while hiding her true self. Yet, because Divergents are dangerous, Tris also works to understand who and what she is and why she might be dangerous to the foundations of society. At the same time, her old faction, one she is obligated to ignore, is being persecuted and attacked by the Erudite. Through these attacks, Tris logically feels tension, and as most teens do, tries to place herself in the middle of said tension. Finally, Tris falls in love with an authority figure, one who conveniently possess the very same secret she does: Divergence. She rises from relative obscurity and finishes at the top of her class despite attacks from fellow initiates. But the vacation ends in a battle between factions as the system crashes down around them.

This landscape, while interesting has many flaws. Tris’ rise, determination, and importance feels forced. Roth wants her to do these things, writes her down these roads, but fails to justify the ascent. Likewise, while she is aiming to sell more books, the text itself just ends. A cliffhanger is fine, but the one here, one without any semblance of resolution can leave the reader unsatisfied and looking for more.

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