I recently stumbled upon the Divergent series thanks for a library friend of mine. She said it was being heralded as the new Hunger Games. I was skeptical. I loved the Hunger Games and didn’t think anything could come close to it in YA fiction again. But I have to say that Veronica Roth does a very good job.
The heroine of the Divergent series, Tris, is strong-willed and useful, the two qualities I love in female characters. This is not because I am a Femi-Nazi. It’s because I like tension in my characters. While reading about Tris, I found myself getting frustrated with her. This is not the frustration one feels when one encounters a poorly written character, but rather the organic frustration that inevitably comes when you get to know someone. Their quirks bug you and sometimes (though you value their strength) you wish they weren’t so stubborn. I have wrestled with Tris as I wrestled with Katniss.
Now for the obligatory summary (without too many spoilers, I hope): This dystopian series is set in a society where people are split into 5 factions which hold a particular virtue above all others: Candor (honesty), Dauntless (bravery), Erudite (intelligence), Amity (peace), and Abnegation (selflessness). When children turn 16, they get to choose which faction they will stay in for the rest of their lives. This means they will conform to the rules of that particular faction, wear faction-specific clothing, and if you choose a faction different from the one you were born into, you never get to see your family again. No pressure, right?
This book follows Beatrice Prior, who is born into Abnegation. She ends up choosing Dauntless. This seems pretty straight forward — a young girl who feels too selfish for a life of selflessness tries to break out of her prescribed mold by being daring. To be sure, Beatrice, who renames herself Tris, faces many fears throughout the first book and really gets comfortable in her own skin. She finds it’s ok to have desires, to have free time and spend it any way you want, and even (gasp!) get tattooed. The first book is really about Tris coming into her own. The end of the first book and the entire second novel are about the war (it’s a dysptopia…of course there’s war). But it’s more than that. Like Suzanne Collins, Veronica Roth does a wonderful job of developing her characters. I actually cared about what happened and that kept me reading. Tris is a girl thrown into a war-torn society and has to make quick use of all the information she has learned while “growing up” in a few short weeks since leaving her primary faction. The twist? She can make it all stop. You’ll just have to read the books to find out how 🙂
As you can tell from this review and others I’ve posted recently, I really enjoy character development. While I definitely yelled at Tris quite a few times because of her unnecessary recklessness or stubbornness, I really liked her. She meets so many people, like her love interest, Four, and various friends. Not only does the political dynamic shift, but also the interpersonal dynamic. People choose sides. People die. And it’s what happens in the aftermath that I find so interesting.
One such event is her romance with Four, one of the Dauntless leaders. I’m really not a fan of romance in novels because it’s usually done in a very cheesy manner, especially in YA fiction. But Tris and Four’s romance seemed born out of necessity for authentic human contact, a longing that is ever present when everything around you is falling apart. That is something I can believe and genuinely root for. Kudos to Veronica Roth for doing romance right!
Now, you may be wondering about the title of this post. The first two are the titles of the books of the trilogy so far. Since the third is yet unnamed, my library friend has dubbed it “Detergent.” I flew through the first two books. I honestly can’t wait to see what happens to Tris and the gang.
The Divergent series has been a series of the most quotable books I’ve read in a while. For a YA trilogy (well, the two books that are out so far), it’s got quite a bit of wisdom. As we come up on the new year, I thought I’d share some of the gems I’ve found with you:
“I do trust you, is what I want to say. But it isn’t true — I didn’t trust him to love me despite the terrible things I had done. I don’t trust anyone to do that, but that isn’t his problem; it’s mine.”
“It reminds me why I chose Dauntless in the first place: not because they are perfect, but because they are alive. Because they are free.”
“I am his, and he is mine, and it has been that way all along.”
“I read somewhere, once, that crying defies scientific explanation. Tears are only meant to lubricate the eyes. There is no real reason for tear glands to overproduce tears at the behest of emotion. I think we cry to release the animal parts of us without losing our humanity.”
“Grief is not as heavy as guilt, but it takes more away from you.”
“Noise and activity are the refuges of the bereaved and the guilty.”
“’May the peace of God be with you,’ she says, her voice low, ‘even in the midst of trouble.’
‘Why would it?’ I say softly, so no one else can hear. ‘After all I’ve done…’
‘It isn’t about you,’ she says. ‘It is a gift. You cannot earn it, or it ceases to be a gift.’”