Reviewed by Ashlee Burke
In Veronica Roth’s novel “Divergent” we are introduced to a society that is ruled by factions. The idea being that our current government was run down by war and famine and as a result people decided that they could save the human race from it’s flaws by living by 5 basic life principles. Those who blamed the world’s problems on selfishness formed Abnegation: a faction dedicated to being selfless. Those who blamed ignorance formed Erudite: a faction dedicated to knowledge. Those who blamed deceitfulness formed Candor: a faction dedicated to absolute truthfulness. Those who blamed hate formed Amity: a faction dedicated to peace. And finally those who blamed cowardice formed Dauntless: a faction dedicated to bravery and ruthlessness.
Each of the factions lives separate from another but have a function in society. For example Abnegation runs the government whilst Dauntless polices the walls and guards the city. Amity grows the food but Erudite design the irrigation and the hydroponics that allow more food for entire city as well as act as teachers for all of the factions. However there are people who do not fit into these five groups they are cast out and become known as factionless. They do not play into the story however until the sequel: Insurgent. In Divergent they are merely mentioned as foreshadowing ideas.
The main character in Divergent is Beatrice. She is 16 and as such it is time for her to choose her faction. She was raised with her parent’s in Abnegation but every child is tested at 16 to see which faction they have an aptitude for by being put through a series of simulations. They are then allowed to choose to stay with their family or they can switch factions. It is considered a great betrayal if you switch factions. Now this is an interested parallel from the story to real life because I do feel when you are choosing any career there is a pressure even if it is unspoken to choose a certain way of life. For Tris it was even more complicated due to certain events that happen during her testing. However at the end of the day she knows that she must follow her path and not one set down by her faction or her parents. Can she live with her choice? Better yet can she survive her choice?
This book is interesting on so many different levels. On the one hand you have a coming of age story of a girl who has to choose between following a well laid path or carving her own. On the other there is a lot of philosophical undertones when it comes to the factions. Are people really that simplistic that we can be broken down into one personality trait? Can really smart people be neither selfless, kind, brave or truthful? Is one better than the other? Is it better to be honest, brave, selfless, kind, or intelligent: no matter what it costs you to be any one of those things.
Divergent and its sequel Insurgent was on the "Top One Hundred Teen Books" article recently published by NPR and while I would strongly recommend it to teens. I would also recommend it to recent graduates who are choosing their place in life. It gives an interesting perspective on living a life chosen for you and choosing your own path and how sometimes doing the later is the only way to truly commit to the former.