Divergent, a Conversation/Review

-posted by Ruth & Meghan

Front CoverWe usually have very similar tastes in books (except that we can’t agree on magical realism…), and typically very similar opinions about the ones we like and dislike.  But Divergent was a book that well, we had divergent opinions of (wah, wah).  So we thought we’d have a dialogue here about it and give you a peek at one of our book chats, to perhaps jumpstart one of your own…

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Ruth:  Teen heroes in a harsh dystopia.  A smart, sassy, brave 16-year-old girl who is forced to make heroic choices.  Simmering romance.  Hmmmm. Remind you of anything?  When I first started hearing about this from young friends–notably Alysa, my  favorite 14-year-old book informant, I resisted mightily, thinking it was a quick Hunger Games knock-off.    But once I started, I was pretty much sucked in.  Even though I couldn’t identify at ALL with her choice of joining the Dauntless, I was intrigued by the plot and the characters.  What was your initial reaction, Meghan?

Meghan:  Fatigue.  I was thinking that if I had read this before Hunger Games, Legend, Matched, The Selection, Cinder, The Uglies, Delirium and about 20 others I can’t think of off the top of my head, I would have thought this was more original and interesting.  But now, my former favorite description “a YA book set in a dystopic future” makes my eyes cross – it’s become an entire genre, and they all kind of feel the same – and the cynic in me reads them all and can actually smell the desire of the author to have the movie rights snatched up emanating from the pages.  And that kind of puts me off.  That said, I actually really was intrigued by the central idea: that the world has been divided into groups based on what you think is the cause of problems in the world, to try and eliminate racism and nationalism and religious infighting, etc.  So if you think the root of the worlds problems is how selfish people are, you might join Abnegation, where everyone strives to be as selfless as possible.  And I have had a few conversations with people that have read it about what faction we’d be in.  So Mum, you said you can’t understand Tris (the main character) wanting to join Dauntless (the brave)… which faction would you join (and to go all readers guide on you, why)?

Ruth:  Well, I think that’s one of the problems–with different factions, like in the book, or different “intelligences” or “learning styles”:  we are all a mix of those elements and trying to fit into one of those boxes won’t really work.  We’re all really “divergent” like Tris.  I was trying to think which I would choose if I had to–and I first thought the Erudites, since they research and like to learn things–but there was a cold calculation to that faction.  I liked the selflessness and caring of Abnegation, but it was sort of well,  pious and quite extreme. (No mirrors?)  But the Dauntless daredevil stuff was off the charts for me.  No way I could be in that group.  Now Jim, that would be his group for sure.  The consensus groups of Amity would drive me crazy–as you remember from our Food Co-op days. . .

What about you, Meg?

Meghan: Like you, I agree that people are all Divergent, but if it’s one of those situations where you had to pick something… I think I’d be a lot like Tris, actually, and pick Dauntless.  Not saying I am brave, mind you (I’m probably a higher % Erudite), but that ruthless streak they seem to have would make me crazy, and I admire bravery and want to be around and cultivate that, so if I didn’t just test right in, I think I’d pick that.  Which is scary to me, once I type it, and honestly, not what I expected myself to say!  Ok, onto the other “must have” element to these books: a doomed romance.  What did you think of Four, and of their relationship, and the reveal of who he is?

Ruth:  I think Tris’ relationship with Four is one of the strengths of the book. I appreciate the author’s decision not to go formulaic and have two competing love interests for our heroine.  The friendship and attraction that grows into a romance helped show the characters’ depth and loyalty.  The slowly revealed secrets about Four’s past ( and other name) came as surprises. (Don’t worry. . .no spoiler here.)

Oh, and I’ve been thinking about the number of adolescent dystopia’s in a more positive light.  There certainly are a lot of adult dystopian books–and they are in as different genres as realistic fiction, sci-fi, and even fantasy:  Classics like 1984, Fahrenheit 451, The Time Machine, and Brave New World to more contemporary books like The Handmaid’s Tale, V for Vendetta, Woman on the Edge of Time, and The Road.  So why not provide more rich variations on the theme for our younger adults, too?

Meghan: Because the adult books didn’t all come out in the same year, angling for movie deals! (I mean it’s just like vampires were everywhere post-Twilight!) But that’s my cynicism talking…

Now you’ve heard our opinions, what are yours?  Have you read this book?  What faction would you belong to?  Which is your favorite dystopic future YA?  And speaking of favorite (mine is clearly Hunger Games!), have you seen the pictures floating around the internet of Jena Malone as Joanna and Sam Caflin as Fennick in Catching Fire?  Are they as you pictured them?  Meet us in the comments to discuss…


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