Sunday, December 18, 2011

Choices and Courage: Divergent

Divergent by Veronica Roth
Katherine Tegen Books, 2011

I immediately feel a sort of kinship with Veronica Roth. From reading her blog and following her on twitter, I'd like to imagine that if we ever met, we'd be friends. We're the same age. We both hail from Chicagoland. We both attended Big 10 schools. Both of our names end in "ica" which is just kind of fun. But while I may fancy myself a writer, she actually is in a very big way. We're talking New York Times best selling BIG. If you haven't heard of her debut novel Divergent, a runaway hit that recently won the title of Goodreads Best Book of 2011, you're missing out.

Beatrice is 16 years old living in a dystopian Chicago. In this future, Lake Michigan has dried up into a marsh, buildings of the past are crumbling down, and society divides itself into factions, each one devoted to a different virtue. And when you're 16, you have a choice to make: do you want to continue to stay with the faction of your parents and family, the one you have been raised in and have identified with until now, or are you willing to leave all of them behind and join a new faction? An aptitude test is supposed to help you make your choice, but the choice is still yours. Unfortunately for Beatrice, her test results are inconclusive which is very dangerous thing to be.

I read this entire book in a day because I could NOT put it down. This is a high-action book and while there is a bit of a romantic relationship at play too, it is by no means the whole of the story (Think Hunger Games - it plays a supporting role). Roth paints an incredibly vivid picture and explores a question that many people struggle with - what does it mean to be brave? The relationships among characters are complex and Tris (she gives herself a new name) is too. Roth captures being 16 perfectly in that delicate dance between still being a child in many ways, but in just as many others being an adult. 

The only reason I can't give it five stars is because there were a few things that I felt a bit perplexed over when I was done. The first book in a planned trilogy, I'm hoping some of them will be answered in the future, but for now I can't help but wonder what drove this society to the faction system? How is it they can afford these serums and simulations, but not to pave roads? How come sometimes Tris says the food is manufactured/processed, but later it appears that it's fresh? Little things, I know, but they might have significance and so I'm curious. 

If you're a Chicagoan, a fan of debut novels, a lover of dystopian fiction or looking to give it a try, I urge you to pick up Divergent. It seems to be a book people either love or hate, and I definitely fall into the former category.

Comments always welcome, and happy reading!

Veronica Roth's Website
Veronica Roth on Twitter
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