Wednesday, 7 September 2011
Review: Divergent - Veronia Roth
Extent: 487 pages
Pub Date: 3rd May 2011
Beatrice "Tris" Prior has reached the fateful age of sixteen, the stage at which teenagers in Veronica Roth's dystopian Chicago must select which of five factions to join for life. Each faction represents a virtue: Candor, Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity, and Erudite. To the surprise of herself and her selfless Abnegation family, she chooses Dauntless, the path of courage. Her choice exposes her to the demanding, violent initiation rites of this group, but it also threatens to expose a personal secret that could place in mortal danger. Veronica Roth's young adult Divergent trilogy launches with a captivating adventure about love and loyalty playing out under most extreme circumstances.
I love the premise for this book: a group of people see the evil in the world and form five factions, each one with the express mission to combat a particular human vice in order to create a utopia of benevolence. Only they forgot one thing: humans just aren’t that simple. Enter Beatrice Prior at the point where the complexity of human emotions has taken its toll on the orthodoxy of each faction.
I have to say, Beatrice has entered the ranks of my all time favourite heroines and it’s because Veronica Roth hasn’t shied away from creating someone who is real and reacts to her environment in a very realistic manner. She’s not one of those heroes who is utterly moral and wouldn’t dream of harming another character, she gets angry, she gets vicious, even vindictive and she actually kills people which I really wish heroes did more often in YA fiction. I don’t mean I want all my heroes to go off on mad killing sprees but when the need arises, in real life a good guy would kill someone who threatens their life or the lives of others and Tris does not shy away from that task. The other characters are also really meaty. Peter is not just a bully who makes snide comments and gets the hero into trouble with the teacher, he is violent and vindictive, killing or maiming those who pose a threat to his status. Even Tris’ friends have moments of great selfishness and commit acts of betrayal in this dog eat dog world. There is a real vicious edge to this book, carried out by the characters that I really love in YA because I’m a real proponent of the frailties of humanity being laid out in front of teens so that they can explore them within the safety of a book. The world needs to be laid bare and Divergent does this without remorse.
I think the real truth of the book is that you can train people to think and act in certain ways but that always has to be forced over the natural instincts of a human. Most of us are actually like Tris, we are emotionally complex with both selfless and selfish tendencies. Even an act of decency, like jumping in front of a bullet cannot be put down to a single good emotion like courage, it also requires selflessness, kindness, intelligence and honesty – it has to be true feelings for it be instinctive. It is also the case that we are not wholly good or wholly bad we make our decisions based on hundreds or thousands of emotional reasonings. That’s what I really like about Divergent, it’s not about the physical struggle between good and evil but the emotional one that then plays out in the physical world. In the end, there is no good or evil, there are only humans, emotional slaves. That’s why the factionless exist and why Tris is Divergent, but in this dystopia she is treated like the freak and the factionless like failures.
You must read this book.
No, it is not optional.