Divergent is the latest in a series of distopian young adult novels Eden and I have been reading. She started out reading Brave New World and 1984, and we continued through Uglies by Scott Westerfield and Birthmarked by Caragh O’Brien. Many of the current distopia novels for young people are fairly unimaginative, playing over and over again on the ideas of eugenics — selective breeding of humans — and plastic surgery. Divergent was more interesting to me because it focused on personality and how different personality styles affect life choices.
Beatrice lives in a world where people are divided into five factions: Amity, people who believe in showing kindness above all else; Dauntless, people whose chief quality is courage; Erudite, people who believe all problems can be solved with intelligence and learning; Candor, people who belief in honesty and revelation of all one’s thoughts; and Abnegation, people who endeavor to live selflessly. At the age of sixteen, each child chooses which faction he or she belongs to, based partly on aptitude tests. They must then pass an initiation, after which their job choices are limited by their faction. If they fail to pass the initiation, they are considered outcasts, factionless.
During her aptitude tests, Beatrice tests as Divergent. Her tester warns her that this is very dangerous, and that she should tell no one that she has had these test results. Beatrice choose to leave her parents’ faction, Abnegation, and join Dauntless. Her brother, Caleb, also chooses to leave their parents’ faction, but joins Erudite. During the initiation tests, she discovers that she is a very courageous, even fearless person. She also begins to learn that focusing on one quality to the neglect of all others can change a whole society for the worse.
One of the surprises that made this story interesting to me was that although many parents purposely chose never to see their children again if they changed factions, Beatrice’s parents did not change toward their children although they had changed factions. (Spoiler alert.) In fact, Beatrice’s mother had changed factions as a youth herself. The idea of a person choosing a specific society over a family seems interesting to explore, especially as the extended family life of the past gives way to the splintered nuclear family of today’s society. It seems realistic to think that one day in the future even maintaining contact with one’s sibling or parents would be a rarity.
The real reason I enjoyed this book, however, was the daring involved in the initiation to the Dauntless faction. Leaping onto and off of moving trains, zip rides from high buildings and climbing to the top of Ferris wheels left Beatrice wanting more challenges. I identified with this character not because I am daring, but because I have forced myself to be more courageous so that I don’t miss out on wonderful opportunities — like staring off the top of the high cliff in Canyonlands National Park.
This book comes recommended by 3 Floyds — Brett, Eden, and I all enjoyed it. Leave a comment and let us know your thoughts!