What do you get when you mix SAT vocabulary, the greater issues of 1984, teenage angst and young love? Well, yes, that would give you a high school English class, but it also can result in so much more; those are some of the most intriguing facets of Divergent, by Veronica Roth. Roth has managed to tell a compelling story of love, life choices, and abuse of power and has created a powerful page-turning, easy to read young adult novel that appeals to the youth and adults alike. Divergent is the first of a well written series that has managed to educate, entertain, and mesmerize millions and will now reach an even broader audience when Divergent hits the big screen in March.
Divergent takes place in a utopian society where people live in one of five different factions that work in harmony with one another to keep society functioning. Each faction is populated with those who respect and honor his or her faction’s underlying virtue, virtues that those factions are named for: Erudite, Amity, Dauntless, Abnegation, and Candor (hence the SAT vocabulary lesson). The first book of the series takes us into the mind of Beatrice Prior, a girl of 16, who, like every 16 year old, must make a decision that will affect the rest of her life. She must choose the faction she will commit to. The problem with making this decision is that if you choose to leave your faction you leave your family and essentially everything you’ve ever known behind forever.
To aide in making this decision, each 16 year old takes a simulation test to demonstrate which faction he/she most belongs in. Something happens when Beatrice takes her test, something that forces her test administrator to lie and cover up results, leaving Beatrice more confused than ever. She makes a brave and shocking decision and must face the consequences.
Divergent then follows Beatrice’s physically and mentally brutal battle through initiation into her faction and that is only the beginning of her battles. She must continue to fight to keep hidden what happened during her test from a much bigger enemy, one she never even considered. The reader follows Beatrice through her struggle to fit in, connect with people, and survive, all while coping with an overwhelming enemy.
Divergent starts off a little slow but picks up very quickly once Beatrice’s decision is made. At that point, Roth enthralls the reader so thoroughly that it’s a quick read. The personal relationships are compelling, the vocabulary is wonderfully utilized and, most importantly, the book is an easy read. One weakness of the series, however, is that it appears to be a culmination of stories told before. The novel doesn’t contain any completely new or unheard of ideas but rather is an amalgam of classic issues and topics. This is both a good and bad. Divergent lacks a certain uniqueness, but it does provide a way for youth and adults alike to relate and discuss issues and topics that may not have been discussed otherwise.
So the ultimate question remains: is it worth reading? The answer is very simply, yes. It is a fun book with a bit of mystery, a few twists and turns and the struggles of young love. If you make it through the first few chapters, you won’t stop till you have reached the culmination of the story at the end of the series.