a review by Nalini Haynes
Beatrice is a 16 year old girl living in a class based futuristic society based on factions, where the factionless are outcasts. After a cataclysmic event survivors chose factions as a reaction against what they felt was to blame. Those who believed selfishness was to blame became Abnegation (aspiring to selflessness), those who blamed ignorance became Erudite, those who blamed cowardice became Dauntless, those who blamed conflict became Amity, and those who blamed deceit became Candour. Beatrice has grown up in Abnegation, suffering a form of invisibility within her society. Yearning to be something else, she watches Dauntless arrive at school and in the corridors. When all in her year are tested before choosing their factions as adults, Beatrice is revealed as Divergent, with equal potential for 3 factions. Beatrice’s tester conceals the result, telling Beatrice to keep this secret as it is dangerous.
At the choosing ceremony, Beatrice’s brother chooses Erudite and Beatrice chooses Dauntless, causing a scandal. Beatrice does not return home, but goes with the Dauntless to their headquarters to be trained for initiation. She promptly changes her name to Tris, and begins her new life. Tris has many hurdles to overcome while concealing her personality result. Tris makes friends among the initiates, experiencing growth and conflict as relationships change and the initiates compete for the few available initiation places. The factional conflict escalates, impacting on Tris personally as her father is a government leader. Tris visits her brother at the Erudite headquarters. This breach of rules coupled with her extraordinary test results, causes Dauntless leaders to take more interest in Tris. Divergent has everything you would expect in speculative fiction and a coming of age story.
There are some holes in this story, the most significant of which is the description of the roles of the factions in this society. The societal structure is a good idea that needed more development. Fortunately this lack doesn’t impact much on the story as the story focuses more on Tris and her friends alongside developing factional conflicts. Roth sets up factional conflicts early and consistently, providing the necessary impetus for the climax.
Divergent is marketed as a children’s book. This decision may well be based on the content of the book (no sex scenes, intimacy is limited to kissing) and the age of the central characters. However I enjoyed this book as a good speculative fiction read; I believe that SF fans of all ages can enjoy this story. Highly recommended.
Previously published in Dark Matter issue 4, July 2011, blog post predated to reflect the original publication date.