BOOK REVIEW: Divergent by Veronica Roth

written by David Steffen

Divergent is a 2011 dystopic science fiction novel by Veronica Roth, the first of a trilogy of books. The story takes place in an isolated city-state that used to be Chicago in the future, where it is walled off from the rest of the world where no one seems to know what is happening outside of it. Almost all of society is split into five factions, each of which values certain human traits above all others. At the age of sixteen, every person must decide which faction they will belong to for the rest of their lives or risk falling into the huddled masses of the factionless who are barely acknowledged by the society.

The Abnegation values selflessness, and expect its members to never think of themselves. Dauntless values courage, its members are like a trained military force, expected to take on dangerous challenges without hesitation. Candor values honesty, and its members are expected to always tell the truth in all situations. Amity values harmony, and wants everyone to get along peacefully. Erudite value intelligence, they’re the inventors of the society. Every person is expected to be a clear fit for one of the factions or they are an outcast, but there are whispers that some people are “divergent” who have tendencies toward several factions at once, these people are considered dangerous to their social order.

Beatrice Prior is born and raised as Abnegation, but although she sees the worth in Abnegation’s values, she feels like an impostor because she can’t seem to hold to those values. On her Choosing Day she has to choose between staying with her family in Abnegation or leaving them behind to join one of the other factions.

The basis of this society is ludicrous (but of course it is a dystopia, not a proposal for a new social order, so I’m not saying it’s a bad idea for a book!). The people in this society have been raised with these ideals since birth so they take them for granted. It can be a difficult task for an author to build this world in a way that the reader can understand it without killing the pacing with an infodump, but this book does a very nice job of it, letting us see what it’s like to live in Abnegation day to day, then meet members of other factions and see how their behavior is different, Beatrice goes through the testing to see her faction leanings and etc.

If there is value in such a segregated society, the worst part of it is that you have to choose for life at the age of sixteen with very little information. People change! What if someone is very like Erudite as a teenager, but tends more toward Amity as they age? Well, too bad, you can either stick with your faction or you can go starve in the factionless.

Beatrice is in her head a lot, examining each angle of the situation, so I related to that a lot, as I am always examining every angle of situation before I make a choice about it, whenever I can. There are a lot of strong conflicts between Beatrice and the other initiates who have just chosen their new faction as they compete with each for entry. The book is full of action and worldbuilding and well written, a great start to a trilogy.

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David Steffen

David Steffen is an editor, publisher, and writer. If you like what he does you can visit the Support page or buy him a coffee! He is probably best known for being co-founder and administrator of The Submission Grinder, a donation-supported tool to help writers track their submissions and find publishers for their work . David also writes articles here and edits the fiction. He is also the editor and publisher of The Long List Anthology: More Stories From the Hugo Award Nomination List series. David also (sometimes) writes fiction, and you can follow on Twitter for updates on cross-stitch projects and occasionally other things.

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