In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue–Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is–she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.
Rating: 7/10; 5/10
My rating for this book is a little weird since I really enjoyed the book in the the few hours that it took me to read it since I had to read it for a class. However, if I had taken the time that I normally would have taken on a book, I probably would grade it lower. Basically, I went into reading this book telling myself that I was just going to have fun with this book and not analyze it. This, I believe, saved me from not enjoying the book as much as I did. Because of this, I’m going to write a review based on my initial reactions to the book, and then at the end, put down some questions that actually started bothering me once I though about the book in more depth.
I thought that the plot was fast-paced and interesting, and I liked the character of Beatrice/Tris. She has to make a tough decision between staying with her family, or taking the path that she feels is the best fit for her. And I’m glad she made the decision she did or else this book would be rather boring.
Tris decides to head to the Dauntless faction. A faction filled with supposedly brave individuals. However, by the time Tris has gotten there, the Dauntless have mostly become a group of thrill-seeking lunatics. For initiation, Tris is forced to go through a grueling series of tests and training in order to be considered worthy of Dauntless. Throughout these trials, I enjoyed watching Tris find innovative ways to solve issues, often relying on her intellect to get the better of some of the more brutal initiates. However, Tris is not immune to the brutal tendencies that others thrive on. There are times in the book when Tris forgets herself and goes too far. However, these moments made for great character building moments in which Tris examines why she did those things, and comes to the conclusion that she does not want to be the brutal Dauntless that everyone is trying to make her into, but instead be the type of person that the Dauntless used to be. Courageous, but not needlessly violent. Violence is not a sign of bravery, but cowardice.
The world is decently set up. I believe that placing the book in Chicago actually helped to ground the book a little. Otherwise, there wouldn’t have been much description of the world. I at times had trouble seeing this world in my mind and was a little confused as to how the train system worked. I also wanted to know if this was just going on only in Chicago, or if this was actually a worldwide government. It almost seemed like the only place on the planet was Chicago which made it hard to picture the large scale affects of what was happening in the book.
I also thought that there is a case to be made for social commentary in the book. One of the plot points of the book is that Tris is Divergent, meaning she doesn’t fit a prescribed personality that would fit into one particular faction. This is apparently dangerous in this world and Tris has to work hard to cover up this fact. One could argue that there is commentary here about the state of our own society and how, oftentimes, those who do not fit with the societal idea of ‘normal’ are shunned from society and sometimes even physically and emotionally harmed. It’s a common theme that runs throughout the book that I thought was interesting.
Now for the nagging questions.
How did the world get this way? The system of government seems so unbelievable and frankly stupid that I don’t understand why anyone would think this was a good idea? I also don’t think that humans could actually work this way. People are naturally diverse in their beliefs and how they choose to act. Nobody fits into one personality trait unless you are extremely boring. I can’t make heads or tails of why this society even exists, or how it exists.
Why do the Dauntless feel the need to jump off of trains? This just seems like senseless risking of their own lives, not bravery.
Where are all the old people in Dauntless? It is mentioned briefly that there are no older people in the Dauntless faction, but what happens to them? Do they all just end up dying from reckless acts or is there something more sinister going on?
Where are all of the female leaders? I know that the main character can be argued to be a strong female lead, but where are all the others? There is like one Dauntless leader that is just mentioned but doesn’t play a role, and the other female characters are like back-ups. The only other female leader is evil. I find this troublesome.
If being Divergent is supposed to be so rare, why is it that everybody that matters in this book ends up being Divergent?