The hot new young adult read by Veronica Roth [Katherine Tegen Books, 2011] is a page turner packed with one important choice and conflict at every turn. Divergent will leave you waiting for the next installment to this trilogy.
Divergent Review & Summary
Roth’s dystopian theme will allow students to easily make comparisons to Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and The Giver by Lois Lowery. But, what makes this book unique is that Tris gets to choose her future. She readily admits that “I am selfish. I am brave," to herself early on in the novel.
Setting of Divergent
The story takes place in Chicago during an undisclosed time period. The city is walled with armed guards that seem to be keeping people in the city. It is divided into five factions that each focuses on one virtue: Abnegation, selfless; Amity, peace; Candor, truth; Dauntless, brave; and Erudite, intelligence.
However, teens who are 16 must choose a faction. An initiation process follows. If one does not make it through the process, he or she will be factionless. To be factionless is to be homeless without a group, without an identity.
Beatrice or Tris
Beatrice was born into the Abnegation faction. She, her brother, mother and father live a quiet life in a quiet part of the city where her mother does good work for others, and her father is in politics. This community is set up so that those who are selfless should make the rules for everyone else. However, not everyone agrees with this, especially the Erudite.
Before the choosing ceremony, each person goes through mental test to see which faction fits him or her best. During this test, something unusual is discovered about Beatrice, who changes her name to Tris later in the novel. The information is so dangerous that the tester decides to hide it from the people in charge. She tells Beatrice to tell no one.
Initiation to New Life
At the choosing ceremony, Beatrice and her brother both choose another faction. Beatrice at the last moment chooses Dauntless. The plot then dives into the initiation process. At the Dauntless compound, she meets people who will turn out to be enemies and loyal friends. She has to beat teens who are bigger and stronger than her as well as born and bred Dauntless boys and girls for a slot to become a real Dauntless. Of course, there are more initiation candidates than slots. Becoming a Dauntless is bruising, bone breaking work.
As Tris’ initiation group fights each other and is rated, there is another conflict brewing. The Erudite faction wants more power and is planning a take-over. In addition, Tris finds herself falling for the leader, Four. Read this novel to find out what happens to Tris, her Dauntless initiation group, and the city of Chicago.
There are many themes in the novel:
Utopia/dystopia: Trying to create a perfect world and the downfall of this ideal is a strong theme in this novel. The people in this world are allowed to choose the group with which they will spend the rest of their lives. They have one choice at the Choosing at the age of 16. However, some do not make it into a group. They end up homeless and are called factionless. Even within the group, there are problems. This world that was supposed to focus on the strongest attribute of each person is not always what it seems. And, chaos happens in the end of the novel.
Conformity: From teenagers jumping off a train before it stops to teens walking quietly through the hall in grey formless robes, each member conforms to its group. Without conforming, you have nothing in this world.
Sacrifice for Love: In the end, Tris’ parents die in order to save her. Even with all of the rules, love still hold power in this world.
Friendship: Tris has to figure out who her true friends are in this novel. At times it is hard to figure out who to trust. To stay alive, she trusts her heart. She survives.
Growing up: Beatrice changes her name to Tris after she hits 16 and joins another faction. She has to decide how to stay loyal to her family and to herself. She has to grow from a young girl to a confident young woman.
A note to parents and teachers: This novel is violent in places and does put Tris in some adult situations. However, it is definitively written for a young adult audience and touches on some important topics.
The following questions can be used in Divergent Lessons for large group discussions or smaller groups:
1. Compare and contrast the books The Giver, Hunger Games and Divergent. Students can make a Venn diagram with three circles to help them organize their ideas. Students can discuss the following:
- Living quarters
- Family Units
- Working conditions
- Government or group in charge
- Cities or towns
- Ability to move about from one area to another
2. How are the main characters Tris and Katniss similar and different? Again, students can make a Venn diagram to help them organize their ideas. Students can discuss the following:
- Physical characteristics
- Family members
- Personality traits
- Love interests
- Who they trust and why
3. Is Tris a hero? Give reasons why or why not?
4. Why is Tris divergent? Why do you think it is so dangerous to be divergent? Explain.
5. Who are the antagonists or the villains in this novel? Why?
6. Who would you trust in this world? Why?
The novel Divergent is the first of the trilogy, and the second book is slated to come out in the spring of 2012. However, they are turning the book into a screenplay and casting characters. This hot young adult novel will definitely hold your attention, make you want to purchase the next book in the series and possibly see the movie in the future.