Divergent is the first book in a gripping series of Dystopian fiction that has been expertly crafted for teens (they will not want to put in down) and even some of us who are ever so slightly older (I tore through the book in just over a day as I really did not want to do anything else but read and find out what is going to happen to Tris).
But first some background – I am NOT someone who normally reads Dystopian fiction and my daughter has always avoided this genre but I knew that it would be good to introduce her to the genre so that we could discuss it and understand it better. I realized that the best way to make Dystopian fiction enjoyable for my daughter was to find something that had really well developed characters, real characters, characters she would enjoy and then the actual dystopian setting would be more palatable for her. And as luck would have it another home-education mother who enjoys this genre but who also values character books suggested we try the series (and in the past her recommendations have always gone down well with both myself and my daughter). So after Christmas I watched the movies and then started reading the books. Yes I pre-watched and pre-read everything first to make sure I was okay with the content and also so that I would be able to actually discuss the characters and events in detail with my daughter.
Okay so my thoughts. I enjoyed the movies (especially the first movie) and boy did I LOVE the books. Yes the movies are good but the books just take everything to whole other level and the detail included in the books makes everyone come alive. So I knew straight away that I would get my daughter to read the books first and then we could watch the movies together (okay I also want to stress that we will be watching the movies together as there are a few sections which I want to be present for so we can discuss). The author has thought in detail about how this world will function and when you read her words you really are able to create your own mental image of this world, the factions and people living in it that you actually don’t need to watch the movie to make it real. The words in her books bring this world to life all by themselves and in some instances I thought her words painted a far more vivid picture that then movie showed us. So please do your kids a favour and read the books first.
My daughter (she is 13), she has already finished the first book and has started the second book (she has not watched the movies yet). She LOVED the first one, LOVED it. Which I am thrilled about because it has opened up a whole other genre of books for her to discover (once she have finished reading this series she is going to read The Hunger Games – just to mention I have pre-read all the Hunger Games Books and they are better than the movies – even though I did really enjoy the movies).
Okay so what is the story concept?
This is a Dystopian future. The city of Chicago becomes a city living behind a massive wall and it’s population are all divided up into 5 factions. You belong to a faction based on your character. The factions are – Abnegation (selfless), Dauntless (courageous), Candor (honesty), Erudite (intelligence) and Amity (peaceful). When you turn 16 you choose which faction you want to join, if you choose a different faction from your family you are basically get cut-off from your family. They say “faction before blood.” The book is written in the first person from Tris’s perspective. She was born into the Abnegation faction but at the choosing ceremony she chooses to join Dauntless and so starts a journey of self-discovery. (Tris is actually classified as a Divergent which means someone who does not fit into the faction system and who is considered dangerous by all the other factions).
When she enters Dauntless she meets Four who ends up becoming another main character. Four also moved from Abnegation to Dauntless and from the very beginning he seems to want to protect Tris and later confesses to be in love with her. I really liked this aspect of the book, the way the author deals with their relationship unfolding and the way Four respects Tris and never pushes her into a sexual relationship. I thought it was a positive model of a young relationship.
During her training in Dauntless we also get to meet some rather unpleasant characters (Eric and Peter) which actually provides a powerful contrast to our main characters (Tris and Four). I enjoyed the way the author writes her characters, they are whole characters who are flawed who makes mistakes, who doubt themselves but who also try hard. I appreciate the fact that the main characters are not perfect fairy tale, unrealistic people, these are people who we can relate to and understand. She creates powerful characters and interesting relationship dynamics.
The book (and the series) follows Tris as she comes to terms with what it means to be Divergent and what the Faction system actually stands for. It is a powerful example of a young girl choosing her own path, going against the norm but doing what she believes is right for herself. It is also a powerful example of people in power how they can abuse that power and become self-obsessed and power hungry. I should also probably add that quite a few characters do die in this book but we never found the death scenes to horrific or too graphic. And just in case it is a trigger for anyone, Four comes from an abusive family (his father beat him), it is spoken about throughout the series but I did feel it was done in a positive light. They show how Four picks himself up and becomes a far better man than his father ever was, they show how Four is strong but also kind. I really felt like it is a very powerful aspect of this series but I did want to mention it in case it might be an issue for young readers.
Both my daughter and I Highly recommend this as a gripping example of Dystopian Fiction but we do suggest it is really only suitable for 13+ages.