WARNING: LONG RECAP WITH LOADS OF SPOILERS!
Divergent is the latest dystopian best-seller for teens by new author, Veronica Roth. My girls asked me to read it because all of their friends are reading it. eye-roll. head bobble. exasperated sigh.
Sixteen year-old Beatrice must choose her faction at Choosing Ceremony. Her faction will become her home, her family, her friends, her identity. There are five factions: Erudite, Amity, Candor, Abnegation, and Dauntless. She can choose the faction she was raised in, and stay with her parents in Abnegation, or she can choose a new faction, turning her back on her family and risking the possibility that she will never see them again.
Here is a brief description of the factions. You probably don't need to read this.
When the world erupted in chaos, the survivors formed each faction based on what they believed caused "a warring world." Erudite blamed ignorance and so they value knowledge. They study all the time. Amity blamed aggression, and they value peace and friendliness. Candor blamed duplicity, so they only speak the truth, all the time, spouting off their opinions constantly. Abnegation blamed selfishness, so they practice selflessness, and their faction is the only one allowed to rule the council. The Dauntless blamed cowardice, so they practice bravery. They perform daring feats daily, such as jumping off trains and buildings, and they are trained to fight, protecting the borders and bearing arms.Skip ahead to here:
The day before the Choosing Ceremony is the day of the aptitude tests. Each sixteen year-old is put though a simulation. Based on their choices in the simulation, it is determined which faction they are most suited for. Beatrice discovers that she is suited for three of the five factions. She is warned by her test administrator, a Dauntless named Tori, never to tell anyone her test results. Tori tells Beatrice that her test results label her as "divergent," and she must keep this a secret. "Divergence is extremely dangerous." Her test results are faked as Abnegation.
Though she was raised in Abnegation, she chooses Dauntless and changes her name to Tris.
While training to be Dauntless, first Tris learns to fight. The initiates are paired up for fights, where they beat each other up until one can no longer fight. They must fight, because at each stage of initiation, they are ranked. Only the top ten initiates, either transfers like Beatrice, or Dauntless born, will become Dauntless. The rest, if they survive, will become factionless, similar to the homeless. Fights are viscious and brutal, often with one opponent unconscious.
In one scene, Tris is bullied by some initiates who take her towel from her post-shower. She is forced to walk naked before them, not showing any fear or shame. In her third fight, Tris beats up one of these initiates, repeatedly kicking the girl once she's down, kicking her in the stomach, in the face, in the chest, until she must be removed by a trainer and told to stop. "I wish I could say I felt guilty for what I did. I don't."
During the first round, Peter, a sadistic transfer, is ranked second, so naturally, he stabs the first place candidate in the eye with a butter knife that night. Did I mention that this book is very violent?
And a little sexy too. Tris has been raised sort of like the Amish. Gray, shapeless clothing. She never saw any PDA before coming to Dauntless. She starts wearing tighter and more revealing clothes, to show off her new Dauntless tattoos. Dauntless are known for their muscles, their piercings, their tats, and their black clothing. There's lots of ambiguous snogging.
After round two, mental preparation involving more simulations, when she gets ranked first, Peter and friends kidnap her, blindfold her, grope her chest, taunt her boyishness, beat her up, and almost kill her. But a training leader steps in to save her, the mysterious boy called Four, who is her love interest.
After her kidnapping and rescue, one of her attackers begs forgiveness, she refuses, and he kills himself by throwing himself off a ledge into the Chasm.
She has lots of lingering looks at Four, one focusing on the skin just above his waistband when she sees him shirtless.
In round three, she must pass through her simulated Fear landscape. The computer can identify all of her deepest fears and create scenarios from them. In addition to being afraid of being pecked to death by crows, drowning, faceless scarred zombie men, she is also afraid of intimacy. One of her fears in the fear landscape involves Four and a bed.
Like Twilight, Tris and Four never actually have sex. They have one steamy ride in a train car, and lots of lingering looks and kisses, but this novel is not fraught with passion the way Twilight is.
Divergent is mostly about Tris and the Dauntless, except for the last seventy pages, when war breaks out between the Erudite and Abnegation. More violence, more killing. This time the Dauntless are used by the Erudite. They are all given the same injection they get before a simulation, but this time, it's not a simulation. The Erudite are sending them to destroy every member of Abnegation. The one thing about being Divergent is that the sim serum doesn't work on Tris, so of course she must stop the war.
Divergent is well-written (well, the first three-fourths are) and the philosophical ideals behind each faction are extremely well thought out. There's so much violence and just enough sex, however, that I'm not letting my high school students read it.
There are sure to be sequels. Four and Tris have nothing left to do but consummate their love, unless a new character emerges to create the twisted love triangle, "Who will she choose?" So I have a sneaking suspicion that the series will get raunchier.
Did I like it? Hmm. I finished it in 2! days. Couldn't put it down, mostly trying to find out more about this Divergent thing. But there's not much to tell there. And I'm still pretty confused.