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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent is a futuristic fantasy adventure in the style of Hunger Games, written for teens (but definitely a great choice for adult readers as well.) Beatrice is a 16 year old girl who lives in Abnegation. Like the other factions of the giant, closed city she lives in Abnegation is a group comprised of people who live their entire lives in service to a concept. The groups are Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Erudite (the intelligent), Candor (the honest) and Amity (the peaceful).   The world Tris lives in is closed off with fences (policed only by the Dauntless) and as a member of Abnegation (the only faction that is allowed to hold governmental power) it would be selfish of her to even wonder at what lies beyond the fences. Members of Abnegation (known to some of he other faction as Stiffs) also do not look in mirrors, wear jewelry, show an inappropriate (read: any) amount of skin or ask questions unless being spoken to. At the age of 16 two important things happen to every citizen: they are tested to see which group they most belong with, and they chose for themselves which group they will spend the rest of their lives with. Of course I can't tell you what group Beatrice chooses but you can probably guess that this is the starting point of her adventures.

Beatrice (or Tris as she becomes known) is a wonderfully strong female character, and this is where the inevitable Hunger Games comparisons come from. She and Katniss would be great friends if their paths ever crossed. (Or they would beat the heck out of each other) She is, like Katniss, very physical and willing to rely on her own instincts when she is in new situations. At the same time, she is not a Katniss clone. She is more physical and less cerebral, although she is by no means stupid. She is definitely a little more level-headed when it comes to love. Tris is also honestly possessing of a little bit of a death wish. I felt like that recklessness propelled her story line almost as much as her conscious decisions about her life.  And of course Tris is going through a philosophical coming-of-age, which all teens do, albeit not in the context of a back-and-white ideological framework.  Not wanting to give away too much information about the plot, I still think it's safe to point out that a lot of the conflict in the book comes from the friction between philosophies (and the natural friction between groups in any society) and that Tris ends up having to carefully examine everything she was taught and everything she believes, with very real and final consequences to her decisions. There is a lesson about absolutism, and the end of the book (the first in a trilogy) hints at a much wider world opening up in the next book. (My hope is that the second book will begin outside the fences) And, of course, there is a romance (sweet and dramatic) and hints at a much richer family history that Beatrice imagined at the start of the story.

I'm looking forward to the next two books in the series, and highly recommend the first book to any teen lit fans (I'd suggest this one for ages 13 and up because of a few moderately violent scenes and some graphic imagery.)

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