Sometimes when I bring home half a dozen books from the library, they all turn out to be incredible. Other times, I can hardly finish any of them. Recently I've dealt with a lot more of the latter than the former. So the other day when I saw that Divergent by Veronica Roth had been released, I decided to take a chance and buy it. I'm so so glad I did.
Divergent is a dystopian book, and that's hot right now, but for me this is a book that transcends the trend. I will want to reread it long after it's out of style. For me it has everything I love about good YA fiction.
If you don't know anything about the book, it's about a girl named Beatrice who grows up in a society that is divided into five factions, each based on what the members believe is the best path toward peace: the Abnegation faction (peace through selflessness), Dauntless (bravery), Erudite (knowledge), Amity (kindness) and Candor (truth). Beatrice is sixteen, and now the time has come for her to choose which faction she will call her own. She has lived all her life in Abnegation, but she feels drawn to Dauntless.
Even from the beginning I was pulled immediately into this set-up. There's something very powerful about stories in which the characters have to choose their group identity. Just think of how many times you've seen “Which Harry Potter house are you?” quizzes. We like categorizing ourselves. Divergent holds that same appeal. Which faction would I be? (Personally I think I'd be either Erudite or Amity.)
But the story doesn't end with this one good idea. Once she chooses her faction, Beatrice (now calling herself Tris), must prove that she belongs there. And here again we find another scenario that I love reading about—the unskilled going through rigorous training to become skilled. Divergent has some of the draw of Ender's Game: high stakes (if Tris doesn't make it, she'll be cut out of the faction), dangerous competitors, and tests that are both physical and psychological.
But even that isn't the full story. There are hints of dystopian elements throughout the book, and finally in the end all those hints add up. What really made me happy about this book was that it wasn't one of those dystopians in which, if the character would just follow along and be a sheep like everyone else, everything would be fine. The entire world of this story is changing, and Tris doesn't have the option of life as usual.
And still this isn't the full scope of the story. It has a very well-developed romance between two strong characters. The romance is deep and comes out of the individuals' passions, not just their attraction. The book also has a lot of hard choices, especially at the end. The final chapters have some truly heart-wrenching moments.
All in all, I LOVE this book. Definitely one of the best so far this year.