This is where, if you didn’t know it already, you discover my love for Harry Potter. And this is where you double-check the title of this post, because didn’t she say Divergent in the title and now she’s talking about Harry Potter. Yes, you’re right about both things, but I like to connect things and HP just happens to pop up this time.
Anyway, I’ll start from the fact that I did like Divergent, but then I didn’t completely like it. It was an exciting book that kept me reading and wanting to know what happens next, but there were just too many things that started to bother me about it at some point. So to give you an indication of how these things balanced out, I gave it 3 of 5 on Goodreads. That I see as pretty good but maybe still a bit bland or not so exciting or just pretty nice but nothing I will remember for long or like this pretty good in some ways, but not so much in other ways, with things that bother me that bring the rating down.
Anyway, one fun thing is the factions, well in the fact that you just have to start thinking about which faction you would belong to. Well, I do at least. That doesn’t mean however that I quite agree with the factions in the book or divergence for that matter, but I’ll get back to that later. That’s one of the things that bothered me about the book. But which faction would I belong to in that world? I think Amity or possibly Erudite, but I would probably choose Amity unless I was Erudite born, because it would be a bit scary to have to be smart and scholarly all the time.
To those who haven’t read the book yet, this maybe requires an explanation and something about the story. The world of the book, or well one city in it as we don’t get to know much about anything else, is divided in factions based on personality (I’ve seen it mentioned somewhere that the city would be Chicago, but I don’t remember this being mentioned in the book, but maybe it was). When they are sixteen the people have to choose a faction which they want to be full members in, as before they have just lived in the one they were born to, the one their parents chose. They do an aptitude test, which tells them which faction they are best suited for (think sorting hat, but not quite as good as that and privately), but then they get to choose any faction in the end anyway. After the choosing ceremony they move to their chosen faction for an initiation period before they can become full members. This period in the main character Beatrice/Tris’ life is basically what this book is about.
The factions are Abnegation (the selfless), Amity (the peaceful or kind/friendly), Candor (the honest), Erudite (the intelligent) and Dauntless (the brave). Tris is from Abnegation, but she chooses Dauntless and goes through initiation there. There are also those who are equally suited for more than one faction and they are called Divergent, but that’s very hush-hush and dangerous, so don’t tell anyone if you’re Divergent. (I think they capitalise all of those in the book, but I hope you don’t mind if I stop that now or do that a bit randomly, because it confuses me a bit if they are to be capitalised in any sense they are used or just at some times, as they are used in more than one way.) And there are all those who fail at the initiation for some reason or maybe just protest otherwise or something like that, who end up factionless (and there must be people born factionless too). So they are basically homeless as I understand it and they live partly on charity (mainly from abnegation) and partly I think from odd jobs they can get, which there is no one else to do. So you better choose the faction your aptitude test points you towards because I’d say chances are greater that you fail on your initiation otherwise.
I think Amity seems like the most sensible and nice faction to live in, though it’s the one least mentioned in Divergent. From what the end of the book hints I think we’ll see more of that faction in the next book. Anyway, that’s basically why I would choose it, but I also think that I have more of that peacefulness than of the other qualities. It’s difficult to say if you’re intelligent enough though, but I definitely know that I wouldn’t be brave enough (nor stupid enough to jump from train to roof or something similar), nor would I be honest enough nor selfless enough to be in those factions. So amity it is, or possibly erudite. The funny thing is that I’m always choosing Ravenclaw in Harry Potter, while I’m unsure if the hat would pick that for me or Hufflepuff. So I make different picks there. The difference though is that the houses allow for difference opposed to the factions.
(From here on there might be minor spoilers. There shouldn’t be anything really major, but if you really don’t want to know much at all before you read it yourself, then stop here.)
And that is my problem with the factions. In the book it is at some point said that most people are perfectly happy to go with one thing and only the divergent are people whose minds wander in different ways and therefore they are a danger to the society. What? Everyone else is perfectly happy to go with one characteristic, even if they might have a lot of the other characteristics too, but one is more prominent. And wearing clothes of one specific colour too. And divergent. Tris seems to show equally much of three different factions’ preferred characteristics and I can understand that that might be a bit more rare. But then there seem to be people who get one aptitude test result but are still divergent. Meaning that if divergence is rare, most people have really much smaller amounts of other characteristics, instead of having a preference for one thing but some others pretty close? I find that just a little unbelievable.
Talking about this book, it’s a part of this big wave of dystopian young adult literature. Quite interesting that is. For a couple of years ago I couldn’t have known about more than three or four dystopian novels and now they seem to be everywhere, mostly as trilogies. That’s another thing too. Most popular format seems to be trilogy these days. I’m not saying I have anything against these things, I just find the popularity of these interesting. So before lately I had read Brave New World and 1984 (from which I prefered the first, though it was pretty long ago I read both). I swear I had another one in mind too a few days ago but I’m drawing a blank now. Is Clockwork Orange a dystopia? I haven’t read or seen it, but I have a feeling that it might be happening in some kind of future society that’s not very nice. Oh there’s Fahrenheit 451. I haven’t read it but I think that’s one. That’s about it I think. And now they’re everywhere. I guess there are also a couple I’ve heard of too that are from some years ago though not that old. I haven’t really read many of these new ones either. The Hunger Games (the whole series) and this one and then there’s Matched on my to-read list.
And just as I’m rambling anyway; I wouldn’t call a book “City of…” right now. There seems to be loads of those books too from different authors. I was in a bookstore the other day and those City-of books just kept popping up everywhere.
But I’m getting off topic again. Like I said, I sort of liked the book, as it was exciting and kept me glued to it for a while. Then there were these things, like the faction thing I talked about that started bothering me. There’s also the funny fact that they gave the government to just one faction (abnegation) and practically all specific jobs are given to specific factions. And I already mentioned the dauntless. I can’t really see them as much sane at all.
The characters were pretty well written, though it being told in first person from Tris’ point of view it seems like we lose a bit of the different sides of characters through her. Or we get her view, and some characters and for example some sides of bravery don’t get the same appreciation as others. I’m thinking especially of Al here. Stuff happened at first and later too that made her not always like him that much, but for a big part he did show a lot of bravery. There was that time when he cheered on Christina, and Tris wasn’t ready to do that because she was afraid of Eric and I think there was something else similar too. I do like it though that Four seems to understand different sides of bravery.
Now I keep forgetting what else I wanted to say about the book, as time passes and I didn’t make notes or anything. It’s the whole world building that is not quite flawless and leaves too many questions, that mostly bothers me. Other questions I believe will probably be answered in the next book (or books) such as what is outside the city and how do people live there, more about amity and the factionless and other such things. By the way, there must either be a lot of factionless, a lot of people have fled the city or there was a plague, because there don’t seem to be that many people there. It seems like everyone goes to the same school and I think dauntless had about 20 or a little more initiates this year, so really not many if that times five is all the sixteen year olds in the city.
That’s a long and sort of scattered review. But maybe it represents the feelings I have about this book. I’m trying to be a bit more concise and clear in my future reviews though. However, do I recommend? Not directly. I don’t discourage you from reading this, but it’s not the first thing I recommend. If you want a recommendation right now from me I’d rather go back to my previous review (The Summons by Peter Lovesey) or say read The Hunger Games as something of the same genre. But if you’re looking for a quick and entertaining read, and look for something like this, then go for it. I will also read the next book in the series to see what happens.