Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Book Review Club: Divergent Trilogy

YA Dystopian Fiction

A friend recommended the first book to me, and it happened to be on sale one day, so I grabbed a copy from Amazon.

The setting is a rigid and obviously dysfunctional society on the brink of disintegration, though that's not obvious at first. I was drawn in by her world-building. The story is set in a future city-state--the former Chicago--some years after a cataclysmic war. The city is ruled by five factions:

The Erudite - the intellectuals, scientists and engineers who teach, keep the city running and deliver medical care. They are smart but not particularly compassionate. Their color is blue. (I've taken the Faction Quiz on Facebook and I would be in this faction, assuming I could pass the IQ test.)

The Candor - a group of people who are scrupulously honest, pretty much unable to tell a lie. They administer the laws. What a concept! As I recall they wear black and white, because that is how they see the world.

The Amity - basically New Age hippies who grow and distribute food and keep peace among the other factions. They have no leaders and everything is done by consensus or nothing gets done. They are cheerful people and dress in bright red and yellow.

The Abnegation - these are the selfless ones, kind of like the old time Quakers. They live simply and dress only in shades of gray and are the only faction to help the factionless--society's downtrodden, the ones that have fallen through the cracks in the system. Interestingly, the Abnegation are in charge of running the government, the theory being that you only give power to those who do not want it. Another mind-blowing concept!

The Dauntless - the warriors and protectors of the world. Members of this faction wear black and have tattoos and piercings. They are noisy and reckless, and I suspect many have ADHD. The Dauntless are known as the cruelest faction, in large part because their initiation is so daunting. I know I'd have never made it into Dauntless.

Formal schooling ends at the age of 16, at which time the teens are given a test (a drug-induced simulation) to determine which faction they are suited to, and then there is a Choosing ceremony, where they young people can decide whether to stay in the faction they were born to or transfer to another faction.

The main character is Beatrice Prior, who narrates the first two books in first person. Born into Abnegation, she knows she doesn't quite belong. She finds Abnegation's selflessness a little stifling. She'd like to be able to run and jump and go wherever she wants without worrying about everyone else's needs first.

Things start to go wrong when there is a hitch in her test. Her results are inconclusive as she has shown affinity for three factions--Abnegation, Dauntless and Erudit. In short, she is Divergent, a very dangerous thing to be. The woman administering the test manually fixes the results to show affinity for Abnegation, but at the ceremony she chooses Dauntless and a new nickname, Tris. The rest of the book shows her growth as she goes through the initiation process and learns what it is to truly be dauntless.

I really enjoyed the first book, as it gives you a lot to think about re human nature and where we fit in society, wrapped in an exciting adventure story. Much more Hunger Games than Twilight. Also written in first person, single POV, teenage female protagonist. Well-written and hard to put down; I just wanted to keep reading. So I bought the next book.

 Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Things have really fallen apart by the end of Divergent and the sequel opens with Tris and some other characters on the run from the city. In this book, we get to know more about the Factionless, as the city descends into civil war. I won't say much because I don't like to drop a lot spoilers in a review.

In this book we get to know more about Tris's love interest, the boy known as Four in Divergent, whose real name is Tobias. Good character growth for both teens, still first person, single (Tris) POV. I enjoyed Insurgent almost as much as Divergent, so I bought the third book.

Allegiant by Veroncia Roth

The third books is different in several ways. From a literary point of view, it differs in that it offers two first person points of view, that of Tris and Tobias, her boyfriend and fellow dauntless insurgent. Here the action moves outside the city and we learn what has really been going on and what came before.

I don't want to say much about what happens, but I will say that I stayed engrossed in the book until the climax when something so totally unexpected happened that I was horrified. I had invested a lot of time and emotion in these two characters and I'd expected them to have a happier ending than they got.

Yes, I'm a romance reader and therefore addicted to happy endings. I guess the author saw her story as literary fiction rather than genre fiction. Or maybe it was her way of empatically saying THE END, don't expect any more books about this character. Who knows? It doesn't matter since I probably won't be reading her again, though I imagine I'm in the minority. She has a legion of loyal teenage fans.

If any of you have read the trilogy, I"d be interested in hearing what you think in the comments section.


And as always, click on the graphic below for more great reviews in the Barrie Summy monthly Book Review Club.


pattinase (abbott) said...

I wonder when these YA dystopias will run their course.

Linda McLaughlin said...

LOL, when they cease to sell, I imagine. Like anything else in our commercial society, it's all about the money.

Sarah Laurence said...

I've haven't read this series since I mostly read realistic contemporary fiction, but I can see why it's done so well from your review. I like how you covered the whole series without spoilers.

Linda McLaughlin said...

Thanks, Sarah. It wasn't easy to cover the whole trilogy without spoilers, but more details would have added a LOT of spoilers. So much changes.

Alyssa Goodnight said...

I haven't read this series either, although my younger son really enjoyed Divergent.

You wrote a great summary of the series though. Maybe I'll pick that first one up...

Linda McLaughlin said...

The first one really is the best of the trilogy.

Jennifer A. Jilks said...

Great review. I wish I was still teaching young people! I've come to appreciate YA books through Barrie!

Diane Burton said...

Your review is right on--esp. on the 3rd book. If you're in the minority about that one, so am I. Linda (above) is right. The 1st book is the best. I did like the development of the society throughout the series. Thought-provoking.

Linda McLaughlin said...

Jenn, like The Hunger Games, there's a lot here to provoke classroom discussion about society and human nature.

Diane, glad to find someone who agrees with me about the third book. The societal aspects were the most interesting part of the stories, and she did a better job with that overall than perhaps with the characterization. Though there were some developments in the third book that had me saying, "Hey, wait a minute..."

Barrie said...

Linda, did you see the movie? I haven't seen the movie or read any of these books. I do have Divergent, though. And now I'm super curious to find out what happens in the third book! Thanks for reviewing this trilogy!

Linda McLaughlin said...

Barrie, no haven't seen the movie yet. If I don't get there soon, I'll have to wait for Netflix.