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Goat Heads and Sand Burrs, P. Kirby's Reading Blog

The good, bad, and fugly books I've read.
Divergent (Divergent #1) - Veronica Roth Huh. So the blurb for Divergent says it takes place in a dystopian Chicago. I didn't pick up on the locale being Chicago, but then I've never been there and know next-to-nothing about the city. Also...details-schmetails.

As I write this, Divergent's, the movie, marketing team is doing its best to drum up interest in the film. So when the book popped up cheap, I bought it. While I didn't love it as much as The Hunger Games, I can see why the novel was optioned and made into a movie. It's fast-paced and entertaining and I powered through it in just a few days.

As per the dystopian formula, civilization as we know it has been unmade by humankind's need to be bellicose and the new society that emerges is driven by an imperative to right the wrongs of the past. Here, society has been divided up into factions, each focusing on an attribute that was lacking in the past: Abnegation, Candor, Amity, Erudite, and Dauntless. (There are some logical gaps in this idea, but the story moves fast enough to keep one from worrying too much about the shaky world building.)

Beatrice Prior, the protagonist, was born into Abnegation, the faction known for selflessness, distaste for power, and consequently, the faction that provides the politicians. Because who better to run society, than the people who don't really want the job?

The problem, however, is that Beatrice has never really managed to be as selfless as required by her faction, certainly not as effortlessly as her brother, Caleb.

So as she approaches the time of choosing, when she and Caleb will take the test to determine which faction they best fit, she wonders if Abnegation is for her. Especially since, every day, before school, she watches with envy and fascination, as the youths from Dauntless leap from a moving train, their means of transport around the city. Grass is always greener, and life much more joyful on the other side of the fence. Of course, you can't blame her; Abnegation does sound like a serious drag.

Things get more complicated when her test results are inconclusive, revealing her to be "Divergent." Though Tori, the woman running her test, won't tell her why, it's obvious that this isn't a good thing. So much so that Tori alters the results to make it look like Beatrice was suited for Abnegation.

And so, at the time of Choosing, Beatrice makes the choice, the bold choice, to leave family and faction and join Dauntless, the faction devoted to bravery. It's a huge culture shock, going from the drab, gray, quiet world of Abnegation, to the noisy, dangerous world of Dauntless, the change made more complicated by the reality that being "Divergent" might get her killed. Because people like Beatrice (now Tris), the Divergent, represent a threat to the insurgent forces in Dauntless and Erudite, forces that also threaten the family that Tris left in Abnegation.

As you'd expect, Tris quickly makes friends and enemies in her new faction, and catches the interest of a cute boy, namely, Four, her instructor (he's only a couple years older, so no Lolita thing going on here). The story has two story arcs: first Tris's struggle as the smallest and least-prepared transfer to rank high enough to become a member of Dauntless; and second, her attempt to save her family (and maybe society) toward the latter part of the book.

I think, because unlike Katnis in The Hunger Games, Tris willingly makes the choice to leave Abnegation and face the initiation gauntlet of Dauntless, I didn't get the angst fix from Divergent as I did from Hunger Games. And, I was as torn between Gale and Peeta as Katniss, while Four, Tris's love interest, left me a little cold. The ending, as with many stories of this nature, felt a little rushed, lessening the emotional impact of some of the events. Plus, the ending is very close to a cliff hanger.

But, yeah, if the sequel to Divergent pops up -- Cheap! Cheap! Cheap! like a baby bird -- I'll buy it.