(D)isappointopian Society

Hey, I just read this book ostensibly aimed at teenage girls but that has been embraced as grand fun by adult women. It features a female protagonist in dire circumstances who bucks the system, and vows to change society. Not that she's confident in her abilities. Oh, no. She can't believe that lil' ol' her is suddenly the focus of all this attention. And not just from the powers that be hoping to take her down. No, suddenly, despite never giving much of a care about any form of romance, a dreamy and possibly dangerous gentleman starts to take an interest in her, igniting all kinds of conflicting feelings in her heart. At the end of this novel, we learn that this young woman's fight has just begun.

No, it wasn't that.

No, it wasn't that, either.

This dystopian what-who-me? girl hails from Veronica Roth's Divergent, in which society has split itself into factions governed by the principle they hold most dear, be it intelligence, bravery, honesty, and so on. We'll skip over the part where despite the fact that factions are supposedly governed by deep morals and noble ideals, nobody has any problem with taking citizens who don't neatly fit into one of the five categories and ejecting them into a homeless, bereft existence, because WHAAAAA? Our protagonist (Beatrice) starts off in the Abnegation faction, which is built on a foundation of selflessness and charity. All teenagers get one shot to abandon their faction and move to another, and Beatrice makes the switch. There are rumblings and dire warnings about Beatrice being something called "divergent", but that's put on the back burner so that she can go join the "brave" faction of Dauntless, who show their fearlessness by getting tattoos and throwing themselves off moving train cars. So, I guess war veterans can just suck on that.

The novel then follows Tris' (she gets to choose a "cool" new name because she's all brave now) brutal initiation process, her budding romance with her mentor, and her eventual discovery that the nerds over in Erudite are planning something evil against the more placid factions. It'd be like if Ravenclaw wanted to wipe out Hufflepuff, which, why not? Battle lines are drawn, secondary characters die, and we end on a sense that a world-changing struggle is about to explode. Nope, this still isn't The Hunger Games.

I'm probably being overly harsh on this book. I mean, I'm not exactly its target audience. Still, I can't recommend it. Some of the battle scenes aren't bad, but everything this novel attempts to do has been done better by someone else. So, if you've got a poster of Edward or Jacob on your wall, by all means, pick this up. You'll probably love it. But if your tastes are more aligned to mine, the next time you want to immerse yourself in a dystopian society split by ideological faction, pick this up instead.

Divergent: C-


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