Every so often a novel comes along that shatters the mold of its genre and pushes the boundaries of what you expected. In the slew of Dystopian novels I’ve read as part of the CannonballRead#4 challenge, Divergent stands out as the most unique and captivating first novel I’ve read since I bought a copy of The Hunger Games at a SCBWI conference in New York in 2009. My family devoured the book and knew long before the series became so popular that it was a story that stood apart from others.
Divergent is as unique a novel in its own way and perhaps even more captivating. The plot has been summarized countless times but here are the barest facts for those who still have not heard about this story. It is set in a dystopian version of Chicago where society has been divided into 5 distinct Factions; Candor (who prize honesty), Abnegation (who embrace selflessness), Dauntless (who embody bravery), Amity (who seek Peace), and Erudite (who strive for knowledge). Regardless of which Faction they grow up in, on the appointed day of their 16th year, after special testing, each young person must publicly choose which Faction they will belong to or become one of the Factionless who live in abject poverty and squalor. The only problem is that a few special people can belong to more than one faction… their personalities are unique enough that they can be hunted. Right before she has to choose, Beatrice Prior discovers that she is different… that she is Divergent. Revealing that could endanger her new life as she leaves her Abnegation family and Faction behind… that is if the training to be accepted as a full member of the Dauntless Faction doesn’t kill her first.
Divergent took my breath away. This is the single most impressive book I’ve discovered in the past few years. I found myself riveted by the struggles of the main character to define herself against all of the rules and philosophies that she had grown up with. It was as empowering a tale as it was captivating, challenging readers of any age to be true to themselves and who they really are, even as it kept them glued to the pages with a futuristic, breathlessly vivid and suspenseful story. I truly admire a new writer that can keep me guessing as to where the story is headed! Divergent was as powerful a read for me at 46 as it was for my 17 and 13 year old daughters. All of us inhaled this book and then fought over who would read the sequel next. Since I am the Mom (and I bought Insurgent)… I won!
Paperback format, 487 pages, published in 2012 by Harper Collins