Veronica Roth’s Divergent series is HUGE at the moment with the second film, Insurgent, having been released this week. Divergent is easily one of my favourite YA dystopian series’ out there at the minute, from the minute I started the first book I couldn’t put it down and had read the entire series in just over a week (because who needs a degree when you have a good book, right?!).
The Divergent series is set in the future during a time where society has been split into 5 factions – people are divided according to their dominant personalities traits and each faction is dedicated to cultivating a specific virtue. There’s Abnegation who always put others first, acting selflessly, Dauntless who are brave and fearless, Erudite who are focused on knowledge and discovery, Amity who are all about peace and harmony and finally, Candor, who value the truth and honesty. It’s easy to see how they all seem work together to make society work; Dauntless of course taking control of defence, Abnegation running public services, Condor controlling the justice system and so on.
This is obviously an idealised view and not everyone can make it into their chosen faction, these people become the factionless and live on the outskirts of society. However, as the series’ narrator Tris discovers, there’s another type of person – those who are Divergent who show traits which could allow them to fit into more than one faction.
As Tris makes some tough decisions, including leaving her family behind to join a new factions, she discovers growing conflict in society and begins to uncover secrets that have been kept hidden for years…
Like I mentioned, the Divergent series is completely addictive! Veronica Roth manages to create a completely believable society which may seem ideal on the surface, but in true dystopian style, hides some dark secrets where everything may not be as it seems. While the fantasy aspect of the series is enthralling – trains which never stop, zip wires from the top of skyscrapers, being taught to fight for your life at sixteen and of course, falling in love, it also deals with the types of issues that all sixteen year olds face; bullying, relationships, family disputes.
Perhaps the biggest issue the book brings up is the fact that at sixteen years old these kids have to make a choice of which faction to join which will influence their entire future and once they decide there’s no going back. This might seem a little extreme but it echoes the choices that young people have to face today at sixteen, at least here in the UK, you have to decide whether you want to stay in education or get a job and in each case what you want to do is probably going to influence what career you have for the rest of your life. I still look back and wonder how different my life would have been if I’d bothered to listen to all the people trying to tell me what to do. In the book Tris feels there’s this expectation, especially from her parents, to join Abnegation, while she decides to follow her heart and choose Dauntless. I had pressure from teachers and family to pick A Levels like French and Maths and Geography. In the end I decided to ignore them and picked subjects I was really interested in even though I had no idea how they’d impact my future.
Tris debated with herself for a long time whether she wanted to join Dauntless, these were completely different people to who she’d grown up with, would she fit in? Would she be able to keep up? If she failed to get into Dauntless would she end up factionless? Similarly, I debated with myself for a long time about whether to pick Media Studies as my fourth A Level – so many people were telling me how good universities wouldn’t like it and how it was a waste of time. I’d been told my entire academic career that I was such a good student who excelled in maths and the sciences but my heart was never in them despite the above average grades. So I decided to go in a completely different direction to what everyone expected and I studied media.
When Tris chose Dauntless she struggled to fit in at first but in the end her passion and hard work paid off, without giving too much away, she really excels. I used these two years I studied media to develop my photography and graphic design skills, I tried my hand at film making and learnt all about web design. Like Tris, I didn’t get on so well with everyone in my class, I felt very different to them and had a very different academic background – a lot of them took it for an easy pass, I took it because I wanted to create something and get away from the dull ‘remember and repeat these facts’ aspect of the sciences. Just like Tris I found my passion and if I hadn’t followed my heart and studied that I probably wouldn’t be here now doing a job I love! Plus, I ended up with one of the highest media studies marks in the country so all my worries about universities not accepting it were silly and I got into the uni of my dreams just like Tris got into Dauntless.
My point here is that I wish I’d had these books to read when I was 16 to take away all those uncertainties I had. Having to make these huge decisions which are going to impact your life when you’re so young can be terrifying but ultimately it teaches you to follow your heart and be passionate about everything you do and that way you can live up to your potential.
All that mushy stuff aside, if you’re not into that whole ‘life changing decisions’ aspect there’s also plenty of awesome action with fights and battle sequences, heartbreaking moments (I swear I didn’t cry at all… well, not much) and a romantic love story (and thankfully it’s not just another awkward love triangle!).