Winner of the American Christian Fiction Writer's Carol Award for Dauntless!!!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Thoughts on the Divergent Series

This past summer my daughter and I devoured a good bit of YA fiction, and at the top of my list is the Divergent Series. These books by new, young author Veronica Roth have become somewhat of a cultural phenomenon, and no doubt many of you have seen the movie.

Divergent is driven by a unique and powerful premise. The story takes place in a dystopian world that has been divided into “factions” based on a person’s dominant personality trait and way of viewing the world: Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity, Erudite, and Candor. As someone who loves to study culture, psychology, and especially personality, I found the concept fascinating. The main character, Tris, leaves her Abnegation family behind to enter the brave, wild, and most importantly, free world of the Dauntless. There is plenty of material for an awesome book right there as Tris struggles in a new society to find her source of courage and inner strength, but as the plot develops, the story takes some awesome and unexpected twists. The result is action packed, romantic, poignant, and thought-provoking. (And the fact that my upcoming YA novel is titled Dauntless is only a small part of why I enjoyed it so much :)
The movie changes some details of the story, but keeps to the same theme and major plot points. I found the choices to be effective for the visual format, and equally enjoyed the book and the movie. However, both the book and the movie are fairly violent and contain some emotionally upsetting material, so I personally would not recommend either for children or preteens. They are also fairly sensual, although not inappropriate for the intended teen audience.
Books two and three take their own unique twists and turns as we delve further into this society, why it is breaking apart, and how it came to exist. And I loved every step of the way. Veronica Roth is a confessing Christian, and although the books are not Christian per se, I saw much more light, hope, and redemption than in other dystopian novels I have read. The main character makes one choice in book three that many Christians will not feel comfortable with, but it is handled delicately. Although I would have made a different choice as an author, the decision did seem to fit the plot, and I understood why Roth went in that direction.
I’ve heard people say these books aren’t well written, and to that I say: give me a break! I can only assume they mean something about these books did not live up to their preconceived notions of good writing, or perhaps that they are writers who are upset that this woman didn’t follow all the rules that they so meticulously adhere to and she succeeded anyway. No, Roth did not follow every “rule” of writing. She was a little heavy handed with the narrative summary, did not always place readers firmly in the scene, and sometimes drifted in and out of scenes without scene breaks. And you know what—who cares?!?! The books are mesmerizing. People love them, buy them, and tell their friends to buy them. In my opinion that is what makes a book great--the ability to move the reader--not an arbitrary set of rules.
That being said, I thought book three was the weakest. Books one and two have a single first person narrator. Book three has two first person narrators, and while I didn’t mind this choice, it was not handled as well as it could have been. I often forgot whose point of view I was in, which says to me that the point of views should have been more distinctive. That small distraction aside, I still thought it was a great book.
Minor spoiler alert – but keep reading anyway. A lot of people hate the ending of this trilogy, but they are usually the ones who didn’t know in advance that it would be sad. So I’m telling you straight out, the ending is sad. I went into the book aware of that fact, and was able to enjoy and appreciate the redemptive resolution, which I found quite powerful and satisfactory. In fact, my very favorite quote of the entire trilogy is found at the end.
Since I was young, I have always known this: Life damages us, every one. We can't escape that damage. But now, I am also learning this: We can be mended. We mend each other.
If you were in the world of Divergent, which faction do you think you would be and why?


  1. I loved book on, was cool with book two, but book three lost me well before the ending. I felt like the story world starting falling apart--especially when the big driving force of book 2 was listening to that message, and then in book 3 they wave it off and say, "Oh, we don't know why she would have recorded that. It's all wrong." Felt the author decided she didn't like the way she'd set it up so just changed it and then copped out on the explanation. Still very confused as to how her mother was so easily inserted too...

    I'm really glad I read the series and really, really loved the setup in book 1 especially. =) We were eagerly waiting for the movie to release digitally and rented it the night it came out, LOL. Loved the movie just as much as the book!

    As for what faction I'd be in...I suppose bookish me would be Erudite...unless optimistic, sing-song me won out and put me in Amity.

    1. Good point about her changing the set up. I kind of forgot about that.

  2. I would have had a really hard time choosing a faction too. A part of me would have wanted to be Dauntless, but the social life was far too loud and chaotic for me. And a part of me would like to be Amity or Abnegation, but I don't think I would be a fit for either of them. I also greatly value integrity, honesty, and forthrightness, but the candor take all of that too far. At the end of the day, I think erudite would be the best fit for me. It's tough since all have both good sides and bad sides.

  3. When I first heard about your book, "Dauntless", the Divergent series is what first came to mind --it's an awesome name/title! =)

    I've read books 1&2. I heard the film adaptation was good (some of my friends said better it was than The Hunger Games) so I wanted to read the series before I watched the movie (which I still haven't gotten to yet). The premise is interesting but frankly, I don't connect to any of the characters ... Tris is okay and I admit I shed a few tears at points (e.g. the ending of the first book), but I don't know ... No one grabs me and I don't know why. I don't care as much about Tris and Four like I did with Katniss or Peeta in THG.

    However, I do feel a need to find out what will happen next, so I will be finishing the trilogy (and eventually watch the movies). I guess that's a testament to Veronica Roth's writing (or world-building)? I love the names of the different factions and am interested in seeing where it all leads ...

    Started Allegiant but had to return it to the library (I'll try to finish it during spring break). I was also kind of surprised to see the POV change (it might be interesting to get Four's POV --hopefully I'll like him better?) I know a lot of people weren't happy about the ending of the trilogy (though I'm keeping myself spoiler-free on what it is). However, I did have a feeling it was "sad" or bittersweet ... I saw there's also a book called "Four" that was released afterward --but I haven't looked at it yet (avoiding spoilers) so I have no idea if it's a prequel or sequel ... =)

    1. Insider fact, I initially called my book "Dauntless Love." Bethany chose to hone in on Dauntless, and I was happy with the change because I knew it would bring Divergent to mind for people :)

      One of my friends didn't like Tris, so you definitely aren't alone on that. I really liked her though for some reason.

    2. "Dauntless Love" is a neat title --"Dauntless" has more impact though and doesn't immediately bring to mind romance. It makes me more curious about the book --I'm glad it changed too. =)

      Maybe once I see the movies I'll get more attached to the characters. Sometimes that helps me connect to characters more. With a lot of Jane Austen's books, I loved the characters more once I saw the corresponding film/BBC miniseries.

  4. Whoa Veronica Roth is a Christian? How do you know this? I didn't know she was! Would love to hear her story!

    1. Laura, I first heard about it at a writers conference, but if you google the subject, it's not too hard to find. Here's an article that mentions it.

      I've included a quote, but the whole article is pretty interesting.

      Arguably the principal theme that connects Roth to her fiction is the question of how emotional damage can be repaired. "Allegiant's last line is about healing, and you can't talk about healing without talking about loss." Roth began her own restoration at school when she became a devout Christian: all three novels offer thanks to God in the acknowledgements. "It's a part of my personal life. The books have posed some challenges to me personally. Just struggling with the pressure, and how to conceive of yourself after you become successful very quickly. In that sense, my religious beliefs have been a great help."