Title: Divergent, Insurgent, Allegiant
Author: Veronica Roth
ISBN: 9780062024022, 9780062024046, 9780062024060
No. of Pages: 496, 544, 544
Genre: Young Adult; Science Fiction; Dystopian Fiction
Origins: Mine. All mine.
Release Date: 3 May 2011, 4 May 2012, and 22 October 2013
“One choice can transform you. Beatrice Prior’s society is divided into five factions—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). Beatrice must choose between staying with her Abnegation family and transferring factions. Her choice will shock her community and herself. But the newly christened Tris also has a secret, one she’s determined to keep hidden, because in this world, what makes you different makes you dangerous.”
Thoughts on the Series: There is no way to review the entire series without giving away any spoilers, so here is the warning. Please read ahead at your own discretion in the off-chance that I was not the last person to read all three books.
The key word that comes to mind when considering the Divergent series as a whole is “real”. Even if the science is a little shaky, the people are heartbreakingly real. Tris, Tobias, Peter, Eric, Marcus, Evelyn, David, Jeanine – there is nothing unrealistic about them. They each have shadows in their past that define who they are and motivate them, just as there are certain personality traits that dictate their actions. Tris struggles to reconcile her actions with her moral code. At the same time, she is still only sixteen and acts like it at times with her unwillingness to share her thoughts. Tobias, too, shows his age in his need to protect rather than accept and work together. Revenge drives Evelyn, while a thirst for knowledge drives Jeanine. Eric and Peter are all just the results of genes and a society which celebrates certain traits. What’s more, all of them never really recover from the killing they must do in order to escape and continue with their plans. If they were, one would question the authenticity of the story and the sanity of the characters.
This realism extends to the controversial and highly upsetting ending. Would the story be half as effective had that one person been allowed to live? The idea of sacrificing the few to save the many has been a military strategy for hundreds of years, so it makes sense that this would not be a happily ever after tale. One does not have to like how Ms. Roth ends the series but one can recognize that her characters remain true to their ideals until the very end. Tris could not be anything other than selfless, just as Tobias could not do anything other than search for reconciliation. It is who they are and what makes readers fall in love with them.
The fact that most of the characters are so young is the story’s greatest strength and greatest weakness. It is a strength because young adults are the only ones still hopeful and inexperienced enough to be willing to fight to right wrongs. Most adults, especially in the Divergent world, require much more prodding and incentive to get involved. For young readers, their can-do attitude is inspiring, and for older readers, it is a great reminder that we should never forget our younger self’s optimism at being able to change the world.
The characters’ ages are also a weakness of the series because their interactions can be so frustrating. More than once throughout the second novel and even the third, one wants to put Tris and Tobias into a locked room in order to force them to talk to each other. They will want to knock Tris down a peg or two in her self-righteousness and want to knock some sense into Tobias when he gets into a fug. Their inner angst and teen drama put a pall on the action even while they stay true to the realism of the series.
The heart of the Divergent series revolves around extremes – black versus white, good versus bad, nature versus nurture, the few versus the many, selfish versus selfless, knowledge versus truth versus action versus pacifism. There are few answers, and none of them are easy. The story will break a reader’s heart multiple times, and it would be easy to dismiss the entire series because of these heart breaks. However, Ms. Roth demands readers reflect on everything that happens, requiring them to search for the truth in their own hearts and apply those lessons to their own lives. The Divergent series comes at a time where people are dividing themselves into more opposing factions, trying to categorize things as black and white. The series serves as a warning that nothing is black and white and therefore to categorize anything as such is only to create future conflict. For that reason, no matter how one feels about how the story ends for certain characters, one must respect the sheer power of Ms. Roth’s message and the important themes she intersperses throughout the three novels.
BOTTOM LINE: I really don’t like what happened to one of the characters. It took me a long time to get over it to the point where I can now respect why she did that and her efforts as a whole. It is a powerful series with amazing characters and even better storytelling.