Monday Book Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

If you keep up with young adult literature at all, you’ve surely heard of Veronica Roth’s dystopian novel Divergent and its sequel Insurgent. Today I’ll give my usual book review, but then I’d like to discuss something that’s been rattling around in my brain since I first read Divergent this past summer; namely, how does the author’s religion (Christianity) play into this book and will it impact the final installment of this trilogy?

Title: Divergent

Author: Veronica Roth

Age group: YA (teens)

Genre: dystopian

Synopsis: In this futuristic version of Chicago, society is divided into five factions based on people’s personalities. The courageous belong to Dauntless; they protect the society from outsiders. The selfless belong to Abnegation; they are the leaders because they put others’ concerns before their own. The intelligent and studious belong to Erudite; they are the teachers and scholars. The honest (and we mean painfully honest) belong to Candor; they run the justice system. The peaceful, fun-loving folk belong to Amity; they do the farming outside the city walls.

At age 16, each member undergoes an aptitude test to decide which faction they are best suited for. Then they attend a ceremony during which they choose their faction. They can go with whatever the aptitude test told them or make their own choice. The catch? If the faction they choose is not the one they grew up in, then they leave their families forever.

Does it pass the “Home School Mom Test“? Maybe for teens. But honestly, I’ll know better when the final installment of the trilogy comes out.

Here’s the thing about this book–I think some moms will be unhappy about the violence in it, especially those moms who don’t want their kids reading The Hunger Games. I’m sure I’ll post aboutThe Hunger Games eventually, but for right now I’ll simply say that I have no problem with kids reading the series because the main character doesn’t want to kill anyone. She’s forced into a horrible situation in order to save her sister’s life. The book is at least partly about sacrifice. I’ll go so far as to say it might be deemed a Christ-like sacrifice (laying down one’s life for a friend), but I’ll save that for another post. 🙂

After readingDivergent, I was left a little put-off by the seemingly senseless violence. The kids in the Dauntless faction beat each other up for the sake of “moving up the ranks.” There’s no self-sacrifice involved. No great cause behind their punches.

However, there were a few mentions of prayer in the book, and we get the sense the main character (Tris) is trying to decide whether or not she believes in God.

When I got to the end of the book, I flipped to the acknowledgments and noticed that the first person Ms. Roth thanked was God, for giving us His Son. A quick internet search confirms that she makes no apologies about being a Christian. You can read a very thought-provoking post she wrote about Christianity and censorship with regard to tough topics here.

I’ll be really honest: those few mentions of prayer and her acknowledgments page are the two things keeping me reading the series. (Yes, I bought the sequel the day it came out.)

You see, what I really want to know is what the main character is going to learn in this story–and boy, I hope she learns something. No, I’ll go further–I hope she learns that being courageous isn’t important unless you’re also selfless. The best heroes are courageous because they want to help others. Harry Potter may belong to the Hogwarts house most associated with courage (Gryffindor), but he’s also selfless, and that’s what makes him such a great hero. (Spoiler alert!) Harry is so selfless that he even saves one of his archenemies (Draco Malfoy) when he’s almost killed in a fire.

Actually, if I were writing the ending to the Divergent series, I’d want Tris to find value in all the factions. Each of them has their strengths and weaknesses. Each of them can make contributions to society, but they really need to work in harmony, not separated into smaller sects.

This past Friday, Ms. Roth wrote on her Tumblr account that she has just finished the first draft of the finale to this trilogy. She’ll be working on revisions soon. As she makes her changes, I wonder how much her faith will impact her writing. Christians don’t believe in fighting for the sake of fighting. Will Tris learn that her courage must be guided by her selflessness and her intelligence? Will she learn that there is value in finding peaceful ways like the members of Amity?

I have great expectations for this trilogy. If done right, it could have much of value to say to our young people. In order to do this, the violence portrayed in the first two books must prove to be of some value. There must be a great cause at stake, and the main character must learn when it is necessary to fight for the sake of others and when fighting is simply senseless or perhaps even downright selfish.

Here’s hoping (and praying) that as Ms. Roth finishes the trilogy, the truth of her faith guides her. No pressure, Ms. Roth. 😉  I look forward to the finale.

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2 Responses to Monday Book Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

  1. Ginny Marie says:

    What a great review, AJ! I was nodding my head through the whole thing. Divergent is one of my favorite books…as an adult. As mother, I don’t know when I would want my kids to read it. Definitely not until high school, but I think I would be okay with them reading it then. But you are so right about the third book being the clincher. The ending of Insurgent has me so curious!!!

  2. A.J. says:

    Ginny, I feel the same way about the ending of Insurgent. So much to ponder. 🙂 In fact, I’m sure I’ll have to reread it before the final book comes out.

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