Here in good ol’ ‘merica, 16 year old teens get their driver’s licenses. Enter their senior year. They’re growing up, applying to colleges. They’re making some pretty tough decisions.
But in futuristic Chicago, teens have to choose among five character traits, and must live that attribute for the rest of their life.
Beatrice Prior isn’t sure what she wants. She was born in Abnegation, a faction where everyone is selfless. She is enchanted with their way of life: everyone always looking out for one another, never themselves. She loves to see it being lived; but when she tries to be that way, Beatrice feels that she is not being genuine. It’s not her first instinct to give up her seat on the bus, or to allow someone else in front of her in line.
There’s that, and then she’s completely infatuated with the teenagers from Dauntless. They jump from the train to get to school each day, and she can’t help but watch them. They are daring and boisterous and loud and free and interesting. And Beatrice wonders what life in Dauntless would be like.
The day before the choosing, all 16 year olds take their aptitude tests. The test is supposed to tell the students which faction they would be best suited for. At the end of the simulation, however, Tori, Beatrice’s tester, is shocked. She is told that her test results were inconclusive.
What does that mean?
The tester explains to Beatrice that because of her responses to some of the situations in the simulation, she could very well fit into 3 factions: Abnegation, Erudite, and Dauntless.
“… People who get this kind of result are… are called Divergent.” Tori goes on to say that Beatrice should never, under any circumstances, tell anyone this information. She isn’t told why.
At the Choosing, Beatrice transfers to Dauntless, shocking the whole crowd. Immediately after the ceremonies, initiation begins.
Transfers and faction-born alike must complete initiation before they can become members of the faction. If they fail initiation, they become factionless.
At the beginning of initiation, the initiates are informed that only 10 of the group of 20 will make it to the end and become Dauntless members. This ups the pressure for Beatrice, or should we call her Tris, now? Tris must make it through initiation, and must be better than at least 10 of the other initiates in order to make it. Or else she will be factionless, and her sacrifice would have been for nothing.
This book. *sigh* It was a tough read. I enjoyed it, but it was a downer, for sure.
Gore Gauge: rated “People Die”
Dauntless travel by a train that never stops moving throughout the city, so they have to jump on and off. At the beginning of initiation, a Dauntless-born initiate jumps and misses the building, falling 7 stories to her death.
*Spoiler begins here* Al, a former Candor (the honesty faction) who befriends Tris, hurts her at one point because he’s scared. She’s doing so well in training, and he’s doing so badly… He kills himself as a result of his extreme guilt.
Al is lifted up for his “act of bravery”. Eric, one of the trainers (who is sick in the head and has some issues of his own), commends him for traveling to the afterlife, a place unknown to the living. He stated that, in his own way, Al was braver than all of them.
Killing yourself because you “can’t bear it” or can’t live with what you’ve done is arguably the most cowardly thing anyone could do. Tris seemed to have the same idea, sickened by Eric’s message of what he thought was inspiration.
Besides, other characters later on sacrifice themselves for other and die in a much more noble way. Giving your life so that others may have a chance at it… that is courage. Isn’t that what Jesus did for us? *Spoiler ends here*
Peter, Molly, and Drew make up the “bullies” who harass Tris in more ways than one. When Tris comes out of the shower wearing only a towel, Peter grabs it before she has time to run away, shamefully hiding her body. They laugh crudely at her. Tris, in turn, so strengthened by her fury and hatred, beats Molly to a pulp in training.
Peter is evil. Like, scary evil. When Edward beats him in the first rankings, Peter stabs him in the eye, making it so that Edward is unable to continue, and is made factionless. Peter is never brought to justice.
In fear simulations, sometimes the initiates are forced to shoot and kill their own family members.
Tongue Scale: rated “Slap On the Wrist”
Swearing is mild; God’s name is taken in vain 5 or 6 times, and hell is used in inappropriate ways a few more times.
Even though the factions were created to prevent war, there is still evil and corruption: the Erudite pursue knowledge out of desire for power; the Dauntless have strayed from their pursuit of courage and now induce fear.
Firecracker Scale: rated “Flame”
In one particular simulation, Tris encounters her fear of intimacy. (More specifically, Four ((mentioned later)) trying to have sex with her.) They do kiss, in real life.
Other Negative Content:
Most Dauntless members are donned with multiple tattoos and piercings. A transfer initiate jokes to Tris about getting a nipple piercing.
I think one of the most negative elements is how Tris assures herself that in order to be brave, she has to desensitize herself to death. She forces herself to walk away while a sobbing girl screams for her dead friend. She is disgusted by how weak Al is as he cries to himself in the night.
Four is the nickname of Tris’s love interest later on, and he is not, by any means, the perfect man you look for in books and movies. He’s handsome, but he isn’t kind. He isn’t sweet, or charming. He’s not even nice. He gets drunk at one point and acts like a complete fool. But he has some admirable qualities, and he is mysterious, drawing Tris in almost immediately.
Tris, for that matter, isn’t in the slightest bit perfect. She’s quite flawed in some of her thinking, and she can be rude. She’s not particularly pretty. She’s sort of plain, really. But as we later come to realize, she has a bit more Abnegation in her blood than she knew. She will stand up for her friends and family, and she is strong-willed and, most of the time, kind and thoughtful.
They are relatable. They are human. They are imperfect. But they are perfect for each other.
There is a lot of self-reflecting done by Veronica Roth. She seems to have the right idea of what bravery and courage really are.
“Becoming fearless isn’t the point. That’s impossible. It’s learning how to control your fear, and how to be free from it.”
“I have a theory that selflessness and bravery aren’t all that different.”
“We’ve all started to put down the virtues of the other factions in the process of bolstering our own. I don’t want to do that. I want to be brave, and selfless, and smart, and kind, and honest.”
And I think that about sums it up. We should strive to be all of these things. Whatever is true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, of virtue, praiseworthy. That’s what I started this whole blog with. And in the end, amidst all the bad and pain and dark and sadness, Tris and Four just want to be that.
I am incredibly conflicted with this book. While I was instantly pulled in, interested, and engaged, I found that it was incredibly depressing. It’s definitely not meant for young kids… At the youngest, maybe a mature 13 year old.
I haven’t read the sequel, Insurgent, quite yet, but I’m definitely working on it. I’m incredibly excited for it, but also, I’m sure you understand, a bit apprehensive. Allegiant, the last book in the trilogy, is supposed to be coming out soon… so I need to get cracking.