“we believe in ordinary acts of bravery, in the courage that drives one person to stand up for another.” – dauntless manifesto
Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy is action-packed, gripping and exhilarating, leaving you breathless as you desperately turn the pages for more. Set in dystopian Chicago, the story is told from the perspective of Beatrice ‘Tris’ Prior, a young girl in a society split into ‘factions’ – Dauntless (for the brave), Abnegation (for the selfless) Erudite (for the intelligent), Candor (for the honest) and Amity (for the kind). Born and raised under the stifling rules of Abnegation, Tris’s life takes a sharp twist when she chooses to leave her family and lifestyle and instead join the reckless, fearless life of the Dauntless. Throughout the three books, however, she faces worse obstacles – she must overcome her Dauntless initiation to become a member and then progress to fight in a revolution against the Erudite who try to wrestle power away from the peaceful Abnegation. Soon she finds herself living a life of war and grief and through this grief, she must find a way to be brave.
The plot was fast-paced, action packed and gripping, with plot twists and climaxes coming around every bend and turn. The world that Roth has built is incredibly realistic, which may be one of the most frightening aspects about this story as it reflects a sour direction that our society may well be leading to. The characters are thrown up against hardship after hardship and the way that their choices and actions affect the storyline is truly phenomenal. Roth has been able to weave the plot out of threads of characterisation, which lead to only a more gripping experience as we find ourselves fearing for the lives of our most loved characters. The whole political struggle and revolution is dealt with in a way that is extraordinary yet suitable for young adult readers. While some parts may slow down a fraction, it mostly keeps you on the edge of your seat as you wonder what side of the battle is the right one – and if any side is truly right after all.
The characterisation was a job really well done. Both the decisions of major and minor characters had the ability to completely shift the storyline into something else – can you trust this person? Which side are they on?
The protagonist, Tris, was an absolutely outstanding character. Her character developmental arc was one of the best I have seen yet, with her being a bit meek and innocent at the start of the series and then growing to become this incredibly strong, independent woman that is brave in the face of danger and will fight for what is right. She has had to face so many hardships and trauma but she continues to persevere on, despite betrayals and devastating losses that she must face along the way.
“Fear doesn’t shut you down; it wakes you up.“
The male main character (who co-narrates the final book, Allegiant) Tobias ‘Four’ Eaton, is yet another strong character with a passion for doing right. Having faced a tough and emotionally-crippling childhood, he meets Tris as her Dauntless instructor and from there their relationship blossoms. One of the best aspects of their relationship, though, is how realistic it is – there is no ‘instant romance’ and their feelings towards each other is the result of being through so much together yet charging on. They both teach each other new meanings to life and help each other grow to an outstanding level. While he is not quite one of my personal favourite characters, he is a very realistic character and his strength and genuineness is something that I greatly respect.
The minor characters, unlike many YA novels I have read, was very strongly done. Characters such as Christina, Uriah, Caleb, Peter and many more impacted upon the story so well, with loss and betrayal impacting them all differently and shaping them all into different people. Many times it is easy to forget minor character’s developmental arc but Roth certainly didn’t leave this out. It was lovely and intriguing to read about their relationships with one another and how their choices influenced their perceptions of the world and each other.
The villains were also a strong suit that was addressed very well, as there wasn’t really one that stood out (aside from perhaps Jeanine Matthews). All the characters mostly thought they were doing what was right and what was good for the society – and this made it all the more harder to decide if they were reliable or not, and to see the truth between the threads of web.
Roth’s writing was short, simple and powerful, which was much needed in a fast action story such as this one. It cut straight to the chase and the dialogue and quotes were definitely a strong suit. The way she has represented virtues of value – bravery, honesty, intelligence, kindness and selflessness whilst also taking in their downfalls was magnificent and a skill that many others would have overlooked. She has taught readers to be brave and to always see the truth and right in a situation, one powerful message of many sent through a powerful story. It was so full of mortal pain – loss, betrayal, tragedy, grief – yet promoted such strength that I truly could not wish for a better message. Veronica Roth, you have earned my highest respects.