Welcome to District Fourteen.
When I first heard of Divergent a few years ago, I was told by multiple sources that it was just like The Hunger Games, and even some fanfic types had mentally configured it as being the previously unknown, unseen, and unheard of District Fourteen.
And in so many ways they are right.
Divergent by Veronica Roth is the first book in a trilogy presenting a post apocalyptic dystopian future in which after some cataclysms has destroyed society in Chicago, and a new order prevails. Divergent is also an action adventure tale with character overtones all wrapped around a sociological case study brimming with social issues.
And I dare you to say that sentence five times fast. While jumping off a train. And you will get that reference early on in Divergent.
Roth neatly divides this remnant of society into factions, all based upon basic personality traits everyone possesses in varying degrees. Tris, our heroine, was born into Abnegation who are selfless helpers who run the government. She switches to Dauntless, people dedicated to bravery, who defend the people from all threats both foreign and domestic. Other groupings include, Amity who keep the peace, Candor who are always honest, and Erudite who only wish for ultimate knowledge. But because no one can ever fully fit into any one category, no matter how much training or mental discipline they attain, and as shown throughout the book we all have varying degrees of all these traits inside of us, we see how truly complex this society really is. It is a simple truth, part of our DNA, and Roth leverages this concept to the hilt in Divergent.
Inside this delicate, supposedly perfect system, we have Beatrice, soon to be Tris. She is a teenage girl who is full of self doubt and anxieties, all of which are multiplied exponentially because she is now of age to make the choice of which faction she will join. It is simple, stay in the group she was born and raised in, or switch to one of the other groups.
The first hitch, that everyone faces when they transfer, is to survive the initiation or risk being sent to live with the factionless, a destination that equals abject poverty.
The second hitch, one more unique to Beatrice, is the discovery during her virtual reality guidance session that she is something very different, something very dangerous. Beatrice is Divergent.
And this fact, which Beatrice is completely unaware of what this means, heightens her issues massively. And making the choice to go Dauntless is not a real answer to her problems that she thinks it is.
At the start of her initiation, she pulls off several of the requested tasks and decides to rechristen herself Tris. And thus begins not just her training to hopefully become a full fledged Dauntless, but her multiple quests. Surviving some of the evil and vicious other trainees, finding out what this Divergent label means, keeping clear of the conspiracy enveloping the factions, and trying to understand her trainer who is mysteriously called Four and maybe he has feelings for her, are pressing issues for Tris.
The new Tris repeatably wonders where she belongs. Abnegation is where she starts from, but pretty much from the very first sentence we see her discomfort at that. And when she leaves for Dauntless, the constant lingering wondering of whether she is really brave or not, and what is true bravery anyway, fills her days. When Tris meets other transfers during her training, she is shocked how so many of them do not practice the values of either their old or new factions.
For Tris, it feels like this should be natural. She wants to be brave, is training to be brave, so therefore she will soon be brave. Every setback, every self doubt, on this path feels like a monumental failure to her.
Much like Katniss, Tris struggles with trying to survive and thrive in a society they have no say in, but can possibly revolutionize as well. I can well see what the interwebs are talking about. Divergent presents District Fourteen.
And Tris is just beginning her journey away from Beatrice.
…is currently reading Schultz and Peanuts by David Michaelis