Hungry for More Dystopia? Prepare for Divergent Nation

Say good bye to tributes and hello to factions!

If you are at all interested in YA you should have heard of The Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth by now. This series is taking over the blogosphere like nothing else in recent memory. Check out the #DivergentNation tweets on twitter or the Divergent series page on facebook to get a taste of the fervor.  Divergent is being named the sucessor to The Hunger Games and things are certainly lining up that way. Summit Entertainment has bought the rights and a script for the first film is in the works, stores across Canada (and in the US) have been preparing for release day parties and events, and the books have been hitting bestseller lists.

So what’s the big deal? Why Divergent and not one of the other dystopian trilogies? Firstly, timing. Divergent was released nine months after the release of Mockingjay, just after The Hunger Games movie was cast and the spotlight on YA fiction was heating up. Dystopia to the general public (though not diehard YA fans) was still fresh and the market was not saturated. Secondly, a catchy concept. In Veronica Roth’s world, people choose one of five factions to train with and live in. Soon readers were aligning themselves with certain factions (I’m Amity with a healthy Erudite streak, in case anyone was wondering). People (particularly teenage girls) love identifying with a particular group (think of all those Seventeen, Teen People, or Cosmo quizzes you took and you’ll know what I’m talking about). Thirdly, a great plot with strong writing. Young as she is, Veronica Roth knows how to evoke time and place and writes with urgency. She is a born storyteller and one to watch.

The series takes place in a speculative Chicago, in which society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). When citizens turn sixteen, they publicly select which faction to devote their lives to. In the first book, Divergent, Beatrice Prior shocks everyone by giving up peacekeeping Abnegation for rowdy Dauntless. What follows is a competitive, violent and dangerous initiation. Not everyone makes it through, but Beatrice-who renames herself Tris- proves to be  worthy contender. There is a boy (of course), and trouble is brewing in the seemingly perfect Chicago, trouble that has something to do with the secret Tris has been hiding.

Divergent was all about Dauntless- what it stood for, how it had been corrupted, what it was like to seek and obtain membership to a very exclusive community. Divergent is violent; in some ways the violence felt more graphic than the violence in The Hunger Games. But like The Hunger Games, Roth is careful to point out that extreme violence (violence for violence’s sake) is in fact a perversion of what it means to be Dauntless (brave, fearless, protective). In Insurgent, Tris’ world becomes much bigger. She learns about the other factions, gets insight into Four and his family issues, and deals with major insurrection and social breakdown. You know, just your regular day in a dystopian YA novel.

Like Katniss, Tris is fearless, a little moody, and an anti-hero. She is far more aware of her feelings than Katniss is and there is a genuine romance between her and Four with no third party distraction. In Insurgent we get to see the growing pains stage of their relationship; how it stands up to challenges, perceived betrayals, and of course,  incredible danger. Brava to Roth for exploring the ups and downs of a single relationship instead of creating the all too familiar (but completely unrealistic) love triangle scenario.

There were a few too many pure action scenes for me, which started to blend into one another after awhile, and I would have liked more development in the downtime between action scenes. This being said, I read the entire book in about three and a half hours and I truly love and admire Roth’s ability to twist the plot and keep the momentum up for almost 500 pages. This is a worthy contender for the status of Next Big Thing and don’t expect it to go away anytime soon. Now the question is what will the title of the final installment be? First Divergent, then Insurgent…perhaps Convergent? Resurgent?Any guesses?

If you’re not already hyped up, check out this awesome ad created by a HarperCollinsCanada colleague of mine (gotta love those drums!):

Insurgent is available in hard cover on May 1st from HarperCollins Canada.

For those of you who are already a part of #DivergentNation, check out this fun links:

Faction Reading Lists from The Savvy Reader

Veronica Roth talks about the process of her book being turned into a movie at Divergentmovie.net

Take this faction quiz to find out your true faction!

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