Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Five Reasons Why You Should Read the 'Divergent' Series

(from huffingtonpost.com
by Kara Chyung)



You'll be seeing this dystopian trilogy everywhere pretty soon. The highly anticipated film adaptation of Divergent, the first volume in the hit series by Veronica Roth, was released in theaters this past Friday, starring Shailene Woodley as Beatrice "Tris" Prior. Even though I loved the movie and saw it two days in a row, it failed to diverge (see what I did there?) from the well-established custom of movies by never quite matching the quality of the books on which they are based. So here are five reasons why you should pick up a copy of Divergent, and the rest of the series while you're at it, and join this rapidly growing fan base.

1. A relatable main character
We aren't all archery masters by the time we turn 16, nor do most of us possess godly powers or achieve fame before we learn to talk. Tris is a refreshing protagonist because her heroism is not derived from any special power. The series is mainly about her struggle to deal with her differences, and although in her case those differences endanger her life, fitting in and accepting one's individuality is something almost all teens can identify. She is not born a fearless warrior, though she certainly comes to resemble one by the end of the novel, and she shows that bravery and vulnerability can coexist.

2. Plenty of action
Tris may not have to roam the woods for hours at a time to provide for her family, but there is still a plethora of Hunger Games-worthy action scenes in the books, some being disturbingly creative. She and her friends learn to throw both knives and punches, and the brewing conflict within their society allows them to put their skills to the test. Some of the most thrilling sequences, however, happen within Tris's fear landscape, in which she is faced with her worst fears in a simulation, an example of how in the series, the satisfaction of the action scenes comes not from the victory alone but from conquering her fears.

3. No love triangle
I realize that for some, drama in the love department is one of the appeals of teen fiction. However, I have to say that I was relieved that Tris was not indecisive in her romantic life. While there is romance in the novel, it gives the plot dimension instead of being a distraction from it, and the relationship that develops feels realistic. It also doesn't hurt that Theo James portrays the character Four in the film.

4. Factions!
It seems that every popular young adult fiction series has some kind of way to categorize its fans, whether it be by houses or districts, and the Divergent trilogy is no exception. The citizens of the Divergent world are separated into five factions founded on certain values (they even have fancy names): Abnegation (selflessness), Amity (kindness), Candor (honesty), Erudite (intelligence) and Dauntless (bravery). Needless to say there are plenty of online quizzes available to find out which faction you belong to.

5. Factions?
However, before you think about getting a tattoo of your faction's symbol (as is routine in the Dauntless faction), it's worth considering how well the faction system actually works. While assigning people specific roles in society may be beneficial in some ways, it can also be restrictive and divisive.

When presented with the faction system, Divergent's readers are forced to ask themselves what value to they see most in themselves, or more pressingly, what they deem to be the most important. One of the most important themes of the series is the nature of choice. After all, you are ultimately free to choose your faction regardless of aptitude test results. It's easy to side with the factions of the heroes and to make enemies of the factions of the villains. However, Tris, along with the reader, comes to learn that ignoring others' values in an attempt to praise your own is a mistake, and that a willingness to learn from others and recognize your own flaws will ultimately make you stronger.