Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Veronica Roth's Faction = ENGROSSING

Veronica Roth
Audio Excerpt


I hate to admit it, but I was way behind the curve on this one! Divergent has been out well over a year. The sequel (Insurgent, which I have yet to get my hands on) has been out for months. And I just got around to reading it? And I'm all about the dystopian novels! I loved The Hunger Games (I also just last week watched that movie for the first time!) Legend, by Marie Lu, was a good read. Going all the way back to Brave New World and 1984, I just love dystopian stories! So it's a little difficult for me to admit that it's taken me this long to wade into the dried up marshland of Lake Michigan in Veronica Roth's futuristic Chicago. But I stepped in, I realized that Roth's landscape was more like quicksand, pulling me deeper and deeper into her imagination.

Like most dystopian stories, the world has suffered from some devastating event or string of events and the survivors have devised a plan to restructure society in an attempt to avoid the sort of wars and violence that brought them to the brink of destruction. In Divergent, Beatrice Prior has grown up in a society that has ordered itself according to five certain virtues, with each virtue being represented by a faction of people: Abnegation (selflessness), Dauntless (bravery), Amity (peace), Erudite (intellectual curiosity), and Candor (truth). It's somewhat reminiscent of The Giver by Lois Lowry, with children being sorted into the different factions which will come to dominate their lives, especially should they join factions other than those of their families. "Faction before blood" after all! Of course which faction a person joins is completely voluntary, but even after that choice is made, the person must complete their faction's initiation and be installed as members. Otherwise, they will be doomed to live on the streets among the other factionless, only surviving because of the kindness of the Abnegation.

The story of Divergent follows Beatrice Prior through the difficult decision of which faction she wants to devote her entire life to and the even more difficult process of surviving initiation. Along the way she learns some disturbing things about her brave new world and has to dig deep within herself to discover which will be her own personal guiding principle. Will it be selflessness, courage, intellect, or something else.

Like I said before, I love dystopian novels. They tend to coincide with some of my non-literary passions and interests. In Divergent, Veronica Roth has crafted a thoroughly engaging story. While starting with the raw materials of some familiar dystopian themes, she manages to build something new and exciting. Her heroine, Beatrice, is a strong character from the beginning, but continues to grow and find to reservoirs strength as the story progresses. The idea of factions forming around common virtues is novel and the often less than peaceful interactions between the factions lends depth to the book. Beatrice's friends are realistic characters. There's a compelling love interest. And there's enough action to satisfy my fellow Hunger Games fanatics.

Of course it's not all perfect. There was one of those frustrating scenes where the good guy (or girl, in this case) misses the opportunity to stop an evil early on, before it can develop into something far more threatening. The kind of decision that you just know is going to cost her big time in the future. But who knows, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe that decision will end up being a good one. I guess I'll just have to keep reading to find out. As if I could keep myself from reading further!

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