The popular Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth has been so successful that it has produced a hit movie franchise and has legions of fans. I first heard about these books when the first movie Divergent came out and I quickly devoured all three novels.
Tris is an average teenager in a dystopian future where people are put in fractions based on five personality qualities. However during her aptitude test to determine her fraction Tris discovers she is Divergent, someone who possesses qualities across several fractions. She is told to keep her Divergent status hidden from everyone as it can pose a risk to her life and to society as a whole. Choosing the Dauntless fraction-who value bravery- means she has to compete against her fellow initiates in order to stay otherwise she’ll be cast aside with the ‘Fractionless’ people. Tris’ struggle against the fractions and her growing relationship with her Dauntless’ instructor Four are the main stories across the three books.
I can see why the series is so loved by its fans. The idea of a girl trying to find her identity amongst the different fractions is a strong idea and will appeal to anyone whose individuality has been stifled in order to conform to a clique so they can belong. Tris is a relatable and likeable protagonist and seeing her grow in strength along the novels is one of the highlights of the series. Her relationship with Four is also heartfelt and one you can really root for. There are also some intriguing supporting characters such as the psychotic Peter, one of Tris’ fellow Dauntless initiates. The action scenes are also well written and I was surprised by some of the violence used in a YA novel.
While I enjoyed the first novel Divergent and Insurgent was a decent enough follow-up, the series itself is filled with flaws which becomes all too apparent in the final book Allegiant.
While the Five Fractions is an interesting idea it’s also a rather flawed one that is distracting at times across the series. Why would society divide people into five fractions? Surely most people display more than one quality? It becomes apparent that Veronica Roth had not thought out her story world before writing the series. The answers we end up getting in the third book Allegiant, are unsatisfying and undermines a lot of the themes of the books.
The other problem with the series is that while Divergent was fast-paced the action slows down in Insurgent and, especially in Allegiant. There are pages and pages of people making a major discovery but then finding another discovery that overrides everything else. It’s a bit dull and I wished for the action packed prose of the Divergent novel.
While I can see why the narrative of Allegiant was split between Tris and Four I felt that their voices were not distinctive enough from each other. Sometimes I’d be forgetting whose chapter I was reading until Tris/Four popped up in the other’s narrative.
A lot of people were upset with the ending of Allegiant, the trilogy’s final installment, and I can understand why (but I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t read the final installment). However I liked how the novel ended and felt it was a powerful and emotional ending for the series. And across all three books you still care for the main characters and want them to prevail against their enemies.
Overall while the series is enjoyable enough and easy to read, especially the first novel Divergent, it’s not a classic trilogy compared to The Hunger Games which gripped me throughout and had a detailed world to ground the characters and ideas to. It’ll be interesting to see how the movie franchise will handle these issues and whether they can resolve some of the problems in order to give the fans the finale they deserve.