By Veronica Roth

Author Veronica Roth is 22 years old. She grew up in the suburbs of Chicago; she’s tall (six feet); and, according to her bio, she’s a Christian. Beatrice, the protagonist of Roth’s debut novel, Divergent, is sixteen years old. “Tris” grows up in a sort-of-suburbia; she’s short and deceptively fragile-looking; and her family is “religious.”

Obviously, Roth and her character share some affinities, but while Veronica Roth used her youth and talents to become a best-selling author, Tris is busy becoming dauntless, brave to the point of foolhardiness.

Maybe she’s an alter ego. And maybe, to psychoanalyze a bit, the recent spate of bold and spirited heroines trapped in a controlled environment in YA dystopian adventure novels is filling a need, for both girls and boys. These books are giving them strong female characters who retain a sense of passion and romance.

In particular, girls who are growing up and trying to figure out what it means to be female/feminist in a post-feminist, maybe even Christian, context, need ideas and role models. Divergent and similar dystopian novels, by placing readers in an alien but relatable environment, are good places to explore the possible choices that confront young women in our increasingly confused and confusing society.

In the future Chicago portrayed in Divergent, the world is divided into five factions. Each faction esteems one virtue above all others. The members of Abnegation, where Tris’s family lives, value selflessness above all else. Those of Candor prize truthfulness; those of Amity, peacefulness; the Erudite, intelligence; and the Dauntless, courage. At the age of sixteen, each citizen must choose which faction to join for the rest of his or her life. Most young people choose the faction where they have grown up and received their childhood training. But the choice for each person is free -- and irrevocable.

This world is a society held in balance by the different callings of the members of the five factions. Each faction has its own job. The Dauntless are trained to be brave in order to protect the city as a whole. Those of Abnegation are servant leaders who can be trusted with power because they are sworn to give up the desire for power. The Erudite give advice and expertise to teach and to research new ideas. The Candor provide honest judges and lawyers. And those who are members of Amity are caretakers, farmers, artists, and counselors. As Beatrice considers her decision about which faction to join, she is faced with a secret about herself and her relationship to her community, which may endanger the entire balance of power and responsibility that has become the foundation for a perfect civilization.

Divergent is the first in a projected trilogy set in this world of factions, and balance, and virtues carried to their extreme. The plot follows the pattern of several other recent dystopian trilogies in which the heroine lives in a ordered, controlled community, but, as she grows up, is confronted with the cracks and imperfections in her seemingly pristine and safe way of life. The book is not quite as violent as the Hunger Games trilogy, but still fairly high on the action/adventure/mayhem scale. And the romantic subplot is fun, and certainly tame enough for ages thirteen and above.

The book is not overtly Christian. The main clue that Divergent is written from a Christian point of view is that, in addition to having to fight against the restrictions placed upon her by a controlling and totalitarian state, Tris must also explore the cracks and imperfections within her own psyche. Probably we will see more of this side of the story in the second and third books in the series, as Tris tries to understand herself and form a picture of her own moral code in relation to all of the factions and their virtues and vices. The second book in the series, Resurgent, is due out sometime in 2012.

Other comparable and recommended books that fit into the dystopian trilogy trend:

The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins.
The Declaration, The Resistance,
and The Legacy by Gemma Malley.
by Lauren Oliver. Sequels will be Pandemonium (2012) and Requiem (2013).
by Ally Condie. Its sequel, Crossed, will be out November 1, 2011.

Sherry Early is a Christian homeschooling mother of eight, founder and editor of the book blog Semicolon, and author of Picture Book Preschool.

Image copyright Katherine Tegen Books.

Articles on the BreakPoint website are the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Chuck Colson or BreakPoint. Outside links are for informational purposes and do not necessarily imply endorsement of their content.


Romantic Subplot
I disagree with you that the romantic subplot was merely fun and tame. Certainly it's a depiction of a fairly ideal teen, romantic interest. But I suspect that this ideal is incredibly rare to find in reality.


It's fantastic that the characters each proclaim that they don't want to have sex before marriage. But then they spend two hours alone together in the male's bedroom laying on his bed and talking. And this is after some steamy kissing between the two. Talk about playing with fire! I don't want my daughter to think that proclaiming to not have sex until marriage is enough of a guarantee to remain true to such a goal. I know from my own history that it's not enough. One must also keep oneself out of situations where it's easy to give into temptation.

This part is a poor message to young people. I will let our daughter read it eventually, and I'll certainly be discussing it with her regarding good choices and bad choices the characters make.
As indicated in the review, I found this book less violent than The Hunger Games, but it does still contain some violent and intense scenes. And the romantic content is PG13---not graphic but there.
Violence in Divergent
I read a review elsewhere that said this novel contains over-the-top brutal and sadistic violence.
Thanks for writing this. I've read Divergent and really liked it. I haven't read several of the other books you link to at the end of the review, so I'm going to give some of them a try.

It's interesting that you say Tris may be Veronica's alter-ego. I read on Veronica's blog that she suffers with panic attacks and she is not dauntless like Tris. And yet I think Tris is going to learn that we all need all these virtues operating in our lives.

I thought the strongest Christian statement in the book was the fact that one of the Christian characters lays down life to save others.

But what I'm really interested in is your idea that we are living in a post-feminist context. Are you talking about Christian girls embracing Biblical submission--do you see this happening? Or do you think society as a whole is becoming post-feminist?

I'm interested in this because so many YA books are so full of feminist stuff. Have you read Graceling? Such a good book on so many levels and yet so opposed to a Christian view of marriage and love and submission and family.

It's one of my goals in life to write books that will promote healthy Christian submission. Can you suggest books that are doing this?

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