Divergent: Discussion!

Divergent was an easy enough read, and I read it in a couple of days. I read the second book, too, because that’s what I do when there is a series. That said, they didn’t leave a lasting impression. I didn’t feel compelled to write or talk about them like I did The Hunger Games. I know I am going to be in the minority on this one. Most people seem to find the series compelling, but for me they it’s yet another dystopian society where the adults are villainous and the continuation of life falls on the shoulders of an unwilling Super Teen.

I know teens. Most of them aren’t super.

And yet, at least with this generation, the only teen worth reading about is remarkable and usually in possession of a power that is mythical or paranormal. It’s not enough to be good. It’s not enough to be smart. It’s not enough to be strong or fast or insert whatever sets apart young adults here. It isn’t even enough to be all of the above all at once.

This generation doesn’t know how to celebrate the unremarkable.

Book blurbs say that Roth started this book in college when she should have been doing homework. And can’t you see that? The characters are forced to make a permanent choice, one that determines the rest of their life. They are grouped with young adults that make the same choice (factions), and together they are characterized by their similar traits and strengths. Call me crazy, but the whole thing reminded me of choosing a college major. I wonder if that experience for Roth inspired the plot line.

I gave it 3 stars on Goodreads. Okay, but not great. I have plenty more to say about the characters, but I want to hear what you thought first. I know a few of you gave it 5 stars. I’m excited to hear your take on the series.


Jules Kendall writes about books, family, and easygoing simplicity.


  1. Susan G says

    I read the first one on Saturday – may not read the second. (My 15yo says it’s not as good.) I thought it was entertaining and as you, easy to read. Seems like it would be a pretty good movie. My thoughts aren’t as insightful as yours, but I thought it was highly predictable. And then I realized that’s because I’ve read it before – only it was called Brave New World, and a few others as well. Someone decides the way to peace and happiness is to divide people into strict categories (castes?) and tell them how to think, behave, and dress. Everyone does that except our Hero, who for whatever reason doesn’t buy into the plan. The Hero manages to find others who are like-minded and together they either (a) overthrow society, (b) become outsiders and live “outside the fence”, or (c) drink the Kool-Aid and that’s the end. (Isn’t that how 1984 ends?)

    So – the plot/themes, not original at all. I do think she came up with a fairly creative structure for the society and some pretty entertaining characters. So – a good read but for me, not compelling.

  2. Susan says

    I will admit that I devoured this series. I liked it quite a bit – the characters actually had to make choices for themselves, as opposed to just fighting “the man,” which was nice. But I loved it best because my non-reader, who will only read (a term I use generously) Manga, was completely and utterly captivated. Maybe to avoid his homework as well, but all the same, he could not put it down, which has not happened in all of his 12 years. So 500 stars just for that!

  3. says

    I am forever obsessed with what grips people enough to read a book in droves. I haven’t read this, but if it’s one of the sensational books I feel like I need to. I am so torn by the fact that I am excited/thrilled people are reading and then being disappointed by what they are reading after I read it. And I consider myself a pretty easy going reader. Love your reviews, always honest and specific.

    • says

      I feel the same way. 50 Shades of Gray is KILLING me. I don’t want to want to read it, because I know once I cave I will kill myself for wasting the time.

      • says

        Jules, I felt the same way for 50 Shades….it killed me to read it and every page I finished I wanted to kick myself in the head for wasting the time. But being able to tell people why the book sucked ass made it worth the time. But yes, painful.

  4. Susan says

    Ugh, I haven’t finished the book yet so I’m skipping your review and the comments. I’m enjoying it, but not sure it will have any longterm impact. So far, the most thought provoking part was the mother/daughter reunion on visiting day. I have 3 1/2 year old little girl, and I could not help but think what it would be like to have her leave home at 16. I’m not selfless; I want her to stay close, always. The rest of the story – the factions, the romance, the corrupt leaders, etc. are moderatley entertaining, but I’ll probably get sucked in to reading the second book anyway. I do think it’s interesting that the author wrote this while in college. I wasn’t nearly that focused as a freshman.

  5. says

    Well, I liked it, but not as much as I’d hoped. Of course, the bookseller I was talking to built it up as the very best of its kind, so I had pretty high hopes going in. And at the beginning, I was really enjoying it, but…it’s kind of a disappointment to figure out most of the bombshells before they’re revealed — which I could see coming from a mile away most of the time. Then I have to remind myself that this genre is geared toward a much younger audience.My favorite parts were learning about the different factions themselves, but I don’t really LOVE any of the characters. Still, I’ll read the second one when I can get my hands on it (from the library, in my cheap way.)

    • says

      That’s a good point. I’m not the demographic for this book–but I wasn’t for Hunger Games or Harry Potter, either, and those at least left me thinking.

      • says

        True! I looooved the Hunger Games, by the way, which may also be part of why this one left me a little cold. I don’t think that I’m comparing other series to it, but it really is best in class in my opinion.

    • says

      Meg – this is pretty much exactly what I wanted to write, particularly: “I liked it, but not as much as I hoped…” and “Still, I’ll read the second one when I can get my hands on it (from the library, in my cheap way).” So, at the risk of being unoriginal, I’ll just say ditto. :)

  6. says

    I liked it, in spite of guessing a fairly major plot development early on. I’ll read the second one, whenever it comes in at the library. I’d give it 3 or 4 stars. I definitely see what you mean about it not being overly memorable or even original. Part of me thought, Meh, more dystopian YA. While the other part of me was completely drawn into the decisions Tris was making and wanting to know when Four would reveal his identity (said guessed plot development.) The way the society was structured was fascinating. I had a hard time figuring out which faction I would choose to be in.

  7. Karina says

    I think I would have liked this book a lot more had I read it when I was in high school. (Just like how I think I would have liked the Harry Potter series had I started reading them when I was in grade school until high school.)

    Since the plot isn’t too original, parts of the story were predictable. The story moved at a quick pace. When I got to the last page, I thought there should have been more – somehow the fact that this is a part of a trilogy escaped me when I started reading this book.

    At some point, I was thinking “Enough with the tattoos already!”

    I would recommend this to a mature middle-schooler or high school kid who likes to read. But perhaps, I would wait until all 3 books come out and give them the whole set to read.

    I also decided that I would choose Erudite because I have always said that if I ever win the lottery and become a bazillionaire, I would spend my time just being in school and learning about all sorts of things that interest me.

      • HeatherL says

        It was a little overdone, but I wondered if that was an attempt to reinforce the differences between Dauntless and Abnegation or to represent the larger theme of self-identy and coming of age.

        • says

          I suppose you are right. I thought the whole thing strange, likewise with the glasses for Erudites. The tattoos, glasses, and the almost Mennonite apparel of the Abnegation seemed like such stereotypes! I couldn’t decide if she was making a point or writing from a sheltered perspective.

  8. Jennifer says

    I gave up about half-way through. Honestly i thought it was too slow and a bit dull. I think I’m going to take a break from this genre for a while. I agree with other comments that this would be good for middle/high schoolers. I’m sure my 8th grade self would have loved it!

  9. says

    Good stuff. I read it as somewhere between the Hunger Games and Brave New World. Nothing in here to stir the soul but it beats the pants off of Twilight when comes to teh category of ‘candy reading.’

    Interesting what you say about YA fiction these days pivoting on characters with special powers. I wonder if we will see more of this as the next generation of writers, like Roth, come up cutting their fiction teeth on Harry Potter. Just about everyone I know under 25 credits it as their first true reading love. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking anybody here…I just wonder if we will have to wait a generation before celebrating what is remarkable about the unremarkable. Fingers crossed :)

  10. HeatherL says

    I think this would be a good introduction to the dystopian fiction genre for teenagers (I might actually suggest this over the Hunger Games), but it doesn’t cross over well for adults because of the really obvious plot foreshadowing. I actually became annoyed with Tris a few times because I thought she should figure out what other people were up to.

    I did like the naming of the factions (I admit that I had to look up Abnegation) and the general theme of deciding where you belong in life. I did enjoy the scenes where Tris struggled with her Abnegation tendencies, not knowing if it was more nature or nurture, she was raised to believe that everyone should fit squarely into one of the factions.

    However, I felt it really need more development in the creation of the world. I wasn’t really convinced that the Abnegation hated the Erudite or that being factionless was a fate worse than death. It also wasn’t clear how this dystopian Chicago fit in to the rest of the world. Were there other cites? Other countries? Did they have contact with them? Also, the interaction between factions past the initiation stage was unclear to me as well as jobs functions that weren’t specifically mentioned? Who were the firefighters? Dauntless? Abnegation? Or did everyone just fend for themselves?

    There were many contradictions in this book that didn’t always seem intentional. For example Tris was told by her mother to not do too well and stand out among the initiates. Four told her to hide the fact that she could manipulate the simulations, yet in the final round she wasn’t trying to hide any of that at all.

    I will probably read the other books eventually, but I need a break from YA.

    • says

      This is a good point. It’s a gentler, softer Hunger Games and someone in 5th grade or so could really take away a lot from the plot.

      That’s such a good point about the firefighters, etc. I got the impression that each faction took care of their own, but I think, in reality, it’s a plot hole the author wasn’t able to repair.

      Yes! The final round Tris just flat out used her Divergent powers. I didn’t understand that at all, and somehow it didn’t tip anyone off?

  11. Kat In Canada says

    Jules gets a gold star for actually getting me to read a YA book. The last time I did, I was in grade six, so 10,000 points for her.

    My thoughts:

    -This was an easy read- it only took me three nights to finish. That said, I got sucked in and stayed up until the wee hours on the last night to finish. I wanted to know how it ended!

    -However, when it did end, I had absolutely NO interest in what happens next. It’s been a couple of weeks, and I still am not curious about what happened to Tris and Four, so I don’t think I’ll be picking up the next books.

    -I think the emphasis on tattoos and piercings as a mode of rebellion was hilarious. It’s the kind of thing that seems really badass when you’re a teenager. Then you grow up, and you realize that your accountant has a full sleeve and your real-estate lawyer has a nose stud, and even the sweet librarian has some ink hidden somewhere. It’s not a rebellion thing, not anymore. It’s just a thing that people DO.

    -Also, the picking of new names as a way to define yourself as an individual separate from your family of origin made me laugh, but mostly because my brother would only answer to “Gryffon” for half of junior high and part of high school. His given name, Andrew, was “a shackle chosen FOR him by HIS PARENTS before they EVEN KNEW WHAT HE WAS LIKE or IF IT WOULD SUIT HIM”. Funny how now, 10 years later, it’s a fine name.

    -I am not a fan of the “post-apocalyptic world” phenomena. I am a pessimist, I see so many worrisome things going on in the world on a daily basis, I don’t need the terrible outcome illustrated for me in my reading material.

    I also harbour no illusions about which character I would be in these books. I would be the nameless cannon-fodder who meets an untimely end in the first chapter, if I even made it that far. I would not be the heroine. I know I am not exceptional, and extreme circumstances would not change that. So, I don’t generally like these books, because I can’t put myself in the main character’s shoes.

    – I did, however, identify with the “adults are screwing up the world, it’s up to us to fix it” idea (even though I am an adult!). I look at the mistakes that my parent’s generation has made and is still making, and I realize that it’s going to be up to my generation and our kids to clean it all up, and it’s frustrating because it’s not fair. So I get it.

    I think the author understood exactly who she was writing for, and exactly what they wanted to read. She wrote in a way that would be easy for a reader to place themselves in Tris’ shoes, if they so wanted. I always say- anything that gets kids and young adults away from electronic screens and into reading is fine by me. But I don’t see this series having the same kind of adult-crossover appeal as some of the other series’ that have come out in the last decade.

    • Karina says

      I am with you on the “don’t care enough about the characters to read the next book” bandwagon.

      If the third book gets great reviews, I might reconsider.

      • says

        I’ll most likely read the 3rd book. And, because I bought the first two, I’ll buy the third. I’ll give them to my niece.

        Kat, you need to participate in book club more often! I thought your points were excellent. Of course, you are the one who helped me analyze my feelings about the book on Twitter! :)

  12. Kendra says

    So I read this book when it was first released and though it was just ok. But because I read it so long ago with so many books in between, I decided to read it again. I liked it better the second time around, but still didn’t love it. Too many similarities to The Hunger Games for my liking. I read Divergent in a day, and like Jules read Insurgent (because that is what one does when it’s a series) and was rather ‘meh’ about the whole thing.
    For me Harry Potter will always be the quintessential wizardry book, Twilight the vampire love affair and Hunger Games the dystopian go-to.
    That being said though, I give mad props to these sorts of books for getting people to read. Both Hunger Games and (yes) Fifty Shades of Grey have opened the door for 2 of my friends into the world of bookstores, libraries and discussion. I LOVE it! I’ll gladly debate the use of nipple clamps and sex contracts if it means sometime in the next few weeks of my lifetime they’ll pick something else up because ‘reading isn’t so bad.’

    • says

      I agree with you and see your point. What bothers me is the book that did it: 50 Shades of Grey?! Seriously? A poorly written erotica about BDSM? And, from what I hear, it’s not even all that good erotica or BDSM (I’m thankful for the latter). What exactly does that say about us?

  13. Bethany says

    What I think is specifically intriguing and exciting about the Divergent series is how you explore idea of what happens when you value something to such a degree that it rules everything you do. Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity, Candor, whatever the other one is (it’s been a couple months since I read the second book)–they all assume their value is the most important. Yeah, they live together, but it’s pretty obvious they don’t do much more than tolerate each other. And when you assume that anyone in Abnegation must BE as selfless as you think Abnegations should be, then you get into a whole slew of new problems. So I think the best thing I learn from the series (and good YA in general) is that all that pigeon-holing we do–reducing people do to the smart kids–oh! the smart people! Erudite!, the jocks, the nerds/av kids, limits people’s capabilities and does us a disservice as well.

  14. says

    Okay, another gold star coming your way Jules, for even getting me to buy a book in the “dystopian young adult” genre. I can’t comment much, as I haven’t read too far into it — really, I think my daughter will like it very much. She’s in 5th grade, and liked the Hunger Games series. (Don’t think she got some of the subtler points, but she definitely understood the plot.) I will say that the choppy, flat style of the actual writing here isn’t too inspiring — but evidently that’s what sells books these days: premise over prose. Film deals over depth.

    I’m an old blue-stocking crank, I admit it! :-)

    • says

      I think it’s a great book for a 5th grader. I’m going to recommend it to my 7th grade niece. She’s trying to read Maze Runner, and she’s not feeling it. I think this might be more her speed.

  15. says

    Here’s where I found Divergent to be superior to Hunger Games: Peeta (and for that matter, Gale) = NOT HOT. Four/Tobias? HOT.

    I felt like I finally read a YA novel that had a compelling male lead.

    Other random thoughts: Loved Divergent, had no idea what was going on in Insurgent. Actually I’m not sure what all was really happening at the end of the first one either. But I didn’t mind! It’s like eating pizza or doughnuts — even if not the best, still enjoyable. I enjoyed the whole ‘faction’ element.

    • says

      I didn’t think Four was all that hot. I can’t get past the fact that he is, essentially, a minor. Barrons from the Dark Fever Series? HOT.

      I’m with you on the books that are like eating pizza or doughnuts. I do that all the time! :) For me, though, they are rarely young adult novels.

  16. Shanon says

    I guess I will be the minority and go out on a limb and say I actually preferred it to the hunger games but being very reflectionary I read this while taking vacation from some of the most stressful work periods. So I enjoyed that it was easy and didn’t require a whole lot of thought and I could just enjoy it. But I do recall more of Insurgent than Catching fire and the different factions resognated with me more in Divergent.

    The factions were interesting and I could see how teens could find them relatable in society – I can easily relate my sisters, who both have full sleeves, to dauntless just like they easily put me in erudite with my glasses and surrounded by books and a computer.

    So yeah as 30+er it wasn’t super creative or deep but in context to a YA I can see how this would make an impact and for a summer reader looking for an easy entertaining read it fits the bill.

  17. says

    Hi! I’m a long-time lurker, but had to join in the discussion. :) Ever since Hunger Games, I’ve been dabbling in YA novels… a friend of a friend is a librarian whose focus is on YA dystopian (yes, seriously) so have been getting my recommendations through her. Love that they are such quick, easy reads and honestly I find all the first loves/ crushes really cute & innocent. Takes me back to high school!

    So my biggest issue with this series (I read Insurgent too) is really that Tris isn’t all that likeable. She is so self-important & self-absorbed. Think of how Katniss would do anything for her family – you just don’t get that here. Though saying that, maybe that is all intentional? She grew up in a world where you truly were taught that family wasn’t where your true loyalties should lay with your faction. So maybe as a reader I’m supposed to be torn on that issue?

    I read both, like several of you, since that’s what you do with a series. I honestly loved how the 2nd one ended… it makes me interested in the final book to the series when it comes out. So I feel now like these two books are just setting up the third. Which I guess is fine, but really – is sooo much buildup necessary?

    For anyone who’s still open to good YA books, I loved The Fault in our Stars (by John Green)- its not a series & is really unique. Its about a couple of teens with cancer, so is sad, but is really a great read. Also am really liking the Maze Runner series – another dystopian trilogy, but this one has a male protagonist and is

    Thanks for a fun discussion!

    • says

      I have to admit, I’m a sucker for the first love plot. Like you, they are so sweet and innocent (usually) and it does remind me of my first crushes–in the best ways. :)

      I, too, found Tris really hard to like. She was trusted and confided in no one, even when she had Four to do so. I didn’t get where her isolation and distrust came from.

      I really liked the ending of book two, also. I do feel that each book is leading up to book three, and that bugs me! With Hunger Games, for example, there was a concluding event with each book, even though another event loomed large. There was at least a sense of completion with each book. Not here.

  18. Michelle says

    I really liked the series until I got to the end of the second book and realized it was just that, only 2 books. I thought that it ended in a way that didn’t include closure for me and I was a bit disappointed. I can completely see the whole, choosing a college major comparison and as much as I liked the series, again, I feel like it was a bit incomplete. I currently am reading the final book in the “Birthmarked” series and I hope that it ends a little more tied up than “Divergent/Insurgent”. I am also reading the “Desire” series and it is a bit more fantastical but seems to be an interesting take on the dystopian storyline.

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