There is a serious glut of dystopian young adult novels in the market right now, and just about all of them claim to appeal to fans of The Hunger Games. And honestly, most of them don't. Of course it makes sense as marketers to align new titles with the most successful YA of the last few years, whether or not the new book is actually similar in appeal. But now, we finally have a worthy heir to Collins' blockbuster: Divergence
, by debut author Veronica Roth.
The world of Divergence is fully imagined from page one, and like The Hunger Games, takes place in a post-apocalyptic American landscape. Society in this future is highly stratified into five factions. Each faction is defined by a value that they believe counteracts the cause for the historical catastrophe that created their ravaged landscape. The Amity faction, who blamed aggression, value peace and live their lives accordingly, as farmers and caretakers. The Candor faction, who blamed duplicity, value honesty, even in its bluntest forms. The Abnegation, who blamed selfishness, value selflessness, and as such live ascetically and also command the government. The Dauntless, who blamed cowardice, value bravery and are the soldiers and police of this new world. And lastly, the Erudite, who blamed ignorace, value intellect. However, there is strife between the factions, primarily between the Erudite and the Abnegation; at the onset of the story, the Erudite have been releasing "antagonistic reports" about the Abnegation faction. Our protagonist, Beatrice, is of the Abnegation faction, but when it comes time for her to choose her own path, she finds herself among the Dauntless. What ensues is a fabulously propulsive ride into the dangerous world of the Dauntless.
Their lives are violent, harshly competitive and unforgiving; though they are not fighting for food as in The Hunger Games, they are fighting for survival; those who do not pass the tests of the initiatives are banished to be factionless, who live on the outskirts of society, scrounging and barely surviving. What is so awesome about Divergence (and so reminiscent of The Hunger Games, in a not at all derivative way) is that Roth's writing style is clean, clear and simple. She lets the world and the story speak for itself, with few flourishes, which was one of the aspects that made The Hunger Games such an easy sell-- very adept and very reluctant readers alike could be carried away by the narrative. The stakes of this story are high, and implications of this first installment's arc will leave you clamoring for the sequel. A likable point of view character and her realistic relationships give the world a realistic emotional core. Oh, and violence and sexual tension never hurts either.