A Factionless Review: Diverging from the Norm

Veronica Roth. Divergent. New York: HarperCollins, 2011.

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“Becoming fearless isn't the point. That's impossible. It's learning how to control your fear, and how to be free from it, that’s the point.” --- (Divergent, p. 239)

Life for sixteen-year-old Beatrice Prior is quite different from what one would consider to be the future of America. Society is split into five “factions” --- separate societies within a larger society that each take on a single manifesto and live by it as a way of life. These factions --- Candor, which values honesty; Abnegation, which values selflessness; Dauntless, which values courage; Amity, which values peace; and Erudite, which values intelligence --- all coexist in futuristic Chicago. Members of the factions become uniform in all aspects of their lives: job types, clothing, housing, even their personal interests. When they are sixteen years old, young adults are given the opportunity to choose which faction they will be a part of for the rest of their lives; they may either remain with the faction that they were born into with their family and friends, or leave their family’s faction for another. Prior to the Choosing Ceremony, the teens undergo a simulation test to determine the faction with which they are most compatible, giving them an idea of which faction would best suit their personalities and values. However, when Beatrice goes through the simulation, her results are inconclusive; she displays equal aptitude for Abnegation, Dauntless, and Erudite. She is what is known as a “Divergent”; she displays traits of multiple factions, and is therefore dangerous to the delicate balance of Chicago's society because she is not suited for just one faction.

Harboring this dark secret, at the Choosing Ceremony Beatrice defies expectations and shocks her parents by choosing to leave her faction of Abnegation in favor of Dauntless, the fearless faction that she has admired for years. Beatrice, now called Tris, is whisked away from her former life of quiet community service and self-denial to one of risky stunts and daring combat, vying for a coveted place among the courageous Dauntless people. If she cannot prove herself a true member of her chosen faction, she will become factionless --- a fate far worse than death in a world where everyone must belong to a section of society. But while struggling to face her fears and hide her Divergent tendencies, Tris stumbles across a sinister plot that not only threatens to destroy her life, but also to destroy the seemingly-perfect society that she has known all of her life.

The characters and issues found in this dystopian novel are very relevant to the lives of teenagers in any era. As the cover hauntingly states, “One choice can transform you.” Like young adults today, the teenagers in the book are forced to make difficult choices between family, friends, and social groups, as well as moral choices and decisions about facing and reacting to their greatest fears. While the undeniable power of choices is the main focus of the book, the story also delves into difficult topics such as struggling with identity, dysfunctional societies, and categorization of individuals. Teachers should be forewarned about some of the content of the book that may be considered questionable. The characters are encouraged to get tattoos, piercings, drink alcohol, and take unnecessary life-threatening risks, all for the sake of demonstrating bravery and being fearless. Violence is present throughout the book, as well as instances of sexual assault, suicide, and murder, so educators must be approach these topics with a plan for tackling tough questions and guiding students how to discuss difficult subjects in mature and constructive ways. In all, Divergent is a fast-paced story that gets its readers thinking about the choices they make and how they affect not only our own lives, but the lives and choices of others.

Recommendations for Teachers
In the book Divergent by Veronica Roth, the main plot behind the book deals with factions. Factions are separate societies in one larger society that live by their own individual manifestos as their way of life. They also dress in a uniform color and act as their manifesto states. It would be important to discuss factions with your students in reference to society today and with other countries' government in relation to World History and World Literature. Below are examples for in-class discussions and group/individual projects to work on to help better understand how government works in the book.

1. Assigning Factions
Assign factions and write response to why or why not you belong then say which you would change to and why. If you were to receive Abnegation as your faction, would you be able to be selfless and non-worldly? If you are Dauntless, could you be brave and strong? As an Erudite, could you value knowledge above all else? With Amity, are you a peaceful enough person who can be happy to all? As a member of Candor, can you be honest with everyone and use truth to live as your way of life? Explain a day in the life of yourself incorporating your traits of your faction and what you do for a living. Please think through what your faction is and not just say why you don't like your faction. This faction is what you are born into, so how would you live in it?

2. Are Factions Right?
Explain if you believe that the idea of faction is a good idea or not. Is society better off in different sections so the people are for better use? Will members of society work better if they can live an in environment they chose? Is it bad to be involved with a faction that stands for just one main thing? What are the possible consequences if there is only one manifesto that you live by? Is it smart to be able to choose your own faction rather than just living in what you were born into? Is too much of one ideal in one place a bad thing? Is society better when people are combined together? Should factions even exist at all?

3.The Best Faction
Which faction would you consider as the “best” faction and why? After explaining why, have the students choose whether or not they would leave their original faction in favor of the one they consider as the “best”. Why did you change factions? Why did you decide to stay with your given faction instead? What made you prefer one over the other? Once students have joined their new faction or stayed in their given one, have them as groups give at least five probable reasons for why they chose their faction. Is it more upstanding? Does it have a higher importance than all the rest? Could your faction make a good difference in the world? Why should your faction be considered the best? Can you help the rest of society better in your faction?

4. Creating Your Own Unique Faction
Have students create their own unique faction and write rules for it. Including their own manifesto. After they come up with their idea, have them evaluate it and make changes to it after its’ creation. What is your new faction called? Why did you give it that name? What is the new manifesto? Is it something you can permanently live by? What is your main reason for your faction? What would be your uniform color? What are some of the rules of your faction? How could your faction help the greater good? How could it hinder the greater good? What is a downside to your own faction? What do you wish you could add to it if you could choose another manifesto? What would you get rid of or change completely? Is this faction a faction people will choose? Why or why not?

5. If You Chose Dauntless Like Tris...
If you had chosen Dauntless as your faction, excluding all the others, explain what fears you would have to face and how you could overcome them as a reflection paper. This applies to all students and not just to those who chose Dauntless or were assigned it in the first place. You cannot say the examples given in the book, rather your own original thoughts in a one to two page paper single spaced. Would you need to realize that they are not real fears? Do they control too much of your life so it is hard to do everyday tasks? Do you need to experience simulations of your fears too, to overcome them? Give at least three examples and write in depth about what you would do. This paper will not be shared with the rest of the class, rather an in depth look as to how you percieved the Dauntless faction in an either similar or completely different way than Tris.

Veronica Roth
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Veronica Roth is a Young Adult author and is widely known for her debut trilogy Divergent. Born on August 19, 1988, she grew up in Chicago and only began writing when she was too old to play pretend in her backyard. Veronica Roth graduated from Northwestern University where she studied creative writing. Roth explains that her debut novel, Divergent, was written when she should have been doing homework. She is twenty-three and still resides in Chicago, only now with a husband. Divergent was released in May 2011 by Katherine Tegen Books, which is an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Veronica Roth drew her inspiration for her first novel from studying exposure therapy in the treatment of phobias as well as social psychology and the Milgram experiment on obedience to authority figures. In the Q&A with Veronica Roth section of the back of Divergent, Roth explains that the reason she is drawn to dystopian societies is simply because of natural curiosity of "what if" situations and the characters. Roth reveals that "the characters in dystopian and post-apocalyptic literature have a lot of agency — they take charge of their lives in environments that make it hard for them to do so, and I love reading about strong characters like that" (Divergent, Q&A section).

Veronica Roth's second book in her trilogy, Insurgent, was released May 2012. Both Divergent and Insurgent were on the New York Times bestseller lists for 2011 and 2012. Roth also won the Goodreads Choice Award for Favorite Book of 2011 for her debut novel, ​Divergent​. Susan Dominus, a staff writer at the New York Times, reviews Divergent saying, "it clearly has thrills, but it also movingly explores a more common adolescent anxiety — the painful realization that coming into one’s own sometimes means leaving family behind, both ideologically and physically". Fans are eagerly awaiting her third and final book in the trilogy, which is still currently unnamed. It is to be released in Fall 2013. Veronica Roth jokingly calls her final novel "Detergent", but reassures that it will not be titled that. The film rights were sold for Divergent in April 2012 to Summit Entertainment and Red Wagon, a production company. Evan Daugherty, screenwriter, wrote a screenplay of Divergent. Veronica Roth has no further news on whether or not the film will be made, but she remains "cautiously optimistic".

Veronica Roth answers more questions about her novels, publishers, as well as herself on her blog. She also gives tips for writers and provides various websites that helped her write her trilogy. Roth also provides a classroom discussion guide both in the back of her break out novel, Divergent, as well as on her blog. Veronica Roth is also available to contact through her email at veronicarothbooks@gmail.com, where she will try to answer all of your questions or read other writers work. Get connected with Veronica Roth through her Twitter page and by "liking" her two facebook pages, one for her and another for the Divergent series.

Videos about Veronica Roth and Divergent

Linked below is an interview with Veronica Roth discussing her debut Divergent prior to its release in Summer 2011.

Linked below is an interview with Veronica Roth at Windy City Live. Roth discusses her thoughts on Divergent's success prior to the release of its sequel, Insurgent.

Additional Resources
The links below are fantastic resources to learn more about Divergent, Veronica Roth, dystopian Young Adult fiction, or other book recommendations:

About Veronica:
  • Veronica Roth's Personal Blog - Check out Veronica's personal blog to find out more about her, contact her, find out about her books, browse her fansites, and ask her questions!
  • Veronica Roth's Twitter - Follow this author on Twitter to get updates from the Veronica herself! (Or follow her on Tumblr and like her Facebook page!)

About Divergent:

Teacher Resouces:

Book Reviews:

  • Goodreads - December 2011 interview with Veronica Roth
  • LA Times - April 30, 2012 interview with Veronica Roth about Insurgent.
  • USA Today - June 19th, 2012 interview with Veronica Roth.

More About Dystopias:

--- This page was created by Kyle Letot, Gail Berkompas, Samantha Reeves, and Paige Pierog.Check out their reviews for Ned Vizzini's It's Kind of a Funny Story and Laurie Halse Anderson's Fever 1793.