Divergent (novel)

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Divergent (book) by Veronica Roth US Hardcover 2011.jpg
Cover of first edition
AuthorVeronica Roth
Cover artistJoel Tippie and others[1][a]
CountryUnited States
SeriesDivergent trilogy[1]
GenreScience fiction, dystopia, young-adult fiction
PublisherKatherine Tegen Books
Publication date
April 25, 2011
Media typePrint (hardcover), e-book
Pages487 (first edition)[1][2]
LC ClassPZ7.R7375 Di 2011[2]
Followed byInsurgent
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Divergent (book) by Veronica Roth US Hardcover 2011.jpg
Cover of first edition
AuthorVeronica Roth
Cover artistJoel Tippie and others[1][a]
CountryUnited States
SeriesDivergent trilogy[1]
GenreScience fiction, dystopia, young-adult fiction
PublisherKatherine Tegen Books
Publication date
April 25, 2011
Media typePrint (hardcover), e-book
Pages487 (first edition)[1][2]
LC ClassPZ7.R7375 Di 2011[2]
Followed byInsurgent

Divergent is the debut novel of American novelist Veronica Roth, published by HarperCollins Children's Books in 2011. It is a young-adult dystopian novel set in the so-called Divergent Universe,[1] that features a post-apocalyptic version of Chicago. The novel follows Beatrice "Tris" Prior as she explores her identity within a society that defines its citizens by their social and personality-related affiliation with five different factions. Underlying the action and dystopian focused main plot is a romantic subplot between Tris and one of her trainers in the Dauntless faction, nicknamed Four.

The novel has been compared to other young adult books such as The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner because of its similar themes and target audience. In particular, the novel explores the themes common to young adult fiction, such as adult authority and the transition from childhood to maturity, as well as broader motifs, such as the place of violence and social structures within a post-apocalyptic society. Its major plot device, the division of society into personality types, is one used in other science fiction works. Beyond its literary context, Roth's open declaration of her religion as a Christian has brought commentary from Christian communities both endorsing and challenging the novel.

Roth wrote Divergent while working on a creative writing degree at Northwestern University, and it was quickly purchased for publication. Divergent is the first book in a trilogy that was completed in October 2013.[1] Roth's first book of short fiction set in the Divergent universe came out in July 2014: Four: A Divergent Collection, edited by Katherine Tegen.[3] Summit Entertainment purchased the media rights to the book, and production on the movie, also titled Divergent, took place in 2013.[4]


Roth (pictured) wrote the first draft of Divergent while on winter break from Northwestern University.

The novel is Veronica Roth's first published novel, and was published a little over a year after Roth graduated with a bachelor's degree from the creative writing program at Northwestern University.[5] Roth wrote the novel while on winter break in her senior year[6] and the movie rights sold before she graduated from college.[5][7]

The novel is set in a post-apocalyptic Chicago. Roth has indicated that she did not originally intend to use Chicago as the setting: "I wrote the rough draft and I felt like it needed a more grounded sense of place, and I looked at the city I had described, which is all these trains constantly moving, and this lake marsh, and these rivers. And I realized that it was Chicago already, and it was just because that's the city I've known and loved the longest."[8]


The novel is set in a post-apocalyptic Chicago in which survivors divide into five factions based on their dispositions: Abnegation, for the selfless; Amity, for the peaceful; Candor, for the honest; Dauntless, for the brave; and Erudite, for the intelligent. Each year, all sixteen-year-olds must take an aptitude test that describes the one faction for which they are best suited. After receiving the results, they can decide whether to remain with their family's faction or transfer to a new faction. Those who do not complete initiation into their new faction become "Factionless", and are forced to live in poverty on the streets of the city.

Sixteen-year-old Beatrice Prior is born into an Abnegation family. She doesn't feel like she belongs in Abnegation, because she doesn't see herself as naturally selfless. Her aptitude test also supports this, inconclusively indicating aptitude for three factions: Abnegation, Erudite, and Dauntless. The tester warns her to never share this fact, as it makes her a Divergent. Before the Choosing Day, she agonizes over whether to stay in Abnegation to satisfy her parents, or whether she should change to another faction. On Choosing Day, Beatrice decides to leave Abnegation and join Dauntless, while her brother Caleb chooses Erudite. Their Dauntless instructor, Four, explains that not all the dauntless initiates will enter the Dauntless faction; only the top ten will stay while the rest will be dismissed and become factionless. This is unusual as most factions allow everyone who completes initiation to enter the faction. During her initiation into the new faction, Beatrice renames herself Tris. During the initiation, she befriends some transfer initiates — Christina, Al, and Will — while coming into conflict with others — Peter, Drew and Molly.

The Willis (or Sears) Tower, one of the several landmarks Roth describes within the post-apocalyptic Chicago that is the setting within the novel.

Initiation is broken into three stages. The first involves learning how to handle guns and knives as well as engaging in hand-to-hand combat with the other initiates. Despite being physically weaker than most of her fellow initiates, Tris finishes the stage in sixth place by beating Molly, who is ranked fairly high. Once the rankings are announced, Peter (who came second) is jealous of the first-place finisher, Edward, and, under cover of night, Peter stabs Edward in the eye with a butter knife. During the parent visiting day, Tris realizes that her mother originally grew up in Dauntless. Meanwhile, Erudite stirs dissent against Abnegation leadership in the city government. The Erudite's reports accuse Abnegation's leader, Marcus, of abusing his son, who joined Dauntless two years before. Reports vilify Tris' parents because both their children switched factions, and falsely claim Abnegation is hoarding supplies. During the same period, Tris befriends some Dauntless-born initiates, including Uriah, Lynn, and Marlene.

Stage two involves simulations, similar to the aptitude tests, which force the initiates to face scenarios symbolic of their fears. Because Tris is Divergent, she recognizes that she is under a simulation while others do not, and can work the simulations to her advantage. Tris was ranked first. Peter, Drew, and Al attack Tris, threaten sexual assault, and attempt to throw her into the chasm at Dauntless headquarters, but Four intervenes. Later, Al begs Tris's forgiveness, but she rebuffs him, and he later commits suicide.

The final stage of their initiation is a fear landscape, which gathers all of their fears in a single simulation. In the fear landscape, all of them, Divergent or not, will be aware that they are under a simulation and must use the skills they learned in the previous stages to overcome each fear. While preparing for this stage, Tris's relationship with Four continues to grow, and he lets her into his own fear landscape. Tris learns that Four only has four fears in his landscape, a record, hence his nickname. She also learns his real name, Tobias, and that his father is Marcus, the very Abnegation leader who Erudites accuse of physically abusing him during his childhood. Four later shares with Tris information he has discovered about the Erudite's plans to use the Dauntless to stage an attack on the Abnegation.

Tris successfully overcomes six fears in her fear landscape. After her test, Tris, along with all other Dauntless members, is injected with a new "tracking" serum that is supposedly only activated if someone goes missing. Before the official initiation ceremony, Four invites Tris back to his private apartment, and Tris expresses her feelings for him. Soon, the ceremony begins, the final rankings are posted, and Tris discovers she has been ranked first. In the midst of celebrating, though, she suddenly realizes that the Erudite will use the "tracking" serum to force Dauntless members to carry out their plans of invading the Abnegation.

A junction on the Chicago 'L', one of the train systems operating in modern Chicago. Throughout the novel, the Dauntless demonstrate their fearlessness by jumping on and off trains traveling throughout the city.

During the night following the ceremony serum induces a simulation and all of the Dauntless become sleep-walking soldiers ordered to attack the Abnegation compound. The serum does not work on Tris or Tobias (Four) because they are both Divergent. After arriving at the Abnegation compound, Tris and Tobias try to break away from the pack to escape. However, Tris is shot, but not mortally wounded, and when Tobias refuses to leave her behind, they are captured and brought before Jeanine, the Erudite leader. She injects Four with an experimental serum, which counteracts the Divergent effect by controlling what he can see and hear. Jeanine directs Tobias to be sent back to the Dauntless control room to oversee the attack, and sentences Tris to death. Tris wakes up sealed inside a real-life glass tank that fills up with water, but her mother breaks the tank and rescues her. As they escape, her mother reveals that she is also Divergent, but while helping Tris escape, she is killed. Tris escapes but is forced to kill Will, who attacks her while under the influence of the simulation.

She finds her father, Caleb, and Marcus in the safe house, and they resolve go to the Dauntless compound to find the source of the simulation. Fighting their way through Dauntless headquarters, Tris' father sacrifices himself to clear the way for Tris to reach the control room. When she confronts the mind-controlled Tobias, he attacks Tris. In the fight, Tris realizes she cannot bring herself to kill him, and surrenders, causing Tobias to break through the special sight-and-sound-only simulation. Freed, Tobias helps Tris shut down the Erudite simulation and free the remaining Dauntless from their mind control. They rejoin Caleb and Marcus, as well as Peter, who had helped Tris find the control room in exchange for his safety. The group then boards a train to the Amity sector to find the rest of the Abnegation survivors, leading to the events described in Insurgent.


Many reviewers note how the style of writing within the novel offers a distinctive quick prose that creates a reading experience that is fast paced. For example, writing in The New York Times Susan Dominus described the style as "brisk pacing, lavish flights of imagination and writing that occasionally startles with fine detail".[5]' Nolan, from The American Prospect, noted that Divergent follows the structural and stylistic patterns of both The Hunger Games and Blood Red Road.[9]



Like in other pieces of children's and young adult fiction, the novel probes the place of authority and identity within the youth's relationship to parents and other social forces. Critic Antero Garcia describes the thematic similarity between these dystopian novels to be an interest in the "grasp of power between youth and adult authority" comparing the novel to Unwind by Neal Shusterman.[10] In The New York Times, Susan Dominus stated that Divergent "explores a more common adolescent anxiety--the painful realization that coming into one's own sometimes means leaving family behind, both ideologically and physically".[5] The Voice of Youth Advocates agrees, writing that Divergent shows the pressure of "having to choose between following in your parents' footsteps or doing something new".[11] Similarly, critic Antero Garcia compared the thematic interest in the characters being "forced into limiting constraints of identity and labor associated with their identity" to the similar interest in forced identities and labor in the dystopian children's novels Matched by Allyson Braithwaite Condie and The Maze Runner by James Dashner.[10]

Social structure and knowledge[edit]

Some reviews criticize the depth and realism of the social structures within the novel. For example, Kirkus review called the social structure a "preposterous premise".[12] Similarly, Booklist called the structure a "simplistic, color-coded world [that] stretches credibility on occasion".[13] In a review for the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater's student newspaper "Royal Purple News", Abrielle Backhaus notes how the "entire system seems insubstantial" and asks rhetorically "How could it be possible for any individual, with his or her infinite emotions and experiences, to be condensed to one single quality to tolerate for the rest of their lives and to choose at the mere age of 16?"[14] In an interview Roth describes the social structure to have expanded from her initial conception, adding Candor to fill "a gap in the reasoning behind the world that needed to be filled".[8]

A large part of the social structure's effect on the novel is to divide the different types of knowledge that the characters have access to. In her book chapter exploring how literacy in different knowledge effect the series, Alice Curry describes the factions and their indoctrination as deliberately creating a gap in knowledge for their initiates.[15] Because of the initiation process, the characters become illiterate in the knowledge valued by the other factions, thus Tris's divergence allows her to be admirable and successful because she can become literate in a broad set of knowledges and information types.[15] Curry argues that Jeanine's leadership within Erudite represents an academic "Ivory Tower" that alienates other types of knowledge, thus the book critiques academic learning, in favor of the broader literacy embodied by Tris.[15] Curry compares the novel to Julie Bertagna's 2002 Exodus, describing both as using spaces and landscapes where knowledge is learned to critique "crumbling knowledge institutions", like academic spaces, that "dissemble" knowledge instead of facilitating deeper holistic knowledge literacies that create "understanding".[15]

Violence and fear[edit]

Like The Hunger Games, Divergent depicts considerable violence for a Young Adult novel. The Publisher's Weekly review emphasized this stylistic choice, calling it "edgy" and describing the initiation rituals that Tris endures "as spellbinding as they are violent" and describes them as "sadistic tests of strength and courage".[16] But, as Susan Dominus points out, the novel doesn't keep this violence at the forefront of reader experience; she writes in The New York Times, that "Terrible things happen to the people Tris loves, yet the characters absorb these events with disquieting ease. Here, somehow, the novel's flights from reality distance the reader from the emotional impact that might come in a more affecting realistic (or even fantasy) novel."[5]

When describing her inspiration for the Dauntless training through exposure to fears, Roth, in an interview for the website "PopSugar", says, though influenced by many sources, the most important was her "Psych 101 my first year of college [where] I learned about exposure therapy, which is when they treat people with fear, like for anxiety. It exposes them repeatedly to what they're afraid of, and gradually you become less afraid of it, or have a healthy level of fear, and I thought of the Dauntless then, because they're conditioning perfectly normal people to get over perfectly rational fears."[8] Daniel Kraus's Booklist review of the novel described the intense psychological pressure as like "akin to joining the marines" but also providing the "built-in tension" that makes the novel a compelling read.[13]


Though the novel does not maintain an overtly Christian thematic interest, some readers place the novels themes within this context because of Roth's professed religiosity. In the postscript "Acknowledgements," Roth emphasizes her Christian faith saying "Thank you, God, for your Son and for blessing me beyond comprehension."[17][18] For some reviewers this element of Roth's lifestyle is important to the novel's impact; for example, when reviewing the novel for the Christian Ministry "Break Point", Sherry Early describes Roth as "a Christian" and the novel setting as "post-feminist, maybe even Christian".[19] She also says that though the novel is "not overtly Christian", it follows a "Christian point of view" because it "fight[s] against the restrictions placed upon her by a controlling and totalitarian state" and because "Tris must also explore the cracks and imperfections within her own psyche."[19] K. B. Hoyle also acknowledges that the novel would have a "Christian message", when reviewing the novel for the Evangelical book review organization The Gospel Coalition.[18] However, Hoyle criticizes the novel for using "terminology most Christians would consider profane" and for not making the Christian themes more explicit by "never nam[ing] Christ or even clarif[ying] what the practices are supposed to mean".[18]

Reviewers outside the Christian community have also noticed the Christian context of the novel. In a review of the book and first movie, David Edelstein observed the book's treatment of intellectuals as following a tendency in some parts of Christian culture to regard science and intellectualism as a threat to Christian faith: the intellectual Erudite faction are largely depicted as control-hungry villains pitted against the Abnegation faction, who are depicted as righteous and merciful.[20] He wrote "The novelist, Veronica Roth, reserves her loathing for the 'Erudites', who spend their days in intellectual pursuit. She appears to be one in a long line of religious conservatives (her first acknowledgement is to God, 'for your Son') who think there's nothing more dangerous than intellectualism, which makes people apt to seize power and impose Maoist-like uniformity on entire populations — on pain of death."[20]


Divergent has been well received. In a review in The New York Times, Susan Dominus wrote that it was "rich in plot and imaginative details", but also that, compared to other such books in the same genre as the Hunger Games trilogy, it did "not exactly distinguish itself".[21] In a review for Entertainment Weekly, Breia Brissey said that it was "flimsier and less nuanced" than The Hunger Games but was good, giving it a B+ rating.[22] Similarly, though critiquing the "simplistic, color-coded world", Booklist reviewer Daniel Kraus positively concluded that the novel was full of "gutsy action and romance" and called it a "spin on Brave New World".[13] Kirkus Reviews said it was "built with careful details and intriguing scope".[12] Common Sense Media commented on the book's "deep messages about identity and controlling societies" and on the "unstoppable plot that's remarkably original". It was rated 5 out of 5 stars and given an age 12+ rating.[23]

The book debuted at #6 on the New York Times Children's Chapter Books Best Seller list on May 22, 2011,[24] and remained on the list for 11 weeks.[25] It also spent 39 weeks on the Times's Children's Paperback Books Best Seller list in 2012,[26] reaching number one.[27] The Times changed its Children's Best Seller lists in December 2012,[28] eliminating the Children's Paperback list, and Divergent continued its run on the new Young Adult Best Seller list.[29] It is still on the list at the end of January 2013.[30] As of March 2013, "book sales are now over 2.6 million copies for both novels combined, and both titles are HarperCollins most successful e-books ever in regards to sales."[31]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Divergent won Favorite book of 2011 in 2011's Goodreads Choice Awards.[32][33] Also, Divergent was number one in the Teens' Top Ten Vote, sponsored by YALSA.[34] It also won the Sakura Medal Contest.

Film adaptation[edit]

Shailene Woodley (left) and Theo James (right) play Tris and Four respectively in the film adaptation of the novel.
Main article: Divergent (film)

Summit Entertainment bought the rights to film an adaptation of the novel and recruited Neil Burger to direct, with Shailene Woodley starring as Beatrice "Tris" Prior. Lionsgate and its subsidiary Summit Entertainment were slated to distribute the film. The role of Tobias "Four" Eaton eventually went to Theo James after an extensive search that included competition from Alex Pettyfer, Alexander Ludwig, Lucas Till, Jeremy Irvine, Luke Bracey, Brenton Thwaites and Jack Reynor.[35] Lionsgate-Summit's feature adaptation of the dystopian teen tale, with a screenplay adapted by Evan Daugherty from Roth's novels, had gone into production by late November 2013 and was released March 21, 2014. The company also obtained rights to Roth's sequel, Insurgent. Kate Winslet was signed as Jeanine Matthews. Also recruited into the cast were Maggie Q as Tori, Zoe Kravitz as Christina, Ansel Elgort as Caleb, Miles Teller as Peter, Ashley Judd as Natalie Prior, Tony Goldwyn as Andrew Prior, and Jai Courtney as Eric.[36]


  1. ^ According to ISFDB a 2011 Australian printing, with apparently identical cover, credits the jacket art and design to Joel Tippie. But it credits other components, too, and "the cover seems to be a collage of multiple images including the not-seemingly-credited skyline."[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e Divergent Universe series listing at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDB). Retrieved March 24, 2014. Select a title to see its linked publication history and general information. Select a particular edition (title) for more data at that level, such as a front cover image or linked contents.
  2. ^ a b "Divergent". Library of Congress Catalog Record (LCC). Retrieved March 24, 2014.
  3. ^ "Four: a divergent collection". LCC. Retrieved March 24, 2014.
  4. ^ "Lionsgate reassures Wall Street on 'Games' profits: Studo still awaiting 90% of earnings to hit bottom line". Chicago Tribune. 31 May 2012. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Dominus, Susan (15 May 2011). "Choose Wisely". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 May 2013. 
  6. ^ Christopher Borrelli (22 October 2013). "The next YA superstar?". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 23 October 2013. 
  7. ^ Truitt, Brian (March 29, 2012). "Exclusive trailer and interview: 'Insurgent' by Veronica Roth". USA Today. Retrieved 12 April 2012. 
  8. ^ a b c Kirsch, Becky. "Divergent Author Veronica Roth Says "All the Pressing Questions That You Have Will Be Answered" in Allegiant". POPSUGAR Entertainment. Retrieved 2014-03-27. 
  9. ^ Nolan, Abby (March 2012). "The American Prospect". The American Prospect. Retrieved 16 May 2013. 
  10. ^ a b Garcia, Antero (2013-10-11). "Chapter 3: Outsiders?". Critical Foundations in Young Adult Literature: Challenging Genres. Sense Publishers. pp. 71–72. ISBN 978-94-6209-396-6. 
  11. ^ Burrit, Devin (August 2011). "Roth, Veronica. Divergent". Voice of Youth Advocates. Retrieved 16 May 2013. 
  12. ^ a b "Divergent". Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved 28 December 2012. 
  13. ^ a b c Kraus, Daniel (1 Mar 2011). "Divergent". Booklist: 56. 
  14. ^ Backhaus, Abrielle. "Book Review: Divergent". Royal Purple News. Retrieved 2014-03-27. 
  15. ^ a b c d Curry, Alice (2013). "Knowledge: Navigating the Visual Ecology—Information Literacy and the 'Knowledgescape' in Young Adult Fiction.". (Re) imagining the World. Springer Berlin Heidelberg. pp. 15–26. ISBN 978-3-642-36760-1. 
  16. ^ "Children's Book Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth., HarperCollins/Tegen, $17.99 (496p) ISBN 978-0-06-202402-2". Publishers Weekly. 05/01/2011. Retrieved 2014-03-25. 
  17. ^ Roth, Veronica. "Acknowledgements". Divergent. Katherine Teegan Books, 2011. EPub.
  18. ^ a b c Hoyle, K. B. "Review: Divergent Trilogy". Book Reviews. The Gospel Coalition. Retrieved 2014-03-27. 
  19. ^ a b Early, Sherry (July 7, 2011). "Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth". Break Point. Retrieved March 27, 2014. 
  20. ^ a b Edelstein, David. "Edelstein on Divergent: Entertaining, If You Ignore the Subtext". Retrieved 2014-04-02. 
  21. ^ Dominus, Susan (12 May 2011). "In This Dystopia, Teens Must Choose Wisely". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 December 2012. 
  22. ^ Brissey, Breia (24 June 2011). "Divergent". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 28 December 2012. 
  23. ^ Angulo Chen, Sandie. "Divergent". Common Sense Media. Retrieved 28 December 2012. 
  24. ^ "Best Sellers" (for the week ending May 7, 2011). The New York Times Book Review. May 22, 2011. Retrieved March 26, 2014.
  25. ^ "Best Sellers". The New York Times Book Review. July 31, 2011.
  26. ^ "Best Sellers". The New York Times Book Review. December 9, 2012.
  27. ^ "Best Sellers". The New York Times Book Review. August 26, 2012.
  28. ^ Yin, Maryann (December 6, 2012). "NYT Creates Separate Middle Grade & YA Bestsellers Lists". GalleyCat. Retrieved June 28, 2013. 
  29. ^ "Best Sellers". The New York Times Book Review. December 16, 2012.
  30. ^ "Best Sellers". The New York Times Book Review. January 27, 2013.
  31. ^ Filipponi, Pietro (March 15, 2013). "Downton Abbey Star Theo James Joins Shailene Woodley in Young Adult Adaptation DIVERGENT". Gotham News. Retrieved March 26, 2014. 
  32. ^ "Winners of the 2011 Goodreads Choice Awards". Goodreads.com. Retrieved 6 March 2013. 
  33. ^ "Goodreads Choice Awards Announced; Divergent Voted Favorite Book of 2011". Retrieved 3 September 2013. 
  34. ^ "Divergent leads list of teens' Top Ten". American Library Association Magazine. Retrieved 14 May 2013. 
  35. ^ Siegel, Tatiana; Kit, Borys (March 15, 2013). "'Downton Abbey's' Theo James Nabs Male Lead in Summit's 'Divergent'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved June 28, 2013. 
  36. ^ Kit, Borys; Siegel, Tatiana (March 11, 2013). "Maggie Q, Zoe Kravitz and Ansel Elgort Join 'Divergent' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved March 11, 2013. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]