Divergent, Book 1

Book review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Divergent, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Exciting, violent dystopian thriller is original, addictive.
Parents recommendPopular with kids

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 48 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 338 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The author includes historical tidbits about real Chicago landmarks and challenges readers to think about what personal attributes are necessary for a cohesive society to succeed in peace.

Positive Messages

The lead characters deal with important issues about    identity and controlling societies. They struggle with what it really means to be selfless, brave, smart, and kind.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Tris doubts herself sometimes but taps into her bravery and ingrained selflessness to protect others even when she doesn't realize it. Calm Four encourages Tris to use her upbringing's focus on selflessness to be even more courageous. Tris and Four are a good role model for a teen relationship; they treat each other as equals, defend each other (not just him defending her), and work through their problems with open, honest conversations. They also take their time with the romance and don't play games with each other.   

Violence

Some Dauntless are sadistic and vicious. People routinely have to fight each other -- regardless of size or gender -- and every character is beaten and bloodied at least once. Several characters die: one commits suicide by throwing himself off a ledge into rapids; one falls by accident in the gap between a train and a roof; and others are shot dead during an armed ambush. Two characters are nearly choked to death, and during training, a few characters have to visit the Infirmary due to their injuries. During one physical assault, two guys start groping a girl's chest and make rude comments about her body. In a calculated move, three initiates stab the first-ranked competitor in the eye.

Sex

Mostly lingering, intense looks, hand holding, and hugs, but toward the end of the book, there's kissing. Inexperienced Tris has a panic attack about Four's possible expectations for sex. In one scene, they kiss passionately (and in bed) after he removes his shirt. They admit they "want" each other, but vaguely agree to wait for "someday." Slightly disturbing jokes are made about Tris' petite size. A couple of guys ask her if she's 16 or really 12.

Language

Insults like "idiot," "stupid," "loser," "jerk," "shut up," "freak," and the pejorative nickname for Abnegation members, "Stiff."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The Dauntless drink unspecified alcohol at parties, dinner, and in one scene Four is seen looking tipsy.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this dystopian teen novel is the first of a trilogy. It includes the markers of the genre, including fantasy violence, a fractured society, Big Brother-esque monitoring, as well as romance. The 16-year-old protagonist chooses to live in the "brave" faction, where members routinely try to out-do each other physically and recklessly act like daredevils to prove their fearlessness. The initiation process is brutal and bloody, and kills or seriously injures a few characters. Violence escalates as the end of the book approaches, culminating in a blood bath. The romance is sweet and progresses from lingering looks to a few kissing sessions, but there's no sex and characters express fear of going too far, too fast. Like The Hunger Games heroine Katniss Everdeen, Tris Prior is a strong, generous, and beautifully flawed female protagonist.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byalvismemories June 1, 2012

Great book, more approprate for tweens than Hunger games by FAR!!

I am shocked and disappointed by the number of young children ages 8-13 who are reading the hunger games. It is not only violent but they type of violence is u... Continue reading
Parent of a 9 and 11 year old Written bytande August 16, 2012

Good story ruined by endless violence.

My 11 year old read Divergent just before I did for a moms and daughters book club and I found the violence really disturbing. Its the first book that I wish s... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old December 26, 2013

Might be my new favourite book!

I read this book mainly because I heard it was similar to the Hunger Games (which I loved) and i think that Divergent is just as good if not better :) I am not... Continue reading
Kid, 10 years old August 31, 2014

Nice book :)

So, Divergent is far better when it comes to violence and the Hunger Games. There's an iffy amount of violence. The only "sex related" parts that... Continue reading

What's the story?

In the Chicago of the distant future, society has willingly segregated itself into five "factions:" Abnegation (the selfless), Amity (the kind), Candor (the honest), Dauntless (the brave), and Erudite (the intelligent). All 16-year-olds take an aptitude test revealing their true faction and then choose one to join -- regardless of which one they were born into. When Abnegation-born Beatrice Prior's results are inconclusive, her tester informs her she's a "divergent" and should never mention her results to anyone. Believing herself too selfish to be any good in Abnegation, she chooses Dauntless, where she rechristens herself Tris. During the dangerous bloody Dauntless initiation process, she develops feelings for her handsome, mysterious instructor Four, who never fails to challenge her to perform her best, even as others grow jealous of her unexpected skills. And Tris beings to realize being a Divergent has both advantages and disadvantages.

Is it any good?

Roth, who wrote the book as a college student, has earned a tremendous amount of first book buzz, and the hype is well-deserved. She uses some devices that fans of dystopian novels will recognize -- a compartmentalized society, a misfit protagonist, dangerous secrets, and a cliffhanger ending -- but still manages to create an unstoppable plot that's remarkably original. Tris is a refreshingly smart and self-possessed 16-year-old protagonist, and readers will fall in love with her leading man right along with her. But the romance, while as swoon-worthy and fluttery as you'd expect from a teen novel, is actually secondary to the book's deep messages about identity and controlling societies. This is an impressive and provoking start to what should be a fascinating series.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why so many books are coming out about teens growing up in dangerous futuristic societies, like Matched or The Hunger Games. Is the dystopian genre becoming overcrowded? What does this book have in common with other books you've read?

  • What did you think of the level of violence here? Does the fantasy setting make it easier to handle -- or are there details that you found disturbing? Is violence in books different than in other media, like movies or television shows? 

Book details

For kids who love fantasy

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