November in Chicago is always a very uncertain time. It can be warm and sunny, or it can be frigidly cold and snowing. November 2011 was a extremely cold time. I was in Chicago for a long weekend and wanted something to read. I left the cold streets of Chicago and entered a bookstore on the outskirts of downtown. One of the employees asked if I needed help, and I explained that I was a high school English teacher from California, and I wanted to read something that took place in Chicago.
Divergent. I bought the book, walked to the train, and started reading on the subway. The book was unlike any other YA fiction I had read. Yes, there were some similar characteristics:
- Dystopian future (a la The Hunger Games). Check.
- Strong adolescent protagonist. Check
- Impossible love (a la every Twilight book ever). Check check!
However, Divergent takes a deeper dive into society and humanity than these other books. It asks questions about the ideals upon which society is built. It celebrates the complexity of humanity and the fact that it is impossible to squish any of us into a single box. In the book, the characters are defined by a single characteristic: Smart, brave, honest, selfless, or peaceful. These characteristics are the dividing lines of society, and once a person is initiated into a faction, that person is stuck. But the best among us are smart AND brave AND honest AND selfless AND peaceful. So how does one fit into a society where he or she represents all of these characteristics and can't fit into one single box?
Philosophical discussions aside, Divergent is a fun book full of fights, mind control, dangerous situations, and a whole lot of surprises. This is not a book one puts down easily, and it is not a book one forgets easily.
--Mr. Matt Thomas, Associate Principal