The Divergent Series by Veronica Roth is a thrilling narrative of a 16 year-old girl and her battle for self-identity. Told in a first-person present-tense voice, the character Beatrice Prior is reminiscent of Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games. However, unlike Katniss, Beatrice or Tris, begins by making a self-focused choice and must gradually learn self-sacrifice through the plot of the three book series.
There are several big ideas in this book worth chewing on, but I have some reservations about recommending this book for teens (much less younger kids). Let me lay out the positive and negative aspects of this series so you can make a better decision (or, at the least, be informed) about if your child should read this series.
- Violence. There are several disturbing images, though they are not too graphically described. These include a boy who was knifed in the eye and a bloated body post suicide, as well as multiple fight scenes (both hand-to-hand and with guns) and several resulting deaths.
- Revenge. Tris is full of revengeful thoughts for those who have hurt her or the ones she loves, and though she rarely acts out on them, we hear her inner narrative.
- Lying. The ability to lie is viewed as laudable by the main character (though not all characters), and she does a fair amount of it, albeit usually to protect herself or others.
- Sensuality. This is my primary reason for not wanting to recommend this book to teens (or tweens) who are already overly hormonal. While it is unclear if the relationship is fully consummated, every touch and sensation are described with titillating detail (much more graphically than the violence). This includes kissing, laying in bed, touching under clothes, and pressing bodies together.
Other factors you may want to be aware of that exist in this series: suicide and homosexuality.
- Big Ideas. This book will make you think. It might even make your kid look up words in the dictionary (the names of the five Factions that society is broken into are all archaic words for different virtues: Candor, Abnegation, Dauntless, Erudite, and Amity). When are these qualities virtues and when are they taken to the extreme? What is the human condition?
- Self-sacrifice. This is a huge theme in the books, and really, the greatest gift is has to offer its reader. Our society in general, and youth in particular, are so self-focused that this is a very appropriate and poignant message.
- Independence. An admirable quality about the main character is her ability to make the hard choice when it has to be made, regardless of what others will think.
So, now you have my take. I hope this helps you make an informed decision about whether to allow your child to read this series or gives you ideas of how to discuss it with them.
Of course, as parents, we all need to have times when we loosen our control and allow our children to prepare to make decisions and deal with more mature subject matter. If this is where you find yourself with your child and choose to allow her to read the Divergent series, I have prepared a discussion guide for the series as a whole that you may find helpful. Click the link below to download it.
If your tween is looking for a great (appropriate) dystopian series, try The City of Ember.
Would you allow your child to read Divergent? I’d love to know why or why not.