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A dystopian guide for young people: Divergent by Veronica Roth

You might read this title and think I've lost my marbles - how can young people be inspired by a dystopian guide? Or is this an article about guiding young people through writing dystopian books? Nope, it's not. So sorry for the unclear title, in all honesty, I wasn't sure what to call it but here we are.

Divergent header

I've recently read Divergent by Veronica Roth for the first time and yes, I know it's taken me twelve years. But as I was reading this highly popular young adult dystopian, it struck me that Roth was almost writing a guide for young people through the dystopian world of a futuristic Chicago. There are three key lessons or concepts that I noticed but I am sure there are loads more.

Have you read Divergent and what did you think it had to say about the way we live?

Here are my thoughts:

Dystopian concept 1: The Breaking Away

There is a very clear correlation of experience between Tris Prior and every teenager. Well, other than the fact they are both teenagers - it is the breaking away from the parents. All of us experience this breaking away, whether it's when we move out or become financially independent but when we grow into adulthood, we will naturally leave our parents. When Tris chooses Dauntless, she makes the decision to leave her parents. We then have the privilege to be fascinated with how she deals with the anxiety and excitement of that decision. As we see her character develop, she learns that she cannot be tied to them, but must feel empowered to make her own decisions, whether they are right or wrong. That's part of (unfortunately) being an adult - we must deal with own mistakes and choose to make opportunities from them. I really enjoyed that relatable aspect of Tris' lifestage.

Dystopian concept 2: The Underestimated Female Protagonist

We can't talk about Divergent or any young adult dystopian with a main female character without talking about this trope. Tris is severely underestimated and we see her fight against others' opinions of her and prove that she is strong enough to face the challenges that come her way. One of the best moments in the book and the film is when Peter proudly proclaims 'You're not going to shoot me' and she quips back, 'Why does everyone keep saying that?' and then shoots him in the leg. Hilarious. But all the way through the story, she is labelled as the 'stiff' - as being soft and as if she doesn't belong. Yet Tris tests the boundaries and doesn't let her circumstances stop her from doing what she believes is right.

Dystopian concept 3: The Strive to be Divergent

And here comes my favourite moment in the book (and the film and not because Theo James takes his top off). Yet through the book and the series, the idea of being Divergent is shamed and of course, Veronica Roth is making the point that too much of one trait can be dangerous. Being Divergent puts you in the best position to face any challenge life throws at you. This is similar to concepts presented in Aristotle's Doctrine of the Mean but I don't want to get too philosophical.

In an intimate moment, we see Four telling Tris that: 'I want to be brave, and selfless, and smart, and kind, and honest.'

I found myself questioning - how can I be all of those things? Which of them do I struggle with and how can I improve?

So, there you have it, three areas that I think Divergent taps into when it comes to breaking societal norms, personal development and well-being.

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