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A novel by Veronica Roth
(2013, Katherine Tegen Books)

Divergent, book 3

Finally able to go outside the city, Tris and Four find that their lives have been part of a large experiment to restore the genetically pure.


+ -- First reading (paperback)
July 18th to 27th, 2018


The entire premise of the second half of the book is based on an unverified assumption, and that really annoyed me. If they could get the serum into the city, then why does everyone believe so easily that it couldn’t be smuggled out -that it had to be developed by these mean people who only care about the genetically pure? It was a story of how people can get caught up in their own focused world, like the positive reinforcement of social media, being surrounded by like-minded people, which validates the way you think. In this case, it was a runaway effect, and the Bureau was caught up in it, relegating people with damaged genes to second class. However, it never dealt with the larger issue of how much more violent the wars of the damaged might have been, compared to what happened before. Will the world be a better place with humanity as it is, or would it be better with only the genetically pure? The book advocates tolerance for all, which I support, but it does end up diluting the population, depending on your values. As for Tris and Four, I liked their journeys, despite the faulty assumptions. I didn’t expect the end result, but it makes complete sense for the character arc.

Spoiler review:

The final book in the Divergent series is completely different from what came before. It's an origin story, but it takes the same fight as in the previous books to the outside world.

Once again, the movie had a completely different take than the book, and except for a couple of milestones, the movie doesn't cover the book at all. If they'd just done the book as-is, I'm sure it would have been a hit. As it turned out, when they turned it into an action movie, they destroyed the essence of what everyone loved so much about the books, and it was a dud.

Tris and Tobias and a bunch of others leave the city, not wanting to be under the thumb of the factionless and Tobias' mother. The rest of the book takes place at the Bureau for Genetic Restoration. The history of the city is revealed at last -Chicago was an experiment, designed to find the pure human genes from before the genetic enhancement experiments caused psychopaths who pretty much destroyed the world. It's like Khan from Star Trek II, bred with more violent tendencies in addition to the desired traits. War broke out, and most cities were destroyed. Now the government is trying to restore humans to their former state. It's not working, but Chicago is their best bet yet. Pure Divergents have been found, and it's a template for future experiments.

Naturally, Tris has a big problem with separating people into genetically pure and genetically deficient (GDs). The latter have become second-class citizens, in reality if not in name. Tris learns that her mother came from outside the city. First, back in Divergent, she learned that her mother wasn't from Abnegation, but Dauntless. Now, she learns that her mother was an orphan from the slums of the genetically deficient, rescued by the director of the Institute, and sent into the city to kill Jeanine's predecessor. Only because she had tattoos, she was sent into Dauntless, which seems like a pretty thin excuse. How did they not know she was a plant? She hadn't grown up in Dauntless -nobody would know her -how would she be accepted? No explanation was given.

Instead of transferring to Erudite as planned, she fell in love with Tris' father, and transferred to Abnegation instead. Apparently she had contact with the outside world often during her life.

While this turns Tris' life upside down, it's the treatment of GDs that upsets her most. Especially since Tobias is not really Divergent, as they were led to believe. Christina was never Divergent, which means she's a GD, while Uriah is pure Divergent.

Tobias, feeling left out, falls in with a group of rebels who are trying to shut down the search for pure genes, because they feel the same way that Tris does. They use as proof some video of wars prior to the genetic modifications. The Bureau claims that the GD caused all the wars, and apparently the population has been led to believe that before the GD, humanity was a bunch of saints. They may have used that lie to justify themselves in the early years, when humanity was on the brink of extinction, but now they believe their own lies. The problem is that their cause is a noble one, but they went about it the wrong way. I don't have an answer, because the issue is very complex. Humanity needs to rebuild, and move forward, not dwell on the mistakes of the past. Allow for the fact that humanity is now different from what it was. The GDs might be to blame for the destruction, but all of humanity needs to join together to rebuild.

Tris starts to believe the lie, that her pure genes are required to improve humanity, but then she discovers that the control serum that Jeanine used in the previous books was developed here. From my point of view, she didn't have enough proof. Everyone kept saying that it had to be developed at the Bureau, as there was no way it could be smuggled out for them to find it here. But that's not true at all! Jeanine obviously had contact with the Bureau, and Tris' mother escaped to give reports, at the very least. Tori's brother, who was Divergent, escaped the city permanently. Without actually asking the Director, or tracing its development, how can she justifiably launch a campaign against the Bureau?

Tobias disables security so that the GDs from outside can enter the Bureau to steal some serum, and Uriah dies in the attack, which is more vicious than Tobias thought it would be. He and Tris stop talking -again.

Tris and her brother kind of forgive each other, especially when they are given their mothers' journal. They form a plan to steal the serums and deploy the memory one inside the Bureau. It's a telling moment about her character when Tris doesn't object to her brother going to steal the serum -a death sentence, especially since he isn't trained in self-defense.

They also discover that with Tobias' mother in charge, and the situation deteriorating within the city, the Bureau intends to reset the experiment, using the memory serum to wipe everyone's memories, and starting again with the factions. Tobias volunteers to lead the effort to rescue some of the people in case Tris and her brother are too late -and he wants to resolve the situation peacefully, giving either his mother or father the memory serum, apologizing to Zeke and Uriah's mother for his death.

Finally, after almost three entire books of hinting, Tris and Tobias get back together and make love. It's subtle, but satisfying, and it should have been a hint of what was to come.

The book's narrative structure changed from the previous ones -here, we get the story not just from Tris' point of view, but Tobias' also. Since both their actions are important, and they are separated so often, we need both their voices. But I wasn't expecting the risk the author took by killing off the main character. The last time Tris and Tobias see each other is the morning after they make love for the first -and last- time.

Tobias' story was actually more interesting, as he deceives the others so he can get to his mother, even though he initially thinks he'll give the serum to Marcus. But he can't make himself inject his mother, who eventually, after seeing his love, injects herself. Uriah's parents are also targeted for extraction, as are Christina's. It turns out not to be necessary, though, because Tris has foiled the plan to cover the city with an airborne version that would wipe everyone's memories. At the last minute, she realizes how selfish she was being, that she couldn't let her brother commit suicide, especially since she was Divergent, and could probably survive the Death Serum. She does, but is shot by the Director as she releases the memory serum into the air of the compound.

I still don't see how their efforts could work, as the Bureau must have satellite compounds with backups and other people who know their plans. Just wiping the memories of the people here can't be enough. But maybe it's just enough to get things started. The new world, for those in Chicago at least, is one of choices.

There was another very interesting choice made by a side character. Peter is not a nice person, and we saw that throughout Divergent, Insurgent, and now Allegiant, in the way he treated Tris and the other initiates. It's subtle sometimes, and blatantly obvious at others. When he goes on the mission to rescue people from Chicago, he has one purpose in mind -to become a better person. He knows he's mean, and can't do anything about it -so he insists that Tobias give him the memory serum, so that he can start over and be given the chance to be a better man.

Of course everybody mourns Tris at the end, and maybe she'll become a symbol of hope for the rest of the country -or the world. The book doesn't press into the future, and I don't see how they can achieve restitution in their lifetimes, but it would still be interesting to see how Tris's sacrifice might inspire them. Humanity is troubled, whether GD or pure. But there is hope -there must be hope.


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