Veronica Roth’s Divergent is an exciting dystopian novel that has, despite its young age, taken the literary world and media by storm. Through the adventures of Tris in a divided, post-apocalyptic Chicago, Roth explores the source of human identity, daring each reader to ask, “What is it, truly, that makes me who I am? Do I get any say?”

Roth introduces to the reader an array of fascinating and complex characters and a society fraught with mistrust and suppression. To include Divergent on the class syllabus is to include a plot of thrilling adventure and discussions of the potent influence of society, government, and the power of unity.

Readers are exposed to just how much impact a corrupt government can have on citizens at an individual level as well as the costs necessary to stand up and make a difference. The faction system is intrusive in their lives, arguably too intrusive, controlling their values, occupations, and even relationships. The government’s questionable amount of power speaks to this day and age’s general distrust towards political authority. As such, readers will surely see that social change is no walk in the park.

Students will undoubtedly relate to Tris’s struggle to find her place in this world and root for her the whole way through.


Key Facts:

  • Recommended Grade Band: 9 – 12
  • Publication Date: 2011
  • Length: 576 pages
  • Lexile Measure: 700L

Divergent is a dystopian novel set in a post-apocalyptic Chicago, which is divided into five factions: Dauntless, which celebrates bravery; Erudite, which emphasizes knowledge; Abnegation, which advocates for selflessness; Amity, which stresses friendship; and Candor, which supports honesty.

At the age of 16, Tris discovers that she is ‘divergent’ – she does not fit neatly into any faction. She decides to join Dauntless, sending her into a whirlwind of governmental corruption, friendship, and self-discovery.

Content warning: Divergent has some mild sexual content.

Your students will love:

  • That the novel features a strong female lead.
  • The budding romance between Tris and instructor Four.
  • Dauntless's bold adventures.

Students may have problems with:

  • The violence and trauma that happens to various Dauntless initiates, as well as the deaths of some characters.

Key Literary Elements & Techniques

  • Dystopia
  • Allusion
  • Metaphor
  • Allegory
  • Imagery
  • Setting
  • Stream of Consciousness

Themes and Motifs

Identity — The novel explores the challenges of establishing a personal identity that doesn’t neatly fit into societal norms.

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Fear and Courage — Characters’ emotional strength is tested as they are forced to face their greatest fears.

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Friendship — Divergent also focuses on the dynamics of adolescent friendship and what it’s like to learn to depend on fellow peers instead of family.

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Society and Class — Order of the factions is what keeps society in Divergent stable and, conversely, corruption of the faction system yields chaos.

Related works:


  • Insurgent
  • Allegiant


  • The New York Times Children's Chapter Book Bestseller
  • Favorite Book of 2011 in Goodreads's Reader's Choice Awards
  • Winner of the Senior category of 2014's Young Reader's Choice Awards
  • One of Publisher Weekly's and Amazon's Best Books of 2011


A film adaptation of the novel debuted in March 2014 and is now available on DVD and Blu-ray. The movie, for the most part, stays true to the plot of the book, but it takes a few minor creative liberties (secondary character deletions, some loss of detail, etc).

External Resources

Available from Prestwick House

You can buy the novel here.

Other Prestwick House Teacher's Guides to Literature

See all our Teacher's Guides to Literature here.