I absolutely loved Divergent. I did not love the sequels, but the first book was really amazing. The Hunger Games was the same way. Same with The Matrix. I wish I had just stopped at the end of each of those creative works and not ruined them with their sequels.
When I reserved Carve the Mark at the library, I didn’t realize it was by Veronica Roth. Rather, I should say that I didn’t realize Veronica Roth was the author of Divergent. I say all this to say that I didn’t read this because of familiarity with the author, I read it because it was on all the lists and HYPE! So let’s get to it.
We are in a universe with a ribbon called the current that stretches through the galaxy. Different people treat the current in different ways, but the story focuses on the planet Thuvhe which is divided by the Thuvhites and the Shotet people. The Shotet are kind of outcasts; they speak only their own language, they are a people without a home, and they go on sojourns to scavenge from other planets to give new life to discarded things.
The current gives all people current gifts, which are varied and unique. One current gift is to be an oracle, and oracles help to determine the future as well as the fates of certain people. The families that these people come from are called “fate-favored” families. A person only has a fate when visions of their future show up the same over and over again to the oracles. These fates cause an upheaval on Thuvhe, and the fate-favored children of the Kereseth family are stolen by the ruling family of the Shotet, and so our conflict and story begin.
Roth’s new book is a welcome change from other YA books I’ve been reading, in that while there is a small love story, it’s not the central idea. We’re asked what we are willing to do under stress, what we would do when there is no other choice, how we would manipulate others to do what we want even when we come from a position of less power. I loved that Roth made me wonder what I would be willing to do for family, and when it’s a better choice to work against family or let them go. Perhaps the great theme in this book that would be very “teachable moment” worthy is the idea that preconceived notions can be true, but are often reinforced by your environment and you should always be ready to question those ideas to be able to let in new perspectives, ideas, and relationships.
I think this is one of those books I would have a class of students read because there are so many important ideas that apply to their world today. How do we live alongside others with different traditions, especially when those traditions may seem brutal or strange to us? How do we honor differences while coexisting? How do we fight the sociological urge to identify and exclude the “other” to avoid unnecessary conflict? How do we make connections and cross the divide to keep the entirety of society whole? This book would be absolutely fabulous in a high school sociology class (or really a college one too, I mean YA is really for everyone).
The only caution because we’re doing all this trigger warning stuff now is that one of the Shotet traditions is to “carve the mark” when they make a kill or experience a loss. This involves carving a line on their arm and then painting over it with special sealing cream. So self-mutilation? but really it’s not gruesome, it’s presented in a very ritualistic and brief way whenever it happens. Just a heads up.
So go get Carve the Mark. It was enjoyable and a nice solid read.