The Divergent Series ignited my love for dystopian novels as a child, and readers can become wrapped up in the story again through the real cities that inspired the author.
Frequently, the books I read leave a lasting impact or the way I consume literature. The Will to Change by Bell Hooks, an analysis on men, masculinity, and relationships was the first book to move me to tears. Hooks’ thoughtful remarks on how patriarchy influences our most intimate relationships felt incredibly profound as I traveled through the novel. The Warriors series by Erin Hunter introduced me to the fantasy genre, which expanded my options as a reader.
The Divergent series holds a very special place in my heart (and on my shelf,) because it revealed how books can create community. The lore, main character’s pursuit of the truth about her society, and subtle threads of romance launched my friends and I into a world we never wanted to leave. We imagined ourselves living in our desired factions, created nicknames for each other, and even dressed like our favorite characters to watch the movie adaptation in theaters.
Eventually, the hype we cultivated around these books died down, but those weeks we spent captivated by our imagination helped to cultivate friendships that lasted throughout and beyond high school.
This series ignited my love for dystopian novels as a child, and readers can become wrapped up in the story again through the real cities that inspired the author.
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
The first book, Divergent, opens in the remains of a post-apocalyptic Chicago. What is left of war-torn human society has been divided into four factions – Amity, Dauntless, Erudite, Abnegation, and Candor. Each represents a characteristic deemed valuable and necessary for peace, and citizens are required to exemplify these values to the highest standard.
Unlike Tris, readers can enjoy the unique blend of architecture, culture, and food of a preapocalyptic Chicago.
As the reader follows her efforts to forge her place in the Dauntless faction, one landmark that plays a significant part in her character development is the Handcock building. In the book, the building is abandoned, tagged with graffiti, and most often used for the zipline attached to its side. Chicago-natives likely will recognize this as the John Hancock Center, a multipurpose building that houses office space, businesses, and tourist attractions. Visitors can also enjoy the view from the 94th floor of the skyline and city with the 360 Chicago Experience.
In the second and third books, Insurgent and Allegiant, readers discover that Chicago is a social experiment designed by the Bureau of Genetic Welfare to correct genetic damage caused by government experiments intended to rid people of unwanted characteristics like violence, cowardice, and dishonesty. The Bureau is able to monitor and control the experiment from its headquarter in the former Chicago’s O’Hare airport.
Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S
Though Chicago is the backdrop for the majority of the novel, Tris eventually discovers that the Bureau of Genetic Welfare has orchestrated other experiments in neighboring cities. One that is mentioned by name is the Indianapolis experiment which is said to have failed because the people did not divide into separate factions.
Modern-day Indianapolis is a utopia for sports enthusiasts, particularly racing fans. The largest and highest-attended racing events in the world are held here, including the Indy 500, the Brickyard 400, and once the U.S. Grand Prix Formula One race, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Visitors can attend exciting events or tour the track and museum for a deeper look into its history.