Genre: Young Adult Dystopian
Series: Divergent #1
In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue–Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is–she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.
During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are–and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, Tris also learns that her secret might help her save the ones she loves . . . or it might destroy her.
Okay, so I knew I had to read this before the movie came out, and I loved the Hunger Games, so I had high hopes. Did I love it as much as I loved The Hunger Games? No. (Though I still gave two books to go!) Was it a really good story? Yes. The Chicago setting was excellent. I spent an accidental five hours in Chicago once (thankfully not during winter) and it is a beautiful, interesting place. I was constantly curious about the world outside the city, and hopefully we’ ll get more of that in the next two books. I also want to know why the lakes dried up. Having seen them in person, the imagery of empty marshland being all that’s left was haunting.
I was lucky enough to read the special edition paperback, which had all sorts of fun extra features like author interviews and a playlist, but the best feature was definitely the Faction Manifestos. I read these before I started the novel for some background and was glad I did. Unfortunately, the faction I would fit in best, Amity, was the one mentioned least in Divergent. Probably because Tris would never pick it. Early in the book, she irritatingly says something like “but I could never be Amity”. Like it should be obvious. Later on, you realize that given her personality, Tris would never fit in there, but at the time the brush-off bothered me. I wish my favorite faction wasn’t dismissed so easily.
Of course, Tris herself drove me nuts because we are absolutely nothing alike. At one point she says “I could never be attracted to someone so weak” and I just wanted to shake her. Like wow, who are you to judge? Dauntless is absolutely the last faction I’d ever chose, and of course that’s the one whose initiation process we get to see up close. I could understand the comradeship that would form, and I acknowledge that once Dauntless was more about protecting people and less about suicidally stupid, pointless risks, but still. Not my favorite faction. Thankfully I did like that character of Four. At one point, Tris expresses that she likes him even though he isn’t particularly gentle or kind (another line that had me rolling my eyes at her), but I think she got it wrong. At least Four has legitimate reasons for his hardness, and beneath it he was a really good person.
I found the world of Divergent rich and fascinating, but I kind of wish I could have explored it though a different character, in a different faction. I never really clicked with Dauntless and Tris got on my nerves repeatedly. She IS selfish, and even arrogant. Thankfully she does acknowledge her mistakes and grows a bit especially after the events towards the end of the book. I hope we see lots more growth to come. All in all, a promising start to a series that explores complex issues of identity and virtue.