This book is the first installment of a trilogy by Veronica Roth, and my favorite dystopian novel since The Hunger Games. The second book, Insurgent, is also available now, and the third book, yet untitled, is due out this fall.
Synopsis: Set in futuristic, post-apocalyptic Chicago, the entire society is divided into five factions based on what each person thinks is to blame for the faults of humanity: the Erudite believe that ignorance is to blame; Abnegation, selfishness; Candor, dishonesty; Amity, aggression; Dauntless, cowardice. Each faction lives and works together in separate communities.
The main character is 16-year-old Beatrice, later called Tris, Prior. At the age of sixteen every person in Chicago takes an aptitude test to determine which faction he or she would be best suited for; the novel begins as Tris, who grew up in Abnegation, takes her test, which is a simulation testing her reactions to different scenarios. Her results are inconclusive as she has aptitude for three different factions. The administrator of the test tells Tris that she is “divergent,” but does not specify what that means, only telling Tris that she should never tell anyone about her results for her own safety.
When it comes time to choose a faction, Tris struggles with whether or not to switch factions; if she does so, she must leave her family behind. Ultimately, she chooses Dauntless, and is thrust into an unexpected competition for the right to become a member of the faction–which is much more difficult to do than she ever imagined. Her life is further complicated by one of her instructors, the mysterious, sometimes harsh Four, whom she begins to develop feelings for.
During her training, Tris and Four begin to uncover a plot that could mean a war between the factions and the death of everyone Tris cares about.
What’s great about this book: Divergent is one of those novels that never allows the reader to be bored for an instant. It’s fast-paced and well-plotted, and the climax came up so quickly that I didn’t even know what hit me. The characters are also believable, particularly Four. I loved that he was not another wimpy, unrealistically romantic guy who’s “everything a girl could hope for” (*cough* Edward Cullen *cough*). He’s a guy with layers, and Tris never seems to uncover all of them. Like most dystopian novels, it also has depth, as the characters question what’s right and what’s wrong; this one has the added element of a war between ideals among the factions. Overall, a great book–not quite up to the standard for this genre that The Hunger Games set, but pretty dang close.
What’s not so great about this book: The only thing I didn’t like about this book was how similar Tris’s character is to Katniss (though if you haven’t read The Hunger Games, that won’t matter to you at all). Tris is a great, strong female lead character, but she’s already been done.
Parental Guide: Since I’m reviewing YA books, I thought I’d include a Parental Guide for any parents looking into buying any of these books for their kids.
Sex: While Tris and Four never actually have sex, there is some sexual content, including allusions and direct reference to sex, and a lot of making out. Tris is also touched inappropriately without her consent (not raped, just touched). Though I’m not currently reviewing the sequel to this book, I will say for any parent thinking of getting this for his kid that the sexual content increases in Insurgent.
Alcohol/Drugs/Partying: There is a short part where Four is drunk. I can’t remember if there was anything else.
Language: There is very little language from what I recall.
Violence: It’s a dystopian YA novel. Of course there’s plenty of violence. The entire Dauntless initiation process includes the initiates fighting each other for higher rankings–some of said fights are described in detail. A guy is stabbed in the eye with a butterknife, there’s a couple of fistfights (Tris is pretty fiesty), and the end includes a nice battle scene where a lot of people get shot. Someone tries to kill Tris multiple times and in several different ways. There are also violent and disturbing scenes that take place in a simulation, including an abusive parent hitting his child with a belt.
Would I recommend this book? Absolutely, if you like this genre. If you’re a Hunger Games fan, this might help with your post-Games depression. Even if you haven’t read The Hunger Games, this truly is a great book.
Trivia: They are making this book into a movie due to come out in March 2014. Shailene Woodley (The Secret Life of the American Teenager) is to play Tris. Kate Winslet has also been casted, though for which role it has not been revealed (Tris’s mom and the evil Jeannine are the only two adult woman roles, so I’d have to assume it would be one of those. Oh, and Tori, but somehow I can’t see Kate Winslet playing her). Source: imbd.com
Publishing Info: Katherine Tegen Books, 2011