In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, 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 to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating 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 a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.
Debut author Veronica Roth bursts onto the literary scene with the first book in the Divergent series—dystopian thrillers filled with electrifying decisions, heartbreaking betrayals, stunning consequences, and unexpected romance.
Divergent was a good book, but I didn't feel it was as great as its hype. Don't get me wrong, it was a great start. I loved how Tris was set up as a character, and the world created was interesting and realistic, and I could see the roots of the society in the issues of modern society. I did feel, however, that in the "moralistic" structure of the society the author was rather preachy and overt in her judgement of the values of each segment of society, especially in her placement of religion in the abnegation sector and making the Erudite the bad guys. Tris was well-written, and I liked how she followed her heart and was encouraged by her mother even though her father tried to abandon her for thinking independently. Dauntless society and training was the best part of the book. It was a great mix of military training gone bad with middle school politics and competitiveness mixed in. I liked how I could see the roots of team-building exercises and how they were perverted by the competitive hierarchy. All of the student characters in this part were great, and I liked how each one dealt with the harshness of Dauntless differently and how not all were able to cope sufficiently. Four was a great teacher, if a little young, and he seemed to be concerned with his students and making them fit in to Dauntless as well as giving the community the best soldiers that could be made out of each person. Four and Tris was one of the rare times when I really didn't mind a relationship between a teacher and a student, perhaps because they were so close in age, or perhaps because it was handled in a discreet, balanced way that didn't seem to interfere with either Tris's school or Four's job.
The plotting throughout the training was strong, and I liked the subtle foreshadowing to the climax. However, the climax was my major issue with this book. The previous parts of the book were so well written, but it seems as if the writer ran out of ideas, or space, or doesn't understand how war happens because the ending was very glossy and off-hand. People died, but Tris (and through her, us as the reader) didn't really feel anything about it, a style that came off as not caring rather than urgently callous. Even her father's redemption and sacrifice didn't have the impact I feel it should have. I suspect a final chapter where Tris dealt with her feelings of seeing so many people she cared for killed would have helped a lot, but I think what it really needed was a better internal dialogue for Tris so we could see her being torn over people dying rather than not caring. I don't think this was a complete detraction from the quality of the rest of the book, though, just a middling flaw. If this book gets a sequel I will be delighted to get it, because I think Roth is a good writer working her way to being great and I am confident that her plotting issues can be overcome with a little more practice.