This is a YA book that I've heard a lot of hype about, but hadn't gotten around to reading. A friend in the ward so highly praised it that I finally went and placed a hold on it at the library. My number came up a lot sooner than expected and I picked it up and read it in about 2 days. It's not a short book, but it is a quick read.
Divergent belongs in the category of dystopian fiction-- the world, or perhaps only the U.S., or perhaps only Chicago, IL, has presumably been through some sort of catastrophe or breaking of society as we now know it. I say this because the setting is a future Chicago and references are made to Chicago landmarks, but there's isn't mention of anywhere else or whether the same social structure exists elsewhere.
This is one of the only issues I had with the book, but it's a fairly prominent issue and one that keep the book from being, for me, fantastic. I think books in this category need to have a solid foundation. For one, I want to know more of the why and how and when and, in this case, the what, that caused the societal breakdown and eventual rebuilding. Here, there is literally nothing. Perhaps these details are addressed in the other books, but if that is so I would have liked Roth to at least hint of that. As is, it's way too conspicuously absent for my taste.
To continue with the set-up, in this future Chicago, society is divided into factions: Abnegation, Erudite, Candor, Amity, and Dauntless. After the breaking of whatever sort occurred, people divided up into these factions based on which human flaw they believed led to the downfall. E.g., members of Abnegation believe that selfishness was at the root of the downfall of society, and thus the faction now holds selflessness above all. Erudite believes that ignorance was the problem, so they value knowledge. Candor-- honesty. Amity-- peace. Dauntless-- bravery.
Each faction is responsible for certain jobs in the city, but this isn't explained super well. Most important to this discussion are Abnegation and Dauntless, which take care of volunteer work/cleaning and rebuilding, and security/protection, respectively. Truth be told, it seems that Dauntless are more or less the goths you remember from high school, mixed with some UFC and Evil Knievel. (No, really.)
Our main character is Beatrice Prior, a 16 year old girl born and raised Abnegation. The coming-of-age ceremony in this Chicago takes place at 16, when youth take an aptitude test designed to tell them which faction they truly belong in, and then make their choice of which faction they want to join. The test doesn't dictate your choice; it is merely supposed to reveal your true self. Beatrice's aptitude test yields surprising and mysterious results and for several reasons she ends up choosing to leave Abnegation and join Dauntless.
Most of the book deals with the fierce initiation process Beatrice-- now going by Tris-- goes through in the Dauntless compound. Along the way she learns more about herself, her test results, and the true inner workings of society. Things are definitely not what they seem, and it becomes clear that Tris may be one of the few who can make a difference.
I give this book 4.5 stars. I was uncertain through most of it whether I'd really love it or not, but the ending was well done and it came together for me. Although there are some glaring problems for me, I am not letting those affect my rating much because a) it was really fun to read, and b) as I said, the holes may be addressed/explained later. I'll give it a fair shake.
Some of the story was kind of predictable, but I was also taken by surprise more than once. There are some questions I have about Tris' family-- her mom especially-- that I'd really like to be answered in the following books.
The love story involving Tris is not overwhelming-- definitely not the focus of the book-- which I really appreciated, but it also wasn't as well developed as I'd have liked. I get kind of annoyed when two characters are suddenly smitten with each other and the author hasn't really given a lot of foundation. (At least in Twilight you know exactly why Edward is obsessed with Bella-- after all, she's like his own personal brand of heroin.)
This is Roth's first novel and I'm excited to read the second installment, Insurgent, as well as the third that is supposed to come out next fall.