by Veronica Roth
Published: May 2011
Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books
Beatrice "Tris" Prior has reached the fateful age of sixteen, the stage at which teenagers in Veronica Roth's dystopian Chicago must select which of five factions to join for life. Each faction represents a virtue: Candor, Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity, and Erudite. To the surprise of herself and her selfless Abnegation family, she chooses Dauntless, the path of courage. Her choice exposes her to the demanding, violent initiation rites of this group, but it also threatens to expose a personal secret that could place her in mortal danger. Veronica Roth's young adult Divergent trilogy launches with a captivating adventure about love and loyalty playing out under most extreme circumstances.
I avoided this book at first, mainly because I thought it would simply be a spin off of The Hunger Games. There were a lot of comparisons online and having enjoyed The Hunger Games I was hesitant to read a rip off. I am so glad that I finally picked it up. Yes, it is a dystopian series, but for me that is where the similarities end. For me The Hunger Games trilogy felt a bit forced, the idea of creating a special games for the sequel just for Katniss wasn't logical or believable. Divergent though is a much better premise for a series, it ends with action, grief, and hope to carry us into the sequel. But there is no real finish to Divergent. It's more of a beginning to Tri's story.
Roth does a wonderful job in putting us inside Tris's head. Tris is likable and she's faced with a choice that she never expected. She had assumed that she would be a part of her family's Abnegation fraction, but when her qualities are tested, her results are erratic and the tester's nervousness causes Tris to question her place in Abnergation. When her turn to choose comes she leaves them behind forever to join Dauntless. And after she makes her choice, she commits to it. She doesn't waiver in her attempts to earn her place in Dauntless. But what once seems like the noble and courageous path, has become riddled with pride, ruthlessness, greed and a struggle for power. It is in Dauntless that she discovers the reason behind her strange results. She is Divergent. A sixth fraction in which the people are all fractions together. But they must hide from society and are most often put to death in fear that their existence will disrupt the status quo. Tris really struggles to understand herself and what she faces feels authentic.
The supporting characters are as well developed as Tris. They are flawed and their choices have a profound impact on Tris and her belief in their society. They didn't feel placed there to simply fill space. Even Tris's love interest has a solid roll in what is happening, and the love story could even have been taken out, and his part would have been just as important.
The major conflict is entirely believable within the parameters of the setting. That these fractions can survive independently while still depending on each other, and not allow for interaction between them is impossible. Roth shows how the separation causes problems within their world, the fear, the anger, the feelings of superiority are slowly tearing them apart.
The only part that I had a hard time dealing with was the violence. I would definitely not recommend this book for younger readers. Tris and the rest of Dauntless are submerged in an atmosphere of violence. They are in a perpetual battle for life and are expected to physically, mentally and emotionally fight for their place in Dauntless. Tris does not always win. And it was disturbing to think of her being beaten so badly, not just in fair fights, but also when she is attacked by someone she considers a friend. But the violence is necessary to the story. Divergent does not pussy foot around it. Tris's world becomes a violent, scary place that demands she make decisions that will change everything. There were deaths in this book that I never saw coming and a few twists that made the ending perfect.
This was probably one of the best books I've read this year and I can't wait for the sequel. With the current trend of book to movies for YA I'm really hoping that this is the next on the list to make that transition.