In Divergent, society is divided into five factions. Each faction is dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue that they feel the lack thereof, most contributed to the war that put the world into its dystopian state. The five factions are: Candor (honesty), Abnegation (selflessness), Dauntless (bravery), Amity (peace lovers) and Erudite (intelligence).
Once a year all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, this is a difficult decision as her aptitude test did not point to one faction specifically, but three, which classifies her as “Divergent.”
Told to keep her divergence a secret, Beatrice struggles to decide where she fits in on decision day and in an expected turn of events, leaves the Abnegation faction she was born into, for Dauntless.
During the highly competitive, dangerous, and nonsensical initiation that follows, Beatrice/Tris struggles to determine if she made the correct decision to abandon her family and heritage.
Not knowing who her real friends are, or if she can handle the romantic feelings she feels for her instructor, Tris soon learns she has bigger problems. It seems some key members in the Erudite faction are plotting to overthrow the seemingly perfect society, and they do not take kindly to people who are divergent. Tris now carries the burden of knowing that her secret might save those she loves, or it might destroy her.
Cover: Has a nice complementary color scheme with the blue and orange. This was the only visual of
/the setting that I had to go off of for the whole book. Thank goodness kindle included the cover image (sometimes it doesn’t) or I might have been visually lost. Chicago
First Thoughts: I had recently read Matched by Ally Condie before this and thought the premise was very similar. Instead of boys, Beatrice must choose between factions. In one line, I’d sum it up as Hunger Games meets Matched. I expected to be disappointed with this book, and to find the dangerous initiation games depressing. Surprisingly, and for reasons hard to articulate, I enjoyed it and even recommend it--with the condition that I do think it’s all recycled material.
Setting: I was confused about several aspects of the setting. I never really had a clear picture of the city, the underground Dauntless compound, or even the train Tris is always jumping off of. I reinvented my visual imagery about the river and the deep chasm that all the Dauntless keep trying to throw each other into each time it was mentioned since I couldn't keep a clear picture of it.
Characters: I thought a plot revelation about one of the characters was far too predictable. I don’t think I fell in love with the hero or heroine in particular, and some of the antagonists fell into stereotyped roles—so bad to the extent they seemed cartoonish. Despite their shortcomings, they had their motivations in order, and so I was able to keep reading the story without it bothering me too much. There were a lot of descriptions repeated, and more characters were identified by the shape of their nose than any other facial feature. One annoyance in particular was that Tris’s main feature is that she is small. This fact was emphasized so many times I started to picture her as a hobbit.
Plot: Certainly not anything super original. The plot moved very slowly after the first five chapters and didn’t pick up again until the end. By that time, I’ll admit I was a little bored, but I was really invested in the external events and so I had to finish it. It was an interesting read, but wasn’t so suspenseful that I read it cover to cover in one sitting like I usually do. I’d put the book down for several hours, go do something else, and when it came down to a choice between mowing the lawn and reading a book, I’d pick it up again.
*SPOILER* sort of...
This book has a romantic subplot to it, and I’m just so glad this did not end the way The Hunger Games & Matched ended, or the way New Moon began. However, I did feel the chemistry and relationship was a bit under developed. They have little interaction, and then suddenly she’s having nightmares about being intimate with him and they’re boyfriend and girlfriend at the end. I didn't think there were enough examples where he showed romantic interest in her to warrant their relationship. He looks out for her and takes care of her before, and he shares some of his personal secrets with her, but I never really felt the chemistry between them. Of course, I didn’t really see why Peeta was attached to Katniss in THG either.
Random thoughts: In the opening line Beatrice is day dreaming about angels/people with wings. Roth brought God and religion into the book then did nothing productive with it.
Having the initiates toughen up in less than a week or becoming ruthless killers in three weeks is unrealistic.
The daredevil event where Tris glides down a zipline was full of suspense, though I don’t think it was relevant to the story or necessary to the plot.
I understand the significance of all the Dauntless faction members getting tattoos, but why facial piercings? It's just one more thing to get accidentally snagged on a piece of clothing while they're trying to win a nomination for The Darwin Awards.
Final comments: If you loved The Hunger Games, I'm sure you'll love this. Especially if you liked the slow pacing of Matched.
Independently, I’d give this a Goodreads’ “It was okay” three star rating. But, I am recommending it, which I don’t usually do for books that I just think are worth three stars. It reads like a debut author’s book (and it is) and debut authors are the ones who need the most support. So, half an extra star for my recommendation, and half a star out of pity makes this about four stars.