Veronica Roth, HarperCollins Children's Books, 2011, 496 pages, young adult dystopian.
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
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 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.
Okay, now I see what all of the fuss was about. Finally, I read Divergent after reading what seems like endless reviews singing its praises. Once I started reading, I could hardly put it down and tore right through it. This is certainly one of the best dystopian books I have read. There is tension, humour, camaraderie, strong characters, romance, and an exploration of human nature.
I really enjoyed Veronica Roth's writing - she did such a good job of creating her world. It is vivid and clear and I could easily picture the world divided into its factions. I found it interesting that Roth didn't elaborate on how the world got to where it is in her story or even how long it had been there, she just used some innuendo about wars and left the rest up to the reader. There were a few times, however, when the writing was unclear and distracting because I could not tell who was talking.
I always love a strong but human heroine, and Divergent has this. Tris is great. She is born into the Abnegation faction, where people are supposed to be selfless. This doesn't sit well with her and we agonize with her as she chooses whether to stay with her family or pursues what she feels is her true calling. The book is told in the first person present from Tris's point of view, so we get an intimate glimpse into her world. I liked the relationships between the friends and how this evolves, and how Tris struggles with her choices. This feels so real and I felt for her with this terrible choice, and then later, how she survives her training, learns to make friends, and struggles with her secret. It is also great how Tris learns about herself, comes into her own, and learns to take care of herself. She is strong, resourceful and passionate.
And then there is Four, the love interest and trainer for the candidates. I love that he wasn't a jerk and that there wasn't a love triangle. Four could be harsh, but his actions were always well thought out and not malicious. He is an intersting character, who is obviously strong, but also very human.
The set up of the five factions is interesting, a way to explore human nature by separating out various traits. The book explores the problems of only developing one part of your personality, and how this can lead to problems. It started off as a way for people to strengthen their gifts, but turned out as causing unrest and prejudice. I love how Roth delves into these issues, along with questions of the implication of choices and "who am I?"
I highly recommend this book to those who like dystopian novels and exciting adventure. Part of me felt like I was participating an a crazy "survivor-like" episode, with the candidates having to deal with one crazy situation after another to earn their place in the faction. I can hardly wait for the next book, called Insurgent, to come out to find out what will happen next.