In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago world, 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 alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are--and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating 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 unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, Tris also learns that her secret might help her save the ones she loves . . . or it might destroy her.
(Summary from GoodReads)
With all of the YA dystopians on the market, I had to pick up Divergent because of the hype. Tons of bloggers I know love it, teens at my library have been reading, and my co-workers enjoyed it. Unfortunately, I didn’t think Divergent was original or well written enough to be a true standout in the market.
The idea of factions was really cool, but was about the only element of the worldbuilding I enjoyed. Roth’s story takes place primarily in Chicago, yet we never see anything outside of it, which really bothered me. I’ve heard this is addressed in later books, but blatant ignorance of the rest of America bugged me and read like an oversight. To be good, a dystopian novel should feel like something that could actually happen, and I don’t believe a good chunk of the country could disappear.
Roth packs a lot of action into this story, but it didn’t feel like it meant a lot. There were times when it felt like there was just action for the sake of action, and hardly even to drive the story forward. Tris and Four didn’t feel especially original to me. They were both kind of badass, but I didn’t feel like either of them had a quality that really made them stand out. While they both stood out in their own society, I don’t think that was enough to make them exceptional characters. The idea of being divergent was kind of cool, and I liked how Roth wrapped up the story.
I wouldn’t call Divergent a terrible book, but I don’t think it’s a standout in its genre or YA literature as a whole. I plan on finishing this series because it’s so widely discussed, but this one isn’t a new favorite of mine. I hope Roth develops the world more Insurgent so I can enjoy it more.
Disclosure: I purchased a copy of this book.