In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, 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 to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating 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 a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves… or it might destroy her.
OPINION: 5 STARS
The Short Version:
Brilliantly woven and masterfully executed, Divergent does a phenomenal job of digging deep into human nature and drives. Set in a well defined dystopian Chicago, with fantastic and smooth worldbuilding, there is an easy understanding of Beatrice’s life and what led to its current state. With strong characters, an unfiltered look at even the worst side of some, and an engaging romance, several different plot lines are weaved seamlessly to create one stunning book.
The Extended Version:
Beatrice is a very relatable character to start, unsure of herself and her place, and feeling inadequate in the setting of her family. What drives her to choose a different faction than her own is easily laid out, explained in an understandable way while still keeping the harder parts of the changeover. She is strong in unexpected ways, fluid in her ability to change, and very strong willed and intelligent. Despite the faction change, her ties to her original one remain and Roth has handled this tendency for instinct and habits in a perfect way, getting the point across of how often it comes up without making it repetitive or distracting.
Four is also an interesting character, multifaceted in ways not even seen yet. He adds to the overall air of the differences in human nature, and is an intense, sometimes rapidly shifting character. As his own part of the story unfolds, the full effect of everything with the factions begins to come to light, not always in obvious ways but still there. A mix of a product of his upbringing and his current job, and still holding on to the person he is, there are some truly poignant messages that come across through Four’s character.
The rest of the transfer initiates all have their own well defined personalities, becoming memorable and distinct from the start. As expected, some dislike Beatrice while others befriend her, holding an easy to understand and relatable note despite the setting. With a heavy focus on the initiation process for the new faction, there is a huge sense of personal change in Beatrice and everyone else. Roth has handled these changes so fantastically, making them believable and necessary rather than out of convenience.
Roth’s worldbuilding happens smoothly and is so well done. Though there is a bit of a data dump at the start, it is to be expected in an entirely new setting and there are enough ties to the modern world readers know that it’s easy to pick everything up and piece it together. From that point on, the worldbuilding happens in the background, not taking a big focus while still growing to be tremendous in nature and scope. The characters fit into this progression seamlessly, pulling the reader in as though they are right there with Beatrice throughout.
The plot is phenomenal, happening at a steady pace. While not action packed, there is enough character development and plot progression to keep the reader constantly engaged and intrigued. Roth has mastered the blend between the two, fleshing out and providing both without overdoing it on either front. As things move along, the overall brilliance of this book comes out, bit by bit, finally leading to an action packed, powerful climax. The conclusion, for the most part, ties things up directly related to the events of this book, ending at the perfect point to launch into the next installment. It isn’t an immediate drop off a cliff kind of ending, but rather holds a burning desire for more simply because of how fantastic everything is.
The writing is simplistic in nature, not wasting time with flowery descriptions or unnecessary sentences. Roth is very to the point, but it isn’t detracting in its simplicity. Beatrice’s voice and character still come through, and given the ways of the faction she was born in, it adds to her nature in a strong way. The descriptions of everything, from people to places to events, is spot on, building it for the reader and bringing it to life.
With a strong sense of preservation, and playing heavily on fear versus control, there are some big messages and revelations in this book. Beatrice’s continued loyalties to her family throw into question the basic creed of the factions, and the way the initiates are tested is twisted and almost grotesque. The progression of all this, none of which is there simply for shock value, packs some powerful punches in all the best ways. Divergent has taken some known concepts and mixed them in an entirely new way, while also adding in some new things that stand out completely. A magnificently done dystopian world blends with a well thought out, well played out, and brilliant story line to create one mind blowing debut.
Source: ARC borrowed from friend
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 496 pages
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (May 3, 2011)