Author: Veronica Roth
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Publication Date: April 2011
Reason for Discovery: The Internet and John Green recommended it on YouTube
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.
Please see above blurb for an excellent book summary!
This is probably going to sound strange, but I did not know anything about this book before I sat down to read it. Seriously. I knew it was a dystopian trilogy, and there was some guy named Four but that was it. When I heard people talking about how Tris was also going to be the movie adaptation of The Fault in Our Stars, I thought Tris was the guy. (Tris is a girl and the protagonist of the book, if you are as clueless as I was.) Although I did not know anything about this book, I had super high expectations about it. Everyone seemed to love it. After Allegiant came out and people were disappointed (I have not read Allegiant yet, so NO spoilers!), the people still said that they loved Divergent. I figured that if people can love the first book in a trilogy even if they don't like the final book, it has to be pretty good. I jumped head first into this book, and I discovered that...I did not love it.
Let's talk about what I did like in this book. I thought that Tris was a great character. I wanted to yell at her most of the time, but that is because she was written really well and acted like a teenager. Although I didn't like some of Tris' decisions, they seemed true to her character and to someone her age. I thought that the other characters were also very interesting and had hints of depth to them. Because this was the first book in a series, I was okay with really getting to know Tris and learning more about the other characters in the next book. With that said, I found Four to be a tad bit perfect, but he had a good back story and he had some layers. I am curious to read the novellas that are from Four's POV.
I also liked a lot of the action sequences. Tris and her friends spend a lot of time running, fighting, and avoiding fighting. These scenes were all quite exhilarating. I could picture what was happening and didn't seem lost. Sometimes when I read action sequences in books they do not seem to flow right, the scenes in this book felt seamless. The other scenes including the programs (hallucinations) that the characters experienced fairly regularly. Even when I was not loving the book, I got sucked into the idea of these programs and what the characters had to do in them.
As you can see there were a lot of fun things in this book. There were, however, two big concerns that I had. First, and this was not the book's fault, I listened to the audio book, and I was not in love with the reader. The reader was very clear and she had a great voice. I found myself believing that she was Tris (she sounded like a 16-year old). My problem with the reader was that she was a bit bland with the emotion. She was describing exciting scenes, but she herself did not sound excited. I started to like the reader a bit better as the story progressed, but she always felt a bit dull to me. Please keep in mind that I am very picky with my audio book readers, so listen to a sample before you decide to go with the audio book or not.
The second critique that I had regarding this book was the world building. I just couldn't get behind a society, especially one born out of the United States, that would create a city and divide it into five value driven factions. If the people expressed all five of these traits but liked one in particular, I would have been okay with it. But I could not believe that you could have a city of people that only did one trait really, really well and could not do anything else. I did not get why everyone was not divergent. I really needed some more world building that explained how this society came to be. I know Roth starts to touch on this at the end of Insurgent (I have not read Allegiant yet), but I really needed more at the beginning of the trilogy, even if it was false information that Tris had been taught in school. This lack of information just kept pulling me out of the story.
Overall, this was a fun book. I think I would have liked it more if the world building had been a bit stronger and if I did not have such high expectations for this book.
I give this book 3 out of 5.