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.
I’m very suspicious of books that get a lot of prepublication hype. Usually, it means the publisher invested major dollars in it and now wants to reap the rewards. Within hours of the Divergent ARC landing on my doorstep, Twitter began lighting up with buzz about debut author Veronica Roth’s new dystopian novel. Many compared it to The Hunger Games, which to me is the pinnacle of YA dystopian lit — tough shoes to fill.
It was with this mindset that I cracked open the cover and dove in. The first couple pages I thought, “Yeah, yeah, typical dystopian set-up. Nothing new here.” And the next thing I knew, WHAM! I was halfway through and couldn’t put the thing down if my life depended on it.
From the moment our heroine, Tris, enters her new faction, the story takes off like a bat out of hell and doesn’t loosen its grip on the reader any more than Tris’s fellow initiates cut her any slack. The pacing is perfect, the characters are completely fleshed out, and there’s a strong undercurrent of “Fight Club” violence that readers will either find horrific or incredibly appealing. I side with the latter. I loved seeing our underdog go through her metamorphosis, turning on end the typical girl-gets-a-makeover and grows into a beautiful butterfly nonsense.
Tris turns into a hardcore, kick-ass punk. And I love her. Lest she become too unapproachable, however, she’s given some “weaknesses” – she’s loyal, funny and has a soft spot for a certain someone whose strengths and weaknesses make him completely swoonworthy. Punk love? Oh, yeah.
Since Novel Novice is an education-based site, I’ll also point out that there are some great allegories running just underneath the fiction. The one that jumped out at me was that of the cliques (factions) that form in school, and despite trying to fit into one group completely, many of us find that we partially belong to several groups, yet none completely.
Most of us are, like Tris, divergent.
Believe the hype. Divergent is worthy of all the praise it’s getting, and I cannot wait for the next book in the series. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go dust off my “Fight Club” DVD …