Published by Katherine Tegen Books on 28th February 2012
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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, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.
Divergent follows the story of Beatrice (Tris) Prior in a new dystopian world. In an attempt to prevent the outbreak of war, humankind broke into five different ‘factions’: Erudite, for the clever, Amity, for the peaceful, Candor, for the honest, Abnegation, for the selfless and Dauntless, for the brave.
Children grow up in whichever faction their parents belong to, but at the age of 16, they go through an aptitude test to show them which faction they belong in and the following day, at the Choosing Ceremony, they must decide the path for the rest of their lives. Tris knows that she doesn’t belong in Abnegation like the rest of her family and so she makes the difficult decision to leave her family behind and join a new faction, Dauntless. A tough initiation process follows – one that not everyone will survive. As Tris tries to fit in among the Dauntless she struggles to figure out who she is and who her real friends are. As if finding herself in a new faction wasn’t difficult enough, Tris has a secret that she learned about herself during the aptitude test. A secret that she has been warned to never tell lest it destroy her.
What I love about this story is that it doesn’t seem fantastical in the slightest. The characters and the setting all felt very real to me that’s all down to Roth’s genius. Each character is flawed, some more than others, and this made it easy to relate to them as a reader and I found that I actually cared about what happened to the characters. When they felt sad, I felt sad; when they felt pain, I felt pain and when they felt happy, I felt happy. It is rare that you find a book in which you can truly share your emotions with the characters but Divergent is one of those gems.
The book is written in the first person from the perspective of Tris herself. She often finds herself torn between what she thinks she should do and what she actually wants to do and isn’t afraid to admit that she is sometimes selfish. I really loved this about her because, let’s be honest, very few of us can say that we don’t often have selfish thoughts no matter how hard we try to be moral people. Tris isn’t afraid to admit it when she’s afraid or weak but she’s also strong-willed and determined not to be beaten. She is well aware of what her short comings are and that she hasn’t been blessed with the best physique for a member of Dauntless, but she tries her hardest and at the end of the day, that’s all that matters right?
Four was also a really interesting character because his emotions were always undercover and you could never really tell what he was thinking. Four isn’t a difficult character to love but because he doesn’t show his true emotions very often, you’re also sort of frightened and unsure of him for a large part of the novel. I guess this is perfect because that’s pretty much how Tris feels about him for a large part of the story too so the reader and Tris really are as one on this adventure. I love that Roth didn’t make him the stereotypical ‘bad boy’ (I guess that’s what he is) but made him a real character that has much more to him than meets the eye. He does what he wants and he isn’t easily influenced by the opinions of others.
Sometimes I felt like the characters seemed a little deadpan but I suppose that’s all part of the ‘dauntless’ act and it made the moments when the characters were happy and laughing all the more special. This certainly isn’t a happy story and it isn’t one that suddenly retreats in a world filled with fluffy clouds. There is an ever-present darkness lining this book, even when the story takes a more positive turn. It is evident that there is more going on in this story than meets the eye but Roth has carefully staged this story so that the reader has absolutely no idea what’s going on until it hits you in the face. The reader is on a level with Tris throughout the story – what she knows, we know, what she doesn’t know, we don’t know. At least, that will be the case if you have been completely unexposed to the spoilers that are just about all over the internet. I knew very little about Divergent prior to reading the story so I found all the twists and turns to be incredibly shocking and exciting.
There’s no insta-love in this story! I think this book deserves a big fat hooray just for that. It’s hard to find YA books that aren’t centred on romance that still get the romance perfect but I think Veronica Roth may have done it. The chemistry between Tris and Four takes a backseat in this story, but it’s always there lurking in the background. There aren’t any PDAs or sexual scenes, in fact, the romance is rather chaste, or at least, less prominent than in many other YA novels, which I guess can be put down to the factions in which the characters were brought up in and the ones they currently reside in.
The story doesn’t exactly end on a cliffhanger so you could almost read Divergent as a standalone novel and be satisfied at the end. That said, this almost certainly won’t be the case because you’ll want to find out more about this phenomenally interesting world. I did find the ending to be a tad abrupt as I turned the page on my kindle expecting to find more story when, in fact, it was already over. There were no clues whatsoever as to how this story will continue so you really are in the dark and I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of Insurgent! This is, I think, one of the keys to this story’s success. This book wasn’t predictable in the slightest and never knowing what was coming next made me desperate to keep reading.
All in all, Divergent is a fantastic and captivating read that I would highly recommend to all fans of dystopian novels. The combination of very real characters and an original plot make this an absolute must read and I understand now why there is so much hype surrounding this series. If you’re looking for a YA book that stands out from the rest, then this is your book. I absolutely cannot wait to read Insurgent now and watch the Divergent film, which I’ve heard is actually better than the book, believe it or not!