I saw the movie first, so that sort of colors things a little. It is not really the same story, although the bones are basically the same.
This is a dystopian young adult novel, the first part of a trilogy, about a 16 year old girl named Beatrice Prior. It takes place in a post-war Chicago, where people are divided into 5 factions that all contribute to society in different ways. It’s like the McDonalds of society, where everyone has a narrowly defined place in the greater structure. At 16, each person chooses if they will stay in the faction they were born into or transfer to a new one. Beatrice begins in Abnegation, which is selfless yet in charge of governance. She chooses Dauntless, a wild and crazy bunch of pierced and tattooed soldiers who are trained to defend the city from threats. What threat there could be is never specified, and only briefly does Beatrice wonder what is “beyond” the fence.
Once at Dauntless headquarters, she is thrown into death defying stunts and training in order to prove herself. She slowly begins to uncover a plot from Dauntless, spearheaded by the brainiacs of the society – the Erudite faction – to overthrow Abnegation and take over governance.
Oh, and to throw a wrench into the whole thing, Beatrice (or, as she renames herself once joining Dauntless, Tris) is something called Divergent. This concept is not really explained, mostly because we are on this ride with Tris herself, and no one has explained it to her yet. But she deduces that this is not a good thing and she is in mortal danger.
I heard this series was great awhile ago, but was convinced not to read it but some that said it was a big ol’ meh. The movie did pique my interest, and I have to say, it has a lot of very interesting ideas in it. The world building is great, there are lots of asides that explain how things work within this society without being exposition heavy.
One of the most interesting aspects to me about it is the sense that Tris has about her identity, and how she is conflicted about where she truly belongs. It’s something that she struggles with throughout the book, first that she doesn’t feel like she is selfless enough to be Abnegation, and later that she isn’t brave enough to be Dauntless, and so on. She goes back and forth, and her instructor/boyfriend Four expresses this out loud. He wants to be all the qualities that each faction espouses, not just one. Tris also talks about how she can trade one poor trait for another, when switching factions or loyalties.
There are a lot of unanswered questions as the book ends, and I’m interested to see which way the story develops. I hear the ending of the third book is rubbish, but I’m in for the ride now.
4 stars (no pun intended)
This book completes the book made into a movie, written by someone under 30, one-word title, and set in the future requirements for the challenge.