by Veronica Roth
First sentence: “There is one mirror in my house.”
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In what used to be known as Chicago in this post-apocalyptic world, humanity is divided into four factions, each devoted to developing a particular virtue: Candor, the honest; Erudite, the intelligent; Amity, the peaceful; Dauntless, the brave; and Abnegation, the selfless.
Beatrice has grown up in Abnegation, but doesn’t quite feel she fits. She’s not as selfless as her parents and brother, she’s always questioning her own inner motives. She sees kids from the other factions and wonders if she wouldn’t fit in better there. Then, at age 16, she is given a test and the opportunity to stay with her faction or choose another one. And she discovers that she’s Divergent.
We spend most of the book wondering, along with Beatrice — who christens herself Tris after she joins Dauntless — what the heck Divergent is. On one level, this is annoying; but by the end, when it all makes sense and you realize that the timing was perfectly right for it, all is forgiven. It’s an intense book and a violent one, as we follow Tris through her brutal training to join the Dauntless faction. As she goes through the training, Tris discovers two things: that the people in the factions — including her birth faction — aren’t nearly as altruistic as they proposed to be. And that romance can blossom in the oddest places.
There will be inevitable comparisons to The Hunger Games (it’s really a good book for those who love Hunger Games and are wondering what to read next): there’s a society that’s become corrupt, and a girl who doesn’t fit the norm who has the potential (yes, there is a sequel, at least) to change that society for the better. Though Tris is a more active and less selfish heroine than Katsa was, which makes her more interesting in my book. It’s less black-and-white, and more complex; Roth does an excellent job balancing the good and bad in every faction, providing us with not only the worst, but also both the best and the human in human beings.
It’s compelling and engrossing storytelling as well, with a little bit of everything — romance, politics, action, tension — for everyone. An excellent start to a good new series.