This review contains spoilers for the book.
With the movie version of Divergent, staring Shailene Woodley in the starring role, set for release in April 2014, I thought that I would read the novel from which the story is based.
I went into this book, the first in the trilogy by Veronica Roth, with high expectations as other people that I know had read it and really enjoyed the book. It has been compared by some of those readers to The Hunger Games series written by Suzanne Collins which is a series that I have read multiple times and have really enjoyed.
The novel is set in a future, dystopian world of Chicago where society is split into factions which reflect a single trait of humanity that each follower believes will stop further war from breaking out – Abnegation (the selfless), Amity (the peaceful), Candor (the honest), Dauntless (the brave) and Erudite (the intelligent)
The story follows Beatrice “Tris” Prior, a teenage girl who was born into the Abnegation faction but who now has to decide which of the five factions to join and spend her adult life in as she turns 16.
While undergoing the aptitude tests it is found that Tris does not hold a single aptitude but rather could be a good fit for three of the factions and is warned by the tester not to share the information that she is divergent as if this secret were to get out, it could cost her her life. With her secret, Tris makes the unexpected decision to join the Dauntless faction and is flung head-first with the other new faction recruits into the daily life of a Dauntless.
We follow Tris as she has to complete tasks to try and become a full member of her new chosen faction or else she will find herself faction-less at the end of training if she does not lie within the top ten recruits. The test is split into three sections – hand-to-hand combat, the fear simulators and the final test of a fear landscape which they must navigate their way through.
During the final test, it is revealed that the leaders of the society from the Erudite faction are going to use the Dauntless as soldiers to attack other factions, starting with the Abnegation where Tris’s parents are from. As she is Divergent, the serum that they use to control the soldiers does not work on her and Jeanine, the erudite leader, soon finds out and sentences Tris to death.
The book ends with Tris and Four managing to shut down the simulation that is controlling the Dauntless and starting on the journey to warn the other factions what is happening by boarding a train to the Amity faction.
Personally, I found the story to be slow to begin with but that it picked up around the middle when the main narrative really kicked in and the action began to develop. I realise that you need the character development and world building so later in the story you care about them but I wanted more to happen at the beginning.
Some of the characters felt a little under-developed to me and I thought that they needed to be fleshed out more. I especially felt this about Four at the beginning but as the story progressed towards the end more back story was added that allowed me to care about the character more.
The romance aspect of the story felt a little quick as no real ground work was laid for the relationship and the individuals didn’t really seem to know the other too well before the “I love you’s” began. I have nothing against the relationship between them, I just really dislike the trend in some young-adult novels where people know each other for a day and then are madly in love. Sometime getting some build-up and a “getting to know each other” section is great and makes the relationship seem real.
Overall, I really did enjoy the book and feel that the next two in the series will be better now the foundations of the story have been laid. I read this over a few days and kept wanting to go back to read the next section and see where the characters and story were going. I think this is a great addition to the Dystopian genre and I cannot wait to read the next book.