Fun fact: Veronica Roth is only twenty-five. Twenty-five!
Pages: 487 really fast-moving ones!
The protagonist: Sixteen-year-old Beatrice “Tris” Prior, a resident of future, pretty-well-destroyed dystopian Chicago. We meet Tris on the eve of her aptitude tests and the Choosing Ceremony, where she will (like so many protagonists of dystopias before) make a coming-of-age choice to determine the course of her life. Tris must decide to either stay in the “faction” where she was born or choose a new community with different rules, values, and contributions to the city.
The gist in 100 words or less: Rather than neatly fitting into one of the factions, each of whom promote a different value (Abnegaton, selflessness; Dauntless, bravery; Erudite, intelligence; Amity, peace; and Candor, honesty), Tris’s results show that she falls in between three of them. Thus she is Divergent, and must continue to the Ceremony without a specific direction and without revealing her test results. Sharing them will, as her examiner eerily warns, cost Tris her life. She does choose a faction, and most of the novel follows the rigorous training she endures to join the faction as an adult.
Great stuff: The plot is riveting (despite its 487 pages, I read it in three sittings during a very busy week), the characters are interesting and realistic, the writing is good and the story is not too predictable. Tris and Four’s romance is surprisingly un-cringeworthy and refreshingly restrained, and Four is dreamy and brooding without completely relinquishing his responsibilities, intelligence and better judgment. Caleb, Tris’s brother, is intriguing but scarce, and I look forward to what Roth will do with him in the next two books.
I also really liked the themes of personal values and the questions the novel constantly raises about which ones are important in building a productive society.
And yup, I want to read Insurgent pretty much immediately.
Meh: I had misled expectations for the plot, so the first half seemed to drag but I think I was expecting something to happen that doesn’t actually happen, at least in this first volume. So it may not actually drag as much as I thought it did.
Best quote: “They attacked me to make me feel weak. I can pretend they succeeded to protect myself, but I can’t let it become true.” (290)
Parent/teacher alert: There is a decent amount of violence, and although I didn’t find it gratuitous, it’s definitely prevalent in Tris’s training and in the overall culture.
Also, *some SPOILERS HERE*…
…large portions of Tris’s training take place in a virtual-reality simulation designed to make her (and others) confront their worst fears. These scenarios aren’t as violent as some of the real challenges Tris faces, but they are still disturbing, and I’m curious as to how the film will incorporate them without turning this into a mild horror flick…
Read it if you liked: The Hunger Games, Matched, Delirium, and/or The Giver.
Not good for: Those who dislike dystopias, who want romance front-and-center (although it’s pretty front-and-center by the end) or who are offended/bothered by moderate violence.
What my students think: They love love LOVE Divergent and they shake their heads at me when I admit I haven’t read it yet. It is definitely a must-have for a classroom library.