Sixteen-year-old Beatrice Prior lives in what was once Chicago but is now a vastly different place from what it used to be. The entire society fits within the city limits and is divided into five factions, each of which has a different set of guidelines and lifestyles that support its goal. The Abnegation faction pursues selflessness, Dauntless practices courage, Candor engages truth, Erudite seeks knowledge, and Amity follows kindness. These factions work together to form a perfect society --- well, almost a perfect society.
When citizens reach 16, they undergo an aptitude test that determines the best fit for each person. The following day is the Choosing Ceremony in which each teen must decide the faction he or she will join for the rest of their lives. Most follow in their parents' footsteps, but some choose a different faction, thus cutting off most contact with their loved ones. They have a saying in their society, "'faction over blood;" a person's faction becomes their new family.
So, at 16, Beatrice faces the biggest decision of her life. She has grown up in the Abnegation faction, where all thoughts and deeds focus on selflessness and doing for others. Unfortunately, Beatrice isn't very good at being completely selfless; she's forever getting disapproving looks from her parents and brother. So she's not surprised when her aptitude test doesn't point to Abnegation. She's surprised, though, when her test is inconclusive. This is extremely rare and makes her a Divergent. Her tester advises her never to tell anyone, as being a Divergent is extremely dangerous. Beatrice doesn't understand, and it makes her decision even more difficult. She must decide whether to follow in her parents' footsteps, in which she hasn't been very happy, or turn her back on her family and dare to be courageous.
On the day of the Choosing Ceremony, Beatrice follows her gut and elects to join Dauntless, the faction of bravery. Next she must undergo a series of initiation procedures in order to become an official member. These procedures are beyond tough, beyond scary, and beyond one's darkest nightmares, both physically and mentally. If she fails, Beatrice will become factionless --- an outcast living on the brink of poverty. But in order to survive, she must find the courage to reinvent herself and face her greatest fears. One of the first things she does is change her name to Tris, signaling a new beginning. She has no idea, though, of the magnitude of what is in store for her, including falling in love. The worst part, unbeknownst to most, is that a mutiny is brewing beneath the surface, and their well-ordered society is about to implode.
Veronica Roth's first novel marks the beginning of a trilogy, opening up a whole new adventure for book lovers. She writes with an intensity that challenges readers to look at their own lives, to consider which faction they might choose, to dream up which nightmares they might face in a similar initiation. She chose to set the story in first person, present tense, which adds to that intensity and energy. Tris is an extremely interesting character and very well rounded, and the story takes a unique turn with the massive emotional transformation she goes through as she reinvents herself. DIVERGENT offers exciting danger, sweet romance, intriguing psychiatric excavations, and nonstop captivating action. Veronica Roth is a welcomed and talented new addition to the YA book world.
Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman on May 3, 2011