In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue--Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is--she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.
During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are--and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves...or it might destroy her.
I have found a new favorite book!! The factions that Roth created in unknown-futuristic Chicago are completely fascinating. I loved the descriptions of how life would be if you devoted yourself entirely to honesty, or courage, or selflessness (right down to clothing...I'm telling you, this world is well formed). I know plenty of people are going to analyze which faction they would best fit into (I think I would be in Erudite, but I want to be the sort of person who would be in Abnegation).
The really spectacular thing Roth does, however, is to dig deeper into the meaning of these virtues. Is it good to choose just one? How can virtues be abused? What does courage or selflessness really mean? I rarely stop reading a fiction novel to write down a quote, but I had to do that not once, but twice for Divergent. On page 331, our heroine is told that it is "when you're acting selflessly that you are at your bravest." Heartslam.
I also had to write down a snippet from page 289. Tris thinks about her love interest (who is awesome, btw), and she thinks, "Even though he saved me, he treated me like I was strong." And this! This is what I want in relationships, both actual and fictional. I don't want to read about girls who are above saving. Everyone has weaknesses, and everyone falls. But I also don't want to read about weakling girls who are good for nothing but saving. Tris is a wonderful female protagonist. I would not ever want to mess with her (girl has some serious fighting skills), but she is relatable in her flaws as well. Perfect.
The world is great. The characters are great. The plot is incredibly fast and engrossing. The story wraps up while leaving questions open to be answered in the sequel. Which I will eagerly read. Over and over and over. Okay, now it's your turn to drop everything you're doing and read Divergent!
Five out of five fear landscapes.
Release Date: May 2011
Reading Level: Grade 7+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: YPL ROT
Don't believe me? Check out these reveiews of Divergent:
The Crooked Shelf
A Myriad of Books