The beginning: There are five factions in Beatrice’s world, each of which values a particular quality above all other qualities; once you choose your faction as a teenager, it’s where you belong all the rest of your life. When Beatrice (Tris) takes the aptitude test that will indicate whether she best suits Abnegation (the faction in which she was raised), Dauntless, Amity, Erudite, and Candor, the results she receives are frightening. She’s Divergent, not controlled by the quality of any one factor, and this (her tester tells her) is a very unsafe thing for her to be.
The end (spoilers in this section only; highlight ‘em if you want ‘em): It’s not clear why, but the book ends with two of the factions in ruins and both of Tris’s parents dead in her defense. Evidently the test administrator wasn’t lying about the danger of being Divergent. And Tris has a kissy thing going on with someone called Tobias, who I guess I haven’t met yet. Or wait, I bet that is her instructor’s real name. Cool.
The whole: I coined the term process dystopia for a reason, my friends, and the reason is books like this where I cannot get my brain to jump the track of being completely baffled by how the world got this way. And when? And like–how? Dystopian fiction origin stories are a tricky beast. Plus, the day-to-day workings of the adult world in this book were unclear to me. What’s the norm that the Nefarious Plot Tris uncovers is supposed to be disrupting?
There is also a very weird antipathy for the Erudite throughout the book that puzzles and annoys me. Do you think Veronica Roth conceived a grudge against Ravenclaw during the whole Cho Chang episode, and this is how she’s paying them back? By making their equivalent in her world nasty awful schemers? Because, okay, Tris uncovers a nefarious plot by some Erudite folks, and the plotters have an extremely valid gripe. They do not like it that the Abnegation faction controls the whole government. Lack of representation in the government is a fair gripe. Indeed that is the whole reason MY NATION EXISTS. But then they come up with this insane and violent plan that proves how ultimately unreasonable they are, and it sort of makes their gripe with the government seem inherently insane and violent. Which I don’t think it is! At all!
(Why it would be as if in a vibrantly diverse country of 320 million people only the rich white men got to run everything!)
On the up side, I do like how angry and tough Tris is, and how this is something that makes her love interest like her. There are moments when the book seems to be making Tris out to be the specialest snowflake in all of special land (endemic peril of YA dystopias these days!), but mostly not. She’s flawed and scared and pissed, and I like all of that. The book is engaging and readable, despite flaws. Despite flaws I enjoyed it and felt like reading the second one (which I then did) (and it was fine).
I read this at my aunt and uncle’s when I should have been reading Book Club Book. But that one was pretty slow-moving, and Divergent was pretty fast-moving, and it was all sunny in a hammock, so you can see how I ended up reading this and Insurgent before finishing Book Club Book.