Author: Veronica Roth
In the future, Chicago is divided into factions. Each faction is filled with people who show a trait of what their government thinks is needed to be a perfect society. Abnegation is the faction where selfless people live. They lead the government as officials should be completely selfless in their governing. Erudite is the faction where highly intelligent people live. They develop medicine and technology. Candor is the faction where people live who is brutally honest. Amity is for the people who seek peace above all. Dauntless is the fearless faction, where people who are brave above all go. They serve as the police force as well, and protect the citizens from what is outside the barrier of their city, although no one knows exactly what lies there.
The year a citizen turns sixteen they undergo aptitude tests to determine what faction they are most suited for. These tests only show you where you would fit in the best, but you are still able to choose your own faction or move to another one.
Beatrice Prior, the story’s main protagonist, grew up in an Abnegation home. She has struggled with selflessness her entire life, and knows that her aptitude tests will probably show she belongs to another faction. She and her older brother Caleb both go for their tests in the same year. Beatrice is certain that his will reflect his Abnegation qualities.
Beatrice’s test goes nothing like planned. She is injected with a simulation serum, and in her “dream”, she is attacked by a dog. Her reaction is to face the dog and then calm it down, and her simulation takes a completely different route as any other person’s would. Her instructor tells that she is Divergent, and she should never tell that to anybody, as she would be in grave danger when she does.
Confused, she heads home and tries to make a decision. She knows she isn’t completely Abnegation, but she knows how much she would miss her parents should she leave. Her brother Caleb surprises her when he, who is always selfless, tells her that she should make the best decision for herself.
The next day Beatrice chooses Dauntless, shocking her parents senseless. Even more shocking is her brother’s choice to join the Erudite. Beatrice always thought her brother belonged perfectly in their original faction, and it also comes as a shock because the Erudite has been publicly shaming the Abnegation for a while, accusing them of hiding supplies from the rest of the factions.
Beatrice is immediately taken to her new faction. She is now in her Initiation phase – if she doesn’t pass, she won’t be taken in and will become part of the factionless – people who have no community, jobs or support. Their first step of Initiation is to jump on a train, and then into the pit where the Dauntless live. Beatrice meets what will become one of her enemies, Peter, originally from the Erudite. He openly taunts her being the only Abnegation transfer among the new recruits, and coins the nickname “Stiff” for her. To annoy him she jumps first into the dark hole. It is her first sign of courage, not knowing what lies beneath. She safely lands at the bottom and is helped up by someone. She introduces herself as “Tris”, casting off her former prim name.
Tris makes friends with a few initiates. She meets Will, Al and Christina. They are all very nice to her, perceiving her as somewhat fragile. Al has a crush on her, and she tries to hide how revolted she is by his weakness and fear to spare his feelings.
The first step of Initiation is to learn defensive skills. They learn to fight, shoot and throw knives. Tris is the smallest of the Initiates and gets beaten up a few times before she learns that her speed and agility is her best weapon in a fight. She meets Eric, a Dauntless leader there. He is cruel and seems to take great delight in the violence he witnesses. She also learns that the man that helped her the day she jumped first is named Four. He also supervises their training, and although he is fearless he isn’t a leader for some unknown reason. The initiates are informed that only ten of them will become faction members, the rest will be cast out with the factionless.
It becomes obvious that Al isn’t meant to be Dauntless. He isn’t fearless at all, and suffers through training. It becomes particularly bad when it comes to knife throwing, and Eric orders him to go fetch his knife as he fails – while the rest of the initiates are still throwing. He recoils, and Tris offers to take his place. Four shows up and starts throwing the knives and she is fine, although nicked at the ear. She is furious with him, but he explains that he had his reasons and that she was safer while he was throwing the knives.
Tris finally becomes better in training, and when she kicks Molly’s ass, she needs to be restrained because she is mad at the other girl for the torment she was put through. She places sixth, and this makes her hopeful that she may have a chance. Peter is jealous that he didn’t place first, and stabs the guy who did, Edward, in the eye. Edward is taken away and becomes factionless.
The Erudite is still dividing the factions by spreading rumors about the Abnegation leaders. They release reports claiming that Tris’ parents obviously did something wrong as both their children switched factions. They also claim that Marcus Eaton, another Abnegation leader, abused his son Tobias and that is the reason Tobias left his faction. Peter and Molly tell fake stories that Tris murmurs in her sleep for her father to stop, and she is furious at them. Tris becomes friends with the Dauntless born initiates Uriah, Lynn and Marlene,
Tris begins to befriend the Dauntless-born initiates, including Uriah, Lynn, and Marlene, but she also continuos to irritate Peter and his friends. When stage two of the initiation starts, the initates undergo aptitude tests in the form of another simulation serum. They are learning to control their fears, and although Tris is terrified, she realises that she is within a simulation and breaks herself out. Tobias, who is testing her, tells her it is because she is Divergent, and warns her not to make it obvious. At the end of the second phase, Tris is first among her group, and Peter is furious. Peter, Drew and Al attacks Tris one night, and she escapes death when Tobias saves her. Tris spends the night in Four’s room to recover, and their relationship continues to grow. Al begs for forgiveness the next day, and after she rebuffs him he commits suicide.
The last phase of initiation is the fear landscape. The initiates will face their own fears and are allowed to fight them as they can. Four takes Tris into his to tell her why he has his name – in his entire time with the Dauntless, he has only had the same four fears – unheard of amongst their faction members. When he faces his last fear, Marcus Eaton, Tris realises that Four is Tobias Eaton, and he is the only other Abnegation member that ever transferred to Dauntless. After his revelation, they kiss, and she is stunned when he ignores her the next day. After her angry outburst, he tells her that they at least have to pretend that they are only instructor and pupil because she is still an initiate. Four tells Tris that he has discovered that the Erudite are planning to attack the Abnegation by using the Dauntless. She is horrified to learn this, as her innocent parents are still in there.
Tris successfully gets through her fear landscape and places first in her class. She kisses Tobias in front of anyone, not caring because it is okay now. The new initiates are injected with a “tracking serum” in case they ever go missing, but Tris realises it is an Erudite way to control them and stage the attack. She wakes up one night to experience her friends in zombie mode, on their way to attack the Abnegation. She goes with them, knowing that staying behind will reveal her secret, and realises Tobias is also not under the control of the serum, meaning he is Divergent as well. They try to escape but are taken to Jeanine Matthews, the Erudite leader behind the attacks. She injects Four with a serum that can control the Divergent as well, and sentences Tris to death. Tris is miraculously saved by her mother, also Divergent. Her mom explains that she was initially in Dauntless, which explains her defensive skills. Her mother is killed soon after, and Tris is forced to kill her friend Will who is also under the serum’s influence. Tobias is sent to guard the computers running the serum, and Tris has to stop him. He is physically superior to her, and she can’t find it in her to kill him. Her surrender and refusal to kill him wakes him up and they shut down the computers. They Dauntless are freed from the mind control. They find Marcus, Caleb and Peter, and head to the Amity, sure that they will find a temporary refuge at their peaceful counterpart’s quarters.
Before Divergent, I’ve only read the Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins) in Dystopian Fiction. It is a shame since it is a good reading avenue to explore. I’ve heard good things about Divergent and its other two books, and was keen to try it out. I am so glad I did. The plotline is original. I can actually see the sense of their factions and why it should work. Especially in this book you notice that it could work if everyone remained in their place and didn’t get greedy (ahem, Jeanine Matthews).
This is not a Hunger Games vs. Divergent competition, but I have to mention that as far as female leads, Tris Prior is far superior to Katniss Everdeen. She is already selfless in the first book, and she only continues to develop the strongest characteristic from her former faction. She is only ever interested in Four, and I LOVED that there wasn’t some stupid love triangle. I am utterly sick of the “I don’t know who to choose” route.
Four became such a deep character later on, and I really liked him. I felt so sad when it became clear that he is Marcus’ son (a good twist) and that the rumors were true. To imagine the fearless Dauntless instructor as a cowering boy was heart-breaking. I didn’t mind his mood swings. It makes him much more interesting. He didn’t have that annoying phase where he decided it was best for them if they weren’t together – another famous tool for books.
I wish the books gave more info earlier on about being Divergent. It is such an important concept, and you wait ages to find out why Tris is so special and dangerous to the leaders in her world. I did think that Jeanine Matthews made an excellent antagonist. She uses her intelligence as an excuse to be cruel; it is so much more exciting than the usually basic cruel enemies.
The only point stealers came from the page fillers. It isn’t as bad in the first book, but I wish people could stop writing stuff just to make a book a certain amount of pages. As a first time author, Veronica Roth did an exceptional job. I think she can truly become exceptional with more experiences.