HarperCollins: Katherine Tegen Books, 2011
Divergent is the first book in a series by the same name; the series is planned to be at least a trilogy, although currently only the first two books are out. This is another Young Adult dystopian novel, generally trumpeted as being of the same type as The Hunger Games and Matched.
The story is set an unspecified number of years in the future in the ruins of Chicago, which has become a walled (well, fenced) city, ruled by five factions. These factions are highly political, having been formed long ago in reaction to a violent war. The founders had different ideas of what caused the war, but they all agreed on one thing: the impetus for war was not religion or politics or need, but instead the result of basic flaws in human nature. One faction, Amity, blamed war on the human tendency for aggression, and worked to be cooperative and friendly in all things. Another, Erudite, blamed ignorance, and worked to become better educated in all things. Candor believed that duplicity was the root of all evil, Abnegation held selfishness responsible, and Dauntless believed that war was caused by cowardice.
These factions have lived together for decades untold in peace, although not without friction. The factions hardly speak outside of their assigned roles, and Beatrice Prior is no exception. She is in Abnegation, the group that cleans and repairs the city, tends to those poor souls who failed out of factions, and do all of those dirty jobs that we'd rather not do. Which, by longstanding law, includes governing the city; the theory is that the completely unselfish are the only ones that can be trusted to rule.
Beatrice is special, though, in that when she completes her end-of-school aptitude test she has a very ambiguous result -- something that is never supposed to happen. Not that it officially makes a difference. She is allowed
to choose whatever faction she wishes, regardless of which one she grew up in or what the test says. But it does mean that coming into the choosing ceremony, she really has no idea which faction she will choose.
Well, this is a dramatic teenager post-apocalyptic novel, so of course her choice is dramatic, and of course she uncovers surprising secrets and is involved in sinister plots to overthrow the government. Adventures are had, which involve a lot of mental and physical suffering, disillusionment with the current powers-that-be, and a lot of teenager-type infighting and backstabbing. And some romance, of course.
I was not particularly thrilled by either the story or the characters. Obviously, the premise is a little hokey, and the author doesn't do much work to overcome this. The world is interesting, but not as well-thought out or as well developed as I'd like, and without much back story. The romance is a bit clumsy, the characters are a bit formulaic, the adventure very much world-led rather than character led, and Beatrice is a bit of a wimp even when she is being brave. This reads very much like a cheap attempt to ride on the coattails of the Hunger Games Trilogy, although it does a okay job at that. If you like teenage dystopian fiction, this is not too bad a book. If you like fiction and don't care if it is teenage dystopian fiction or not, you should give this one a pass.
The second book in the Divergent trilogy is Insurgent.