In a dystopian America, all citizens of the city that used to be Chicago are divided into five factions: Abnegation, Amity, Candor, Erudite, and Dauntless. Those who value knowledge above all else are the Erudite; those who value selflessness: Abnegation; peace and harmony: Amity; truth: Candor, and those who place courage above all other virtues are the Dauntless. At the age of 16, each citizen must choose which faction she will belong to for the rest of her life with the help of an aptitude test (reminiscent of the Sorting Hat in Harry Potter). Beatrice must choose for herself this year. Along with the rest of the 16-year-olds, she will make a choice that will determine the path of the rest of her life. But she must make her decision alone, because she has a secret... one that may lead to her own death if revealed.
[*MINOR SPOILER*: I don't think I'm giving anything away to reveal that Beatrice selects Dauntless. Really, that's a no-brainer. Would you want to read a book in which the 16-year-old heroine chooses to be a SCHOLAR for the rest of her life? someone who never tells a lie? Come on, we all saw that coming.]
Veronica Roth wrote Divergent when she was 22. TWENTY-TWO. Reading this from the ripe old vantage of 28, I find this especially impressive. But never mind about the author, let's get to the boy. This boy named Four with the mysterious nickname who has left a swath of swooning females across high schools and book blogs all over America. I don't know why. I mean, he's just tall and tattooed... and dark... and bad... Ahem. So count me into that number and watch as I descend into giggling mania. Four is one of the things that I find freshest about this book. He's not bad in the way that a villain is bad, or that Heathcliff is bad. He's not kind or gentle, but he's good. But there's not much room in this dystopia for gentleness. Enough of my blubbering, here he is in the words of Beatrice:
He is not sweet or gentle or particularly kind. But he is smart and brave, and even though he saved me, he treated me like I was strong.
I didn't connect to Beatrice in the same way that I immediately loved Four. I found myself doubting her thoughts and reactions. I don't find it necessary for me to relate to a character to enjoy a book. I may be flattering myself here, but I can't relate to Scarlett O'Hara or Catherine Earnshaw, and yet I love the books from which those devious wenches come. But I didn't connect with Beatrice and that affected my reading. For a short book, I want to love the heroine and the hero and I want to love them from the first page because there is less time for plot and character development. That only worked for me with Four's entrance. Apparently I am more lenient on a character with a Y chromosome and tattoos.
Grade: 3/5 stars. Divergent leaves me waffling. If I had never read The Hunger Games trilogy and if I had never been introduced to a boy wizard with a lightning-bolt scar, I might have loved this book. I devoured it anyway, but, disappointingly, it wasn't as fully realized as the Panem that Suzanne Collins created or as fully fleshed as Harry Potter (not the boy--he was skinny--I mean the series). I can't help but judge Divergent by these YA favorites.