Tess lives in a world where each person belongs to a faction. The factions are defined by a personality characteristic, such as honesty or bravery. Tess and her family live in the Abnegation faction, which represents selflessness. Tess feels confined in this environment and chooses to change to the Dauntless faction, which represents bravery. She must adapt to an entirely different environment and pass the tests to truly belong. As she does this she must conceal the fact that she is “divergent”, meaning she doesn’t truly belong in any of the groups.
I wanted to read this book because I’d heard a lot about it and because the movie is coming out. It was a fast read and very engrossing. What I really liked was not only the depth of the main character, but her unique personality. Not only did it show that girls could be brave and physically tough, it also showed Tess as ruthless and commanding. I loved this because these are rarely character traits seen in female characters, even in books such as The Hunger Games. Tess also freely admits that she is not pretty, and yet several boys are interested in her for who she is.
Another great aspect of this book was Tess’s friends. She had never had friends before and the experience is new for her. She keeps these friends throughout the book and they remain important to her, even though she finds that they’re not perfect. The relationships are often complicated and infused with power struggles. She finds herself pretending to be weak so that her friends will accept her more easily. I think teens especially will be able to relate to this as their own relationships grow and change. I really liked that the author addressed this instead of making the friendships idealistic or perfect, like in many YA books.
The one thing that surprised me about this book was how brutal it was, especially considering that it was written on a lower reading level. The brutality is also unexpected, as the reader gets no foreshadowing of what’s to come. The chapters before the violent scenes, while exciting or disturbing, do not give any hint of the sudden violence. There was also a lot of death in this book, and sexual harassment, which could be upsetting for younger readers.
One of the biggest problems Tess faces throughout the book is that she must leave her family behind when she joins Dauntless. Though the reader doesn’t see her parents too often, we get a good idea of their personalities and how important they are to Tess. We also see a new side to her mother as Tess learns family secrets and begins to see her parents as real people who have also struggled with choices in their past.
The descriptions of the different factions and the Dauntless compound are well thought out and detailed. One of my favorite parts of this book was the descriptions of the Dauntless cave where Tess lives and the winding trails with no railings that go up several stories. Readers will also enjoy learning about the different factions and imagining which one they would fit into.
This is the first book in a trilogy and the debut book of Veronica Roth. This exciting novel will have definitely have you wanting more.