Author: Veronica Roth

Publication: 2012, Katherine Tegen Books

Pages: 487

Overall Rating: bth_5-star-rating_zps467d5332[1]

Rating for Action: bth_4-star-rating_zps38e772a0[1]

Quantity of Action: bth_35_zps7a173504[1]

Age Category: 13+

Brief Summary: In the future Chicago where Beatrice lives, society is divided into five factions, each of which emphasizes a different value – Dauntless (courage), Abnegation (selflessness), Candor (honesty), Erudite (intelligence), and Amity (peace). At sixteen, each citizen must choose which faction they will join. Beatrice has to choose between staying with her family in Abnegation or following her heart to become Dauntless.

The choice she makes throws her into a harsh and competitive initiation. After changing her name to Tris, she’s forced to undergo brutal training and intense mental simulations. She faces danger from both her enemies and her friends, as she wrestles with a deeply held secret that could get her killed. Amidst it all, she finds the possibility of romance. But that, and everything else she’s achieved, may prove meaningless when she uncovers a violent plot to overthrow the city’s carefully cultivated order and destroy everyone she loves.

Age of Main Character: 16

What I Liked the Most: The world of the factions – as seen mostly through the Abnegation and Dauntless – is terrifying and intriguing in equal measures. We get to spend a lot of time in Dauntless headquarters, with all its savage energy. When everyone is trained to see the world through a single perspective – whether it’s courage, selflessness, or intelligence – life gets focused and intense. And Roth excels at throwing us into that world. I couldn’t get over the mingled beauty and horror of a place where everyone’s value is measured solely on their courage. It makes for ruthless competition and brutality. Daredevil stunts are a daily part of life. But it’s also a place where no one holds back – where everyone lives life to its fullest.

Roth’s Chicago is an equally fascinating place – a crumbled remnant of the city we see today. And she paints that picture with just a few deft strokes.

What I Liked the Least: The book’s climax felt unrealistic. To put it simply (and without giving too much away), Tris turned out to be far too good a fighter given what we knew about her up to that point. I never doubted her courage, her ability to keep going through sheer nerve. I just doubted her ability to take out quite so many trained soldiers in the process. Her training made it clear that her combat skills were never much more than adequate, and yet she manages to shoot her way through people like they weren’t even there. To make matters worse, one of her completely untrained relatives racks up almost as a high a body count as she does. Was it tense? Of course. It just wasn’t all that believable.

My only other complaint centered on Tris’ uncertain romance with Four. Not to give too much away – but after a while her misinterpretations of his words and actions got pretty annoying. It’s obvious he likes her – and many of the things he says and does in private confirm that. And yet she keeps misinterpreting his public comments to the point where you just want to slap her.   I know it provided a rich source of angst, but it was damn annoying all the same

How Good was the Action? There are only a few fight scenes, but they have good blow-by-blow action and are liberally laced with fear and anger. Most of the action – outside of the climax – takes place in daring stunts and through simulations designed to help Tris and her fellow recruits face up to their fears. The simulations involve more tension than actual action, but the stunts are pretty off the wall. And while Tris’ combat abilities in the climax might have been totally unrealistic, the action was still good – plenty of narrow escapes, harrowing stunts, and gun fights.

How Engaging was the Story? Roth has spun an intricate web here. Tris’ struggle to survive Dauntless initiation and come to terms with the divergent aspects of her personality mesh with her uncertain romance with Four, her conflicts with the Dauntless leadership, her split from her family, and the political machinations that threaten the destroy her world. The story sucks you in and won’t let go.

Overall Assessment: A rich dystopian world and an eye into a society where each of us is forced to live in accordance with a single value. Full of intrigue, romance, and violence. Divergent has some serious teeth.

Profanity: Very little and the language that does get used is at best only modestly profane

Sex: Not much. There’s a lot of lingering looks, a bit of hand holding and hugs, and a few kisses. One guy takes off his shirt, and Tris has to confront her fears of intimacy.

Violence: Definitely. People get the crap beat out of them and more than a few get shot. There’s a suicide, and throughout training the psychological torture is almost non-stop. There is blood. But that said most of the violence is not especially gory. Expect vivid descriptions of cuts and bruises – but when it comes to gunshots and knife wounds the details are much less grim.

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