Why I read it: There was so much hype around this one with the second book coming out and I jumped on the bandwagon.
In a future Chicago, 16-year-old Beatrice Prior must choose among five predetermined factions to define her identity for the rest of her life, a decision made more difficult when she discovers that she is an anomaly who does not fit into any one group, and that the society she lives in is not perfect after all.
What I thought: I had really been looking forward to reading this book. I have read nothing but good reviews and the premise of the book sounded compelling. Plus I heard the book compared to The Hunger Games, which should have made me wary, but actually made me want to read it more. I need to learn to ignore the hype. Unfortunately, I was very disappointed in the book.
Beatrice lives in a "dystopian" Chicago and is a member of one of five factions, Abnegation (selflessness). There was a great war and after the war, the citizens of Chicago decided to split into five factions. The factions based on a trait that the members deemed important for humanity. So there is one for bravery, one for peace, one for selflessness, one for intelligence and lastly one for honesty. Beatrice finds herself to be Divergent, after she undergoes the "sorting" test, which means she shows traits for more than one faction. She chooses to be in Dauntless, however. Ok, so I was intrigued! This seemed like an interesting dystopia and I wondered what Roth would do with it.
Unfortunately, the world building was not very strong. I was first very frustrated by the portrayal of the different factions. They were so horribly stereotypical, especially Dauntless (bravery). Wearing black? Tattoos? Piercings? Guns? Jumping out of trains? Jumping off buildings? UGH! These do not make someone brave! The Dauntless seemed more interested in being cruel and tough rather than being brave. I realized that Roth was trying to make some sort of point, but it still frustrated me nonetheless. Oh and the Abnegation only wearing grey? UGH to that, too! I was happy when Four/Tobias finally made the connection between being selfless and being brave. More connections could have been made in the beginning between the utopian idea of having 5 factions and the dystopian reality. I figured out the dystopia before Beatrice was able to and her lack of any awareness until the end was frustrating. As she supposedly is Erudite (intelligence) as well, that seemed like something she could have picked up on sooner.
I also find it very hard to believe that any group of people would collectively decide to divide in factions NOT based on family ties. This was the hardest part of the world for me to believe. NO WAY would (most) people agree to abandon their families for living in these factions. Also, it was hinted at that something lay beyond the walls, and I wanted to know more about the world.
As for the characters and plot, the world building frustrated me so much that I could barely get through the book and the plot felt a little thin to me. I wasn't very engaged by the book until Beatrice figured out that her mother had been in Dauntless. The latter half of the book was better with Tris making connections between the reality versus the ideal of the factions. I felt frustrated that this connection wasn't made until later. Maybe it was a device to show how Tris grows through the book and starts to question her world, but it didn't really seem that way to me. I also felt some of the side characters like Peter and Eric were cruel with no explanation on how they came to be so cruel. Maybe jealousy? Jeannine on the other hand, while she was one of the main villains, had reasons behind her cruelty. I did appreciate that Roth is not afraid to kill off characters, however. I was a little surprised, but it is a crapsack world where anyone can die.
As for the romance, I'm tired of girl falling for mysterious boy with a troubled past. Oh and he was also conveniently Divergent, too. Luckily the romance didn't take over the book, but still, I'm of the opinion that there doesn't need to be a romance.
Overall, I would give the book 1 stars, maybe 2ish, because I do want to read the next one, to find out what happens.