Divergent, by Veronica Roth, is another in a growing list of YA Dystopian novels (trilogies, to be more specific) written in the first person present voice of a teenage girl. Like the others (Delirium, Hunger Games, etc. this book is set in the fairly near future when the United States has devolved into a ruling society and a bunch of outcasts. In this particular case, there are five factions, Dauntless, Erudite, Abnegation, Amity, and Candor. These names suggest the traits of the groups, intended by these ruling elite to balance each other.
Beatrice Prior, a 16 year old girl, tells the story, beginning shortly before her evaluation. She starts out in Abnegation, but, like all young people graduating high school, she must be evaluated to decide which faction she is best suited for–and then she must choose which faction she will devote her life to. The problem that turns up during her evaluation is that she is suited for more than one faction and this makes her Divergent. In a choice that shocks her family, she chooses Dauntless, the brave faction, known for wearing dark clothing, running around jumping on and off trains, wearing tattoos and lots of piercings. When she arrives, she changes her first name to the shortened version of Beatrice: Tris.
The book really moves quick, the characters are well-defined, Tris’s voice is unique and interesting, and even though the future world is a little far-fetched, Roth makes it work. The only thing that really bothered me was that Erudite emerge as the villains and I always wonder at writers to seem to feel that being smart automatically makes you untrustworthy. This is a weird thing that permeates America today: the notion that it is so much better to be dumb than smart. Another thing that bothered me–and it was a minor problem in Delirium as well–is that Tris seems to break down and cry a lot. I’d really like my teenage girl heroines to be a little tougher. It seems a more pronounced problem here, where Dauntless are supposed to be tough as nails.
I haven’t finished the trilogy yet, but I currently rank this at #3 in my YA Dystopian First Person Present Girl Heroine trilogies.
Anyway, once you get started, you won’t want to put it down.