I picked this one up cold from a vibe from Goodreads. Quite a few people seemed to be talking about it and making it book of the month. Having read the 500 pages in under a weekend, I can see why.
The story is set in a crumbling Chicago of the future, some time after an unspecified ‘war’. Society has rebuilt itself along tribal lines: Abnegation, selfless charity workers, Amity, friends to everyone, Candor, who never lie, Erudite for knowledge, and Dauntless, the closest to the military. Everyone belongs to one clan, above all other sentiments, even to their family.
When Beatrice Prior is tested to see which clan she should take for the rest of her life, she’s stunned to discover she’s ‘Divergent’, having attributes of more than one clan. Told to hide her test results or her life will be in danger, she chooses the hard and brutal life of a Dauntless, fearless and militaristic. I was expecting her to announce she was Divergent at the start of the book, but it didn’t turn out like that.
The book follows her training and selection, and at times is brutal and honest in its description of the violent life the Dauntless lead, though never to the detriment of the story, or simply for gore. There’s also a romance between Beatrice and her instructor Four, an understated sub-plot that becomes more important at the end of the book. That was the only part that felt flat for me – there didn’t seem to be much chemistry between them.
The characters are all drawn well, each has their own personalities and weaknesses and strengths. Only the villains Peter and Molly seemed a little cartoonish, but that didn’t stop them from being brutally efficient at removing the competition.
Every page of this book has something going on. Either Beatrice is being tested, is falling in love, is trying to discover what it means to be ‘Divergent’ and why she should hide it, or is trying to stop war breaking out.
There isn’t a space wasted, and the pace of the book doesn’t slow at all. I rocketed through it, stuck to every page.