Katherine Tegen Books, 2011. 978-0-06-202402-2
Synopsis: The post-apocalyptic city of Chicago has been divided into five factions: Abegnation (the selfless), Amity (the peaceful), Candor (the honest), Dauntless (the brave), and Erudite (the intelligent). At sixteen, young adults are tested to determine which faction they will call their own. Beatrice Prior already knows that she will have a difficult time with her decision, but when her test results come back inconclusive, she will have to make the choice on her own. At the Choosing Ceremony, she chooses Dauntless, making the decision to leave her family and make a new life for herself. Renaming herself Tris, she begins her initiation training and begins to uncover a plan that could send their entire society into chaos.
Why I picked it up: The movie comes out on Friday and I decided I had probably read it before I saw the movie.
Why I finished it: It started out a little bit slow for my taste, but it picked up the more I got into the story. Roth has created for the reader a dystopian society that is reminiscent of We, The Giver, and 1984: the notion that though the government has been designed to keep peace, it is in fact creating dissonance in society, showing that not all of the people are equals (which was one of the reasons for the Communist movement in Russia). But aside from the history lesson that we could get from this book from a deeper read, we have teenagers that are forced to make decisions about themselves and the kind of people they will become. None of Beatrice’s inner conflicts are foreign to the reader, and the feelings of being too small, believing that the wrong choice has been made, and the desire to find a place in the world transcend age and gender. Tris, as she calls herself after she switches from Abegnation to Dauntless, may seem like a small character, but she grows more determined and more brave as the events of the plot take their course. Like many modern teenagers, she has to learn hard lessons about her peers, about her mentors, about love, and about the world as a whole. She spends a fair amount of time doubting herself, but it is her stubbornness and her inherent selflessness (a trait from which she tries to distance herself) that gives her the fuel she needs to keep going, to keep fighting. My one qualm with the book is that Roth spends quite some time describing the movements of the characters to the point where it detracts from the dialogue in some places; in the little intimate moments, I don’t care whether their hands are on each other’s waists or running their fingers through hair while the other has their hands on their hips, I just care whether they’re going to embrace/makeout/whatever. Teenagers have wandering hands, we get it. But overall, this is a strong debut novel with a message that we are in charge of our own transformations, that despite feeling out of control, we do have a say in our own future.
Other related materials: Divergent (movie); Insurgent by Veronica Roth; Allegiant by Veronica Roth; The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins; The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau; Independent Study (The Testing, Book 2) by Joelle Charbonneau; Graduation Day (The Testing, Book 3) by Joelle Charbonneau; Maze Runner trilogy by James Dashner; Matched books by Allie Condie; The Giver by Lois Lowry; Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry; Feed by M.T. Anderson; Gone by Michael Grant; Uwind Dystology by Neal Shusterman The Mind Readers series by Lori Brighton; Life As We Knew It series by Susan Beth Pfeffer; The Selection books by Kiera Cass; Under the Never Sky books by Veronica Rossi