I'll admit I read this book very quickly - in less than 24 hours. A couple of friends recommended it, comparing its plot and addictive quality to The Hunger Games. I'm inclined to agree.
Divergent is another work in the canon of dystopian societies where the protagonist finds a way to break free - from Huxley's Brave New World to Lowry's The Giver to the more recent The Hunger Games and I am sure scores of others - dystopia in not a new topic, but it never fails to fascinate. The human race, in an effort to curb war, unhappiness, poverty and whatever else ailed it before the new regime, creates distinct groups of people. In Roth's Divergent, there are five factions: Dauntless (valuing bravery and courage), Abnegation (valuing selflessness), Candor (valuing honesty), Amnity (valuing peace) and Erudite (valuing intelligence and the pursuit of knowledge). As it usually the case in these novels, the new system initially brings the semblance of peace, prosperity and order, until discontent settles. Corruption, pursuit of power, pride, confusion - all the reasons for creating a system of order - all the reasons humans fight rise to the surface.
Roth's protagonist, Beatrice discovers she is divergent, meaning she can think for herself and displays traits of multiple factions; all dangerous qualities. She leaves her family's faction (Abnegation) and joins a dangerous breed (Dauntless), all at a time when her society is on the cusp of a revolution. Not quite as complex as The Hunger Games trilogy, the story is just as fascinating and addictive to the reader. I worried about Beatrice the way we (the audience) always worry about the ONE (thanks, Matrix trilogy). I think we strive to find our better society and when we realize it doesn't work, we want a savior (hey there latent Christianity, good to see you). Our culture loves the idea of one person who can fix our problems and even better when it's a young woman! Naturally there is a B-plot with a love interest for Beatrice, but it's rather unobtrusive on her character development and it's unrealistic to desire a young adult novel, featuring young adults who are not experiencing puberty. Perhaps it would have been more interesting if the featured relationship were not male/female, but Roth does explore Beatrice's inexperience with sexuality and her fear of what a relationship means. Points for that.
The plainness of the Abnegation faction reminded me of The Giver and the strongly distinct factions reminded me of The Hunger Games. Roth fits nicely into the canon without distinguishing herself as revolutionary. I tore through this book because Roth knows how to build suspense - what is really going on with the Dauntless initiation, why does it seem like there is some larger plan at work and most importantly, what is the danger of being divergent? All these questions are answered while Roth does tee up room for a sequel: the revolution begins as the book ends. At its heart, this is book about a young woman finding her way in her world and figuring out who she truly is and I believe we need more books with a young female protagonist.