HarperCollins Childrens Books
I'm not usually very particular when it comes to world-building, but the society in Divergent didn't work for me. While I loved the idea of the different factions (Abegnation = selfless; Amity = peace; Erudite = intelligence/knowledge; Dauntless = bravery; Candor = honesty) I found it difficult to believe that so much of the population was easily sorted into one particular faction or that it would be so easy to be defined solely by one quality. This world was extreme; there was no balance. Being brave doesn't mean you can't also be honest, selfless, intelligent, or even peaceful. These qualities are not at odds with each other yet here, they are. When Tris' aptitude tests come back inconclusive and she's labeled "divergent" (meaning she fits into more than one faction), I was amazed that being Divergent was so rare. It was hard for me to get past the extreme views put forth by the characters of Divergent.
Tris, who has been raised in the selfless faction of Abegnation, chooses to be brave and leave her family. She says it's because she's never been selfless enough for Abegnation, and this is true: she's not selfless. In fact, at times I found it startling how selfish Tris was, especially during her initiation into the new faction. Dauntless is a faction that appreciates an extreme, often dangerously stupid sort of bravery. There are no rails on hallways towering high above the ground and the initiates must fight each other until one is unconscious and one is the victor. It felt senseless, like violence for the sake of violence, and Tris slipped into the role of cruel Dauntless initiate a bit too easily. While I liked many of her new friends (especially Christina, who came from the faction of Candor - honesty), Tris herself was difficult for me to root for and I suspect this may have been partly because I find it so difficult to relate to her. The selfless faction might not be the first I would choose, but the faction that leaps onto and off of moving trains would definitely be last on my list. However, as the book goes on, Tris grows as a character. In an ironic twist, choosing to be brave ultimately teaches her how to be selfless and by the end I could easily see why so many readers love her.
The story of Divergent hinges on the different factions, however the majority of the book is taken up by Dauntless initiation -- it's exciting, but I often wondered what it was building to and since I didn't particularly care for Tris, it was difficult to stay engaged in the book. The real story doesn't take off until the last 80 or so pages (the last fifth of the book). This is a lot of build up, yes, but for many readers it will be worth it not only because those last 80 pages are so intense, but also because the build up is also so full of action and adventure. For me though, it ultimately fell flat. It took too long for me to really care for Tris and even when I did I wasn't sure I liked her. The romance with Four wasn't as captivating as I wanted it to be and though there were some seriously great moments with Tris' friends, it wasn't enough. I wanted more from this book - or maybe just different - than what I got. I wanted to really understand why everyone in this world finds it so easy to take on one personality trait above all others and why Divergence was so rare. I wanted to be 100% behind Tris, but I never truly agreed with the choices she made. I wanted to connect with this book, but I couldn't. As much as I love the idea of the factions, the story itself wasn't nearly as captivating as the idea of it.