Novels in November: Divergent

Synopsis according to Goodreads:
"In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue--Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is--she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are--and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, Tris also learns that her secret might help her save the ones she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

I wanted to read Divergent for quite some time, being a general fan of dystopian YA, but my time is always limited. However, I had the chance to listen to it on audiobook, and it turns out I can zip through a novel a LOT faster in that format. Who knew?

The story has all the hallmarks of typical dystopian- in a nebulous future, the government (of one form or another) is operating in a way that made sense once, but seems a bit too striated and exclusionary now. Roth's setting is Chicago, which I enjoyed, both for its previous under-representation and for the fact that it's rumored to be applying for bankruptcy (as Detroit did). A glimmer of things to come, perhaps?

I especially liked the main character of Tris, and how she handles situations in a realistically flawed way. At times the Deus Ex Machina raises my skepticism, but overall this book was a solid adventure, with a little bit of everything on the emotional range. The environment is set, but only in the microcosm, so there's a lot left to be explored (in any number of directions) by the end of the book. I'm hoping Book 2 has Tris (and company) getting the hell out of Dodge, but I suspect she'll do that hero thing and stick around to make things right for others.

I recommend this book for lovers of dystopian fiction, solidly good YA, female protagonists, adventure/action novels, adventure/action movies (some of her moves are described in a way reminiscent of Kung Fu movies), and a realistic balancing of what it's like to be not only in love, but in lust, for the first time.

And, for the record, I'm pretty sure I'd be Amity (by process of elimination: I'm too reliant on white lies to be Candor, too weak and pacifist to be Dauntless, too self-indulgent to be Abnegation, and too daydreamy to be Erudite).

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