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, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.
My Review (Spoilers!):
Executive Summary: Hunger Games mixed with Enders Game.
This is our book made into movie category for this year, and we are going to go see the movie in the theater as a group. I’m pretty excited as the movie looks pretty good, and for the most part, I felt the book was pretty good too.
We meet the main character, Beatrice, her brother Caleb, and her parents at the start of the book. They are part of a group called Abnegation (think Amish) who value selflessness. They wear grey clothing and put others’ needs before their own. Children from Abnegation are teased, called “Stiffs”, and Beatrice has a hard time fitting into the group. She (and her brother who is an Irish twin of hers) are nearing the day for their aptitude test which will tell them which faction they will go to. There are five factions–Abnegation, Erudite, Dauntless, Candor or Amity. It seems most people end up in the same faction where they began, however, we get the sense that Beatrice is considering leaving, and that she will choose to go to Dauntless.
The test is a virtual simulation where they inject the students with a serum which leads them through a series of events. Based on the results of the test, the Faction can be determined. When Beatrice takes the test, there is an anomaly. Instead of ending up with one faction, she has three potential options–Abnegation, Dauntless or Erudite. The test proctor, a woman named Tori from Dauntless, deletes her results and enters her manually as Abnegation. She then explains to Beatrice that if someone ends up with multiple options, they are considered Divergent, and it is considered a dangerous threat. On her way home after the test, a Factionless man comes up to Beatrice asking for food, and we learn that there is this segment of society that does not belong to one of the five Factions and has fallen through the cracks–something that no one wants.
When the day comes to pick their Factions, Caleb goes before her and to everyone’s surprise, he chooses Erudite. This is especially a surprise because the Erudite and the Abnegation are currently having difficulties. Abnegation rule the land, revealed to be a futuristic Chicago, as it was thought that the best leaders are selfless leaders. The Erudite are uprising because they have begun to believe that their knowledge makes them more capable leaders. When Beatrice picks her Faction, the reader is supposed to be surprised when Beatrice chooses Dauntless but no one but her father is. Her mother even seems happy.
Knowing that she has a lot to prove being a new initiate and coming from Abnegation, Tris (renamed to suit her new cool self) tries hard at the early stages of initiation. She makes it onto the moving train, and is the first to jump off the building (into a net but she didn’t know there was one there). She goes into the Dauntless headquarters and begins initiation. The initiates are split into Dauntless-born and not for the first round of initiations. If the candidates do not end up in the top of their class, they will be exiled and Factionless (and their ranking helps determine what position they will hold). Tris is small and not used to fighting but she learns quickly. She makes a few friends (Christina, Will, and Al) and a few enemies (Peter, Molly, and Drew). Tris also meets some of the instructors and it becomes quickly clear that there is a romantic interest in the instructor, Four (hey, it’s a young adult book) and there is something sketchy going on with the instructor, Eric.
Training begins quickly. The initiates learn to fire guns, throw knives and general skills for hand to hand combat. Tris and her friends decide to go get tattoos (all the Dauntless have them) and when they arrive, Tris realizes that Tori (from the aptitude test) is a tattoo artist as her normal job. Tris gets a tattoo of three birds – one for each family member she left behind and presses Tori for more information about being Divergent (but doesn’t get much out of her). Interspersed in between their bracket of hand to hand combats, the initiates travel to an abandoned section of the city to play a game of capture the flag. Tris uses her head (and some bravery) and climbs to the top of a ferris wheel to see where the other team has placed their flag and her team eventually wins the game when she lets Christina grab the flag. Eric, the leader of the other team, is furious.
On visiting day, Tris’s mom appears. She tells Tris that the issues between the Abnegation and the Erudite is escalating, so much so that she will not be allowed to visit Caleb’s visiting day. She asks Tris about her ranking and about her aptitude tests. Tris tells her that her aptitude tests were inconclusive, and her mother tells her to keep it a secret and never use the term divergent. She asks Tris to try to find a way to see Caleb and to ask him to investigate the serum for the aptitude tests (which Erudite develops). And her familiarity with the initiation customs and area reveals that she had been born Dauntless!
The results of the first round are released–Edward comes in first with evil Peter coming in second. Tris comes in at sixth which is good enough to move on. Edward’s girlfriend Myra is dead last for the non-dauntless born. During the night, Edward is attacked and stabbed in the eye, presumably by Peter. He and Myra quit and become Factionless as Myra was going to be cut anyway.
Tris spends the night zip lining down the abandoned Hancock building with the Dauntless-born initiates so she has some friends there which is good because the transfers and Dauntless born initiates come together for the second stage of initiation. This stage involves fear simulations. When Tris comes in, Four hooks her up for her simulation. They talk a little about fear and the fact that Dauntless used to be about bravery and standing up for others. Now it has become more about cruelty. Tris’s simulation is being attacked by birds (this would be my mother’s simulation), and when she finishes, Four tells her she has made it in record time.
Back in the dormitory, Peter taunts Tris with a newspaper going into some slander exacerbating the situation between the Erudite and Abnegation. It turns out that Molly has told a reporter that Tris talks in her sleep about her father being an evil person and no wonder both Caleb and Tris left Abnegation. Tris storms out and is calmed by Will, Christina and Al. They head to go get new tattoos when they stumble across drunken Four who tells Tris that she looks good. Then Al picks her up and carries her off. (Why do boys think that’s acceptable?!)
For her next simulation, Tris is in a glass tank that is filling with water. Again, like in the aptitude test, she manipulates the situation and breaks the glass. Four realizes what she has done and deletes her results. He warns her (like everyone else has) to be careful with her divergent powers. Tris heads to go speak to Tori. Tori reveals that her brother was also Divergent and was found in the chasm at the end of the simulations. It was touted as a suicide, but of course Tori knows better. She believes that the Dauntless leaders killed him, but she does not know why being Divergent is such a threat to them. Tris realizes that because Four recognized her manipulation of the simulation, he’s either Divergent or knows someone else who is.
The Erudite continue to release articles about the Abnegation. Tris continues to go through her fear simulations, trying not to manipulate them. She’s in the first position at the end of stage two (even though her mother told her to keep her head down and stay middle of the pack). Peter is pissed and threatens her. Al is devastated because he’s last in the list (which is not surprising because he’s just a wimp. I get that he has trouble beating up his friends, but I’m not that sympathetic for someone not being able to handle simulations.) Tris tries to comfort Al but doesn’t know what to say. That evening she gets out of her room to get a drink and hears Eric talking to a female about the simulations revealing who are the Divergent rebels. She starts to sneak back to the room as she’s obviously nervous when she is attacked by Peter, Drew, and…Al. They take her over to the chasm and hang her blindfolded over the railing. Luckily (and predictably) Four rescues her.
Tris awakes in Four’s room (um, what? take her to the infirmary, you creep!) Four tells her that the reason that Al betrayed her was because her strength made him feel weak (because that’s an excuse). She sleeps in his room another night and does weird things like smell his pillow and watch him sleep. Young love, I guess. She returns to the others and tells Christina and Will that Al was one of the ones who ganged up on her. Time to begin the third stage of initiation. All the initiates climb to this glass room above the pit where they will eventually complete a simulation comprised of all of their fears from stage two (sounds fun). Apparently this simulation is somehow different though because everyone will be aware that it is a simulation (like Tris is in all the simulations). They return to the dorm and Al tries to apologize to Tris. She tells him to get away and never talk to her again.
Tris is awakened by Christina. Al has committed suicide. Tris feels bad (I didn’t). Eric begins to speak and comments about how Al was brave for committing suicide because he is now exploring the unknown. Tris is annoyed because she believes that pride is what killed Al (I think it was cowardice but maybe that’s just me) and she walks away from the funeral. Four finds her. She starts to complain to him, and he stops her and tells her that she is being watched (presumably by the leaders). He also tells her something that is obvious but she hasn’t realized–she is at her most dauntless when she is being selfless.
Tris, Will, and Christina decide to go get new tattoos. Tris gets a tattoo of the Abnegation symbol, which seems a little foolish after Four tells her she is being watched. For some reason, Tris has all of the Erudite reports from the last six months and throws them into the chasm (this seemed very disjointed). She talks to Will about the Erudite leader, Jeanine. Will and Christina head back to bed, but Tris wants to go speak to Four. He takes her to the glass room and shows her his fear landscape. He’s afraid of heights, confinement (due to being locked in a closet as a child and Tris realizes he was born in Abnegation), shooting a woman, and facing his father who beat him as a child. Tris recognizes Four’s father as Marcus, the Abnegation leader. And that means that Four (whose nickname comes from only his four fears when most people have somewhere around ten) is actually Tobias, the son who left (understandably). He tells Tris that his aptitude results were for Abnegation but he chose Dauntless, and she is upset that he is not Divergent. And then they kiss.
Of course in normal young adult novel fashion, the next day, Four ignores her. The initiates go to the glass room and are supposed to navigate Lauren’s (one of the trainers) fear landscape. Unfortunately, her landscape is kidnapping which reminds Tris of being taken by Peter, Drew, and Al. She freaks out, Four tells her to stop being pathetic and get herself together and she smacks him. She storms out and decides she’s going to go try to find Caleb.
She goes to the Erudite library, which is a bit surprising because it seemed like you weren’t allowed to just go visit other factions. Inside is a massive picture of Jeanine. Caleb conveniently is also in the library. He tells her something is going on but he doesn’t know what. She tells him to investigate their serum (like her mom told her to do). Two men come up and tell Tris that she needs to come with them, and she is taken to Jeanine. She realizes that is the woman’s voice who Eric had been talking to about the Divergent rebels. It is apparent that Jeanine is trying to get Tris to spill that she is Divergent but Tris manages to lie fairly convincingly.
She returns to the Dauntless compound and is in big trouble by Eric. Four kind of stands up for her by justifying her leave because she was embarrassed. They have a little spat about him ignoring her, but he tells her he has something to tell her and to meet him at 11:30. She returns to the dorm and Christina tells her that Will kissed her *swoon*. When Tris meets Four later, they take a train to see the Erudite headquarters whose lights are on despite there being some ordinance against that. He tells Tris that he found some info that suggests that Erudite and Dauntless are pairing to start a war on Abnegation.
It’s initiation day, aka the day that all the initiates face their fear landscapes. Some of the fears we have seen before–the tank filling with water, the crows. There are also some new ones like a fear of being intimate with Four (how embarrassing!) and being forced to shoot her family, which, in true selfless fashion, she shoots herself instead. At the end of the simulation, she gets an injection with a tracking device (cue the foreboding music). Four comes up and tells her that he heard she only had seven fears but he didn’t watch the simulations. She tells him about her fear about him and they have an awkward conversation about sex and their relationship. They show each other their tattoos. Four has a tattoo of all of the factions’ symbols. He goes on to say that he believes that the factions are a mistake and that having the virtues of all the factions is actually what should be aspired to (duh).
They go to the initiation party, and of course Tris is ranked first. Will and Christina are ranked high enough to stay in Dauntless, but so is Peter (not surprising). Luckily Molly and Drew end up Factionless but we had kind of forgot about them. Tris realizes how Erudite is going to get Dauntless to fight, and she tells Four to meet her later so she can tell him. But it’s too late. She falls asleep and awakes to everyone zombie-like getting ready. Tris realizes that if she doesn’t participate, she will be found out, so she plays along. They get on a train where she finds Four, and he is Divergent too (no one is surprised). They get to Abnegation and council members start being killed. Eric reveals that the transmitter that all the Dauntless were injected with is being controlled by the Erudite. Eric points his gun at Four and although it reveals her as Divergent, she can’t let her love be killed. She shoots Eric in the foot. Tris and Four make a run for it but Tris gets shot in the shoulder and they are captured.
They are taken to Jeanine who tells them that she suspected them both. She doesn’t understand why most of the Divergent come from Abnegation and goes on about how society would be better if a bunch of self-righteous idiots weren’t running it. She gives Four a new injection that she has specifically developed for the Divergent, and it seems to work. He goes to the control room and Tris is taken to live her fear landscape–she is trapped in a tank (and it’s being recorded supposedly so the Erudite can study it). She can’t manipulate the simulation. Luckily her mom comes to rescue her. And we find out that her mom is also Divergent (which goes against the theory that they come from Abnegation). They go to meet Caleb and Tris’s father, but on the way, they are seen. Tris’s mom sacrifices herself so that Tris can make it to warn them. Along the way, she has to shoot zombie Will. It’s getting real.
She finds Caleb and her father as well as a few other Abnegation people including Marcus. After having the bullet removed from her shoulder, Tris meets with them. She explains what she knows and then realizes how to stop everything. Four was taken to the control room because of his computer skills. And that is where the Dauntless soldiers are being controlled. Tris, Caleb, dad, and Marcus decide to go try to stop this.
They head to Dauntless headquarters. Once they are inside, Tris finds Peter. He’s not a zombie. He was taken out of the simulation presumably because they thought he would be like Eric and do it on his own but they surprisingly guessed wrong. Tris reluctantly agrees to take him with them. Peter tells them where to go, and Tris and her father head that way. Unfortunately they encounter some guards and Tris’s father sacrifices himself so that Tris can hopefully make it. (Abnegation really are selfless.) She makes it to the control center and finds that it is only Tobias in there.
Tobias doesn’t recognize her and tells her to drop her weapon. She tries to fight him, but that doesn’t work. She thinks that maybe if she treats it like her fear landscape that it will work, so she turns over the gun she has re-grabbed to him. He realizes through her selflessness that it is her and he beats the mind control and recognizes her (and of course they kiss). He shuts down the program and copies all the damning information onto a jump drive. The Dauntless are now awakened but Tris realizes that things are not going to go back to the way they were before. The group gets onto a train and heads toward Amity. Tris & Tobias say “I love you” and the book ends to be continued.
Verdict: 3.5 Stars
This book is fun. I liked the story and it was well-written. However, it was a bit predictable at points, and I did not feel like the ending was as satisfying as I would have liked. However, the next two books will hopefully make up for the mediocre ending. I picked up the second book today and will start it soon.