I used to hate dystopian novels. Massively hate. Granted, that probably has a lot to do with us reading all the wrong ones in high school. I think it’s safe to say there’s little to grab the high schooler’s imagination in either Brave New world or Anthem. Fahrenheit 451 was agreeable enough, I suppose.
This one, however, I think belongs on a high school reading lists as a high school exposure to the dystopian genre and the messages it usually carries with it. It’s relatable, it’s pertinent, and the characters are familiar. I think a book like this has a lot more to offer a high school classroom. To a high schooler looking for a dystopian read, I would recommend this above The Hunger Games. Oh yes, I did just say that.
What I liked most about this book was the characterization of Tris. She’s not a perfect character. In fact, she is rather flawed, and recognizes it. There are moments when she makes a good decision and feels guilty about it, or makes a bad one without remorse. That’s interesting, and is a great use of the first person without the author being too intrusive. It’s her interactions with the other characters that make the novel so interesting.
There is nothing particularly unusual in the plot. Chicago has been segregated into groups and each is focused on a particular virtue. Tris, raised in an Abnegation home, has renamed herself and chosen to join the Dauntless, the loud protectors of the city who wear revealing clothing and pass the time by getting tattoos. She meets an older young man, one of her instructors, that she is immediately taken with, and later discovers that he was also an Abnegation transfer. Of course, not all is happy in this futuristic Chicago, and Tris hounds out the corruption that is threatening their structured and somewhat peaceful way of life. This is possible because she is Divergent: someone who does not have one virtue that outshines the rest.
I wish the ending could have been a little more original, though. We have yet another dystopian that is part of a series and a cliffhanger in which the world has descended into chaos. Although there’s nothing outlandishly original about the book, it was very good about twisting it just enough that it felt fresh. The ending was not fresh. Not at all. And that disappointed me greatly.