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Intended Age-Group: 16+
Issues of Violence: some graphic images (stabbing/shooting, torture, assault)
Intimacy Level: kissing/making-out, sleeping in same bed (but no further)
Recommendation: 4 out of 5 stars
"In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, 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 to determine who her friends really are--and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating 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 a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves or it might destroy her."
Initial Reaction: *****
From the start, the cover and description of Divergent, by Veronica Roth caught my attention. I loved the concept of choosing factions and the fact the character was torn over where she belonged.
Tris's chosen faction demands as much guts and gall from the reader as it does from Tris and her comrades. They undergo tests of bravery, strength, and endurance while being forced to discover who they really are.
The plot is intricate with multiple layers. I appreciate the depth to which Veronica Roth went to develop each faction and how they might cope with a desire for power. Overall, very well done.
When I first read the book, I felt very connected with Tris's character and liked Four a lot (though I wasn't a fan of his real name...) But the more I read the series and re-read the first book I grew less and less connected to Tris. She wasn't very likeable to me, but I could understand some of her inner struggles.
Guilty confession: I loved the characters in the movie much more than how they're portrayed in the book.
Spiritual Content: *****
There are a few mentions of God throughout the book, the first being among Tris's family when they thank Him for their meal. Later on, phrases like "Fear God alone" are seen an Tris thinks about her infant baptism and other issues of God. Nothing gets in-depth, but the novel certainly portrayed a teenager's questioning thoughts on God accurately. I hope to see Tris grow in this area in the next novel.
The trials and struggles (both internal and external) that Tris is forced to face are realistic carry a theme of camaraderie. The novel shows that bravery and strength can be found in good things like teamwork and friendship.
Issues of violence, intoxication, revenge, and pride are addressed through character experiences. Roth shows how these can damage the unity of a faction and they are not encouraged. There are other specific adult matters in this novel--the topic of sex and intimacy, suicide, and forced physical contact. These are realistic issues and I believe Roth addresses them very well from the 16-year-old Tris's point of view, but she raises a lot of questions that don't necessarily receive answers.
Certainly the best dystopian I've read since Hunger Games, but I can't say the same for the continuing books in this series.
Nadine Brandes is an adventurer, fusing authentic faith with bold imagination. She writes stories about brave living, finding purpose, and other worlds soaked in imagination. Her debut dystopian novel, A Time to Die, releases 2014 from Marcher Lord Press, the premier publisher of Christian speculative fiction. When Nadine's not taste-testing a new chai or editing fantasy novels, she is out pursuing adventures. She currently lives in Idaho with her husband. You can find out more about Nadine and her books at http://nadinebrandes.com.