London, HarperCollins, 2011, 487p
I have been pestered for weeks by students who wanted me to read this novel. Admittedly, I have been meaning to get around it since before the movie trailer came out, so as I read it, I pictured the established cast as the characters, something I usually wish to avoid.
Tris lives in a world where people are not defined by race or age or sexuality, but by their characteristics. Society is divided into five factions: Abnegation, where one lives a life of abstinence from all luxuries, characterised by selflessness; Amity, for kind individuals who focus on friendship; Candor, for those who are honest and frank; Dauntless, for the brave and fearless; and Erudite, where the scholars find themselves.
Tris is born into Abnegation, but the system recognises the potential for people to feel disconnected from their faction; so in their sixteenth year, individuals can take an Aptitude Test and can choose to change factions. Tris' Aptitude results are inconclusive, suggesting she has the characteristics of more than one faction - she is Divergent. At the Choosing Ceremony, Tris selects Dauntless, and is thrown into a brutal training routine. She finds herself in danger, both from within the Dauntless sector, where competition for membership is fierce, and from across the factions - her results are causing suspicion amongst some of the leaders, who are concerned that the Divergent will rebel against the system, contradicting it's structure and history.
Although Divergent has not received as much hype as the Hunger Games books, they are becoming quietly popular amongst teen readers. Tris is a great role model - honest, brave and selfless, a true Divergent. Opposite her is Four, one of the trainers in the Dauntless camp, a man who makes Tris' heart flutter - he is secretive and mysterious, but the way he slowly let's Tris in to his life is heart-wrenchingly romantic.
The structure of the factions gives young readers something to associate themselves with - for example, I am pretty confident that I would be Erudite (as I am sure many Librarians would agree), though I hope I am not quite as evil as the leaders of this faction...
Like the best dystopian novels, this structured society subtly reflects some of the issues of our own lives - like the fact that so many communities are fractured by labels, splitting people into self-perpetuating 'types' and turning them against each other.
Now I just have to wait for the students to return the next book in the series to the Library!