“Every faction conditions its members to think and act a certain way. And most people do it. For most people, it’s not hard to learn, to find a pattern of thought that works and stay that way. . . . But our minds move in a dozen different directions. We can’t be contained to one way of thinking. And that terrifies our leaders. It means we can’t be controlled.”
Beatrice Prior is a Divergent. And she’d better keep that a secret. Because in the future, specifically in the future Chicago of the novel, society is broken down into five factions based on the qualities of character that individuals demonstrate. The motto “Faction before blood” means that families are less important than factions. At sixteen, children attend a ceremony in which they choose the faction they will live with from then on. To choose a faction different from that of his parents means that the teen will be separated from his family for life.
Beatrice is from the Abnegation faction, the group of people who are self-sacrificing. They run the government since it is unlikely that they will make selfish grabs for power. The four other factors are: Candor (always tells the truth, no matter how rude or mean); Amity (friendship); Erudite (intelligent and bookish—love learning); and Dauntless (brave, fierce).
Living in the Abnegation faction is hard. Everyone is expected to always give up comforts for others. They are nice, they take turns, they listen to others, they don’t worry about fashion (all clothes are gray), and they don’t speak up before hearing someone else’s issues. Still, despite the lack of individualism in this, as a group, Abnegation plays nice. Not all groups do.
Like all sixteen year olds, Beatrice goes through a simulation that, based on her reaction to various situations, will indicate to which of the five factions she belongs. But her simulation results are inconclusive. She reacts to the virtual dangers as an Abnegation, a Dauntless, and an Erudite. The woman monitoring the simulation whispers that she is a Divergent. This is dangerous. She is not to tell anyone, but she should choose a faction. Unsure of what she should do, Beatrice (henceforward Tris) chooses Dauntless.
The Dauntless, traditionally brave, have the job of protecting the city. But in recent times, the leaders are more sadistic than courageous and the initiates are treated cruelly and encouraged to be brutal to one another. Only ten initiates will be accepted into the faction. Those who are cut will be factionless for the rest of their lives, impoverished nobodies, living on the street. The vicious, even gruesome, initiation process is heart-stopping. You won’t be able to stop reading through it—and it covers most of the book.
At the same time the initiates are vying for a spot in Dauntless, there is a rumor that Abnegation is misusing its power and that the Erudite want war and hope the Dauntless will cooperate. One of the young trainers of the initiates is Four, who tells Tris, “They don’t want you to act a certain way. They want you to think a certain way.” As a Divergent, her mind isn’t easy for others to control, so she’s a primary target, a girl who may be able to help Abnegation because of her many qualities.
If you’re looking for a good read after finishing The Hunger Games trilogy, this is a great choice. (I think the cover even tries for a subconscious Hunger Games feeling.) Be mindful that it’s for mature readers who aren’t sickened by the violence, which is excessive and somewhat repetitive. And, yes, the romance is there, too, a very sweet one that will have you rooting for Tris and Four. This is obviously the beginning of a trilogy. We don’t even know how the world outside of Chicago functions—whether this is something neglected by the writer as she was swept away with her descriptions of Dauntless sadism or purposeful, something we will learn as society breaks apart and moves outward remains to be seen. But we will certainly check out ‘book two’ because we want to find out.