For sixteen-year-old Tris, the world changes in a heartbeat when she is forced to make a terrible choice. Turning her back on her family, Tris ventures out, alone, determined to find out where she truly belongs.
Shocked by the brutality of her new life, Tris can trust no one. And yet she is drawn to a boy who seems to both threaten and protect her. The hardest choices may yet lie ahead….
While I was reading this, everything else was put on hold. Washing up got left, clothes weren't being cleaned or ironed and we ate appallingly simple meals. If I'd had children, they would have been ignored too (which is why I don't...). I know that it's rolled out as a cliché all too often but Divergent really is fiercely addictive. After the first couple of chapters, I never wanted to put it down. When I was compelled to, I grabbed at it whenever I had a few minutes free and read hungrily on buses, trains, hidden in a conference room at my office. After I was roughly half way through, I doubt even my job could have pulled me away. Fortunately, by then it was Saturday and I was free to devour the ending in one fell swoop, allowed myself to breathe again and then felt bereft.
So what makes for such compelling reading? The story is set after war has rent Chicago apart, with those that survive banding together in factions. Each faction prides one attribute above all others and put its members through a trying initiation to make sure they embody everything their faction stands for. The history, the politics and the action are perfectly balanced and Roth manages to offer something that is both edge-of-the-seat exciting but also spectacularly well held together by substance.
Beatrice 'Tris' Prior is the feisty heroine and I loved her. While I was reading, there were times when I was willing things to go right for her so badly that I occasionally realised I was gripping my book ridiculously tightly. She could quite easily be held up as an alternative definition of 'plucky'. I suppose it might mark me out as a bit of a feminist but both her independence and the fact that she occasionally gets to do the saving for the men in her life were brilliant. Hmm, this is starting to sound a bit girl crush-y, isn't it?! On to Four it is...
In 'real' life, I'm not a massive fan of the strong silent type. In fiction? Apparently I like my leading men to be a little mysterious. Four's no easy man to understand but the fact that Tris takes her time getting to know him (and all of her other fellow faction members, for that matter), means that we can too. By the time there's even a hint of romance, there's also enough of a relationship for it not to seem forced.
One of my favourite elements was a small one but one that I couldn't write my review without mentionign: the explanation about how the factions came about and how they came to believe that their chosen trait was the most valuable. It provided much needed political background and history and, most importantly, was bizarrely logical and terrifyingly believable. Oh, and I defy you to read this book without playing the 'Which Faction Would I Choose' game.
The next in the trilogy, Insurgent, is out in May and I will definitely be among the many clamouring to grab a copy.
Overall: What more can I add to the cacophony of praise surrounding this debut? Some more praise, that's what! There's a reason why it has been appearing on so many 'Best of 2011'. It really is just that good. What are you waiting for?! Go read it! Thank me later :)