Beatrice Prior is a 16-year-old who lives with her brother, Caleb, and their parents in the Abnegation faction in a dystopian Chicago society. Her father is a political leader. Soon after children in the society reach age 16, they take an aptitude test that determines which faction or group they should choose to join for the rest of their lives. A day later, at a Choosing Ceremony, the youths decide whether to go with the test results or “transfer” to another faction they think fits them better.
Beatrice has grown up in the Abnegation faction, whose members are more concerned about other people’s happiness than their own. They wear drab colors and don’t look at their reflections in the mirror because they are concerned with selflessness. Another faction is Amity. Members of this group appreciate art and music and are easygoing and warm. The Candor faction is honest in all matters — regardless of the consequences. The Erudite faction focuses on knowledge. Its members’ decisions are based on logic, but they can also be manipulated. The final group is Dauntless. This consists of risk takers who are brave but who also provide protection for others.
Beatrice’s test results are inconclusive. Her examiner, Tori, tells her that she showed equal aptitude for three factions — Abnegation, Erudite and Dauntless. These results mean that Beatrice is probably Divergent. Tori tells her not to speak of this: she can’t share the test results with anyone, not even her family. Tori explains that being Divergent is dangerous.
Beatrice decides to join Dauntless, which means she will only see her parents a few more times in her life. Her brother, Caleb, picks Erudite, so Beatrice also will see very little of him. The Dauntless initiates leave the ceremony and run to another section of town, jump onto a moving train car and head to the Dauntless training grounds. This year, there are nine transfers or initiates for Dauntless and 11 who are born Dauntless. The two groups train separately at first. Only the top 10 can stay Dauntless.
The others are destined to a factionless existence as homeless wanderers.
Now calling herself Tris instead of Beatrice, she faces long odds; she is the smallest and one of the weakest candidates. The candidates are ranked in a series of physical tests in which they have to overcome their personal fears.
Many of the candidates are vicious and prey on one another to improve their own chances. Tris is not without allies; she and another candidate, Christina, become fast friends. Also, an instructor, Four, helps Tris and even begins to become romantically attracted. While Tris is trying to keep her ranking high enough to stay in Dauntless, she is dismayed at the depravity she sees in the Dauntless leaders. She is also troubled because she hears that the leaders of the Abnegation and Erudite factions — where her parents and brother are — disagree on governmental policy, and she is worried about what might happen between them.
Tris begins to develop doubts about whether she was right to join the Dauntless “hellions” or whether should she have remained in the more sedate Abnegation.
The author, Veronica Roth, has written a compelling story that serves as part one of a series. It is a good read, one that calls to mind but is decidedly different from “The Hunger Games.” Roth’s first book likely will have you looking for the sequel, “Insurgent.”
Just in her 20s, Roth studied creative writing at Northwestern University. Judging by “Divergent,” she learned quickly.
Maggie Braun is a teacher at Manhattan High School.