One decision could change your whole life. To walk on your chosen path, you must desert your family. Or stay with them and live a life you know isn't yours. That's the choice Beatrice Prior makes and the consequences of her decisions for her and the world make up the 496 pages of the book.
Veronica Roth's debut novel, Divergent, first of the Divergent Trilogy is set in dystopian Chicago. In a society where people are divided into five factions based upon whichever virtue they value the most - Abnegation(the selfless), Amity (the peaceful),Candor(the honest), Dauntless (the brave) and Erudite (the intelligent) - , it raises the question if one virtue should be pursued above all others or is achieving a perfect balance between them, the actual solution. In the seemingly peaceful world, every year sixteen year-olds have to choose the faction they will dedicate the rest of their lives to. Does this system actually work ? Or is there a war brewing ?
Divergent takes it's time to build up momentum. For the first hundred pages or so, it might seem slow but then bam!, you are glued to the book for the fun has started. Roth draws you into the story, easily making you sympathize with the meek, apparently selfless Beatrice and then pumping up your adrenaline in later chapters as she transforms into the dauntless and introspective Tris. Tris is fierce, sometimes cold, but also brave as she acts for the good of others. Her personality isn't all unicorns and pixie dust, so you won't necessarily adore her but with her strength and independence, she makes for a great protagonist. There are other characters too, like Four (who is totally kick-ass by the way), which are well-made and interesting but thanks to the first-person storytelling, it's Tris who holds you captive with her musings and subsequent actions.
The story is definitely enjoyable with some darn good twists and the packed in adventure and action make it a thrilling ride. A particular scene, midway through the book, involving a zip-line is written so damn well, that you feel like you are on the wire with Tris. There's a bit of romance thrown in too (I mean that in the best way possible), which develops very realistically, with all the awkwardness, rise and falls. Some quick deaths, graphic fights and some 'test of your deepest fear' scenarios are present in the story which might make the book a bit raw for younger readers but more help ( a lot) than harm the story. Keep in mind that about 70% of the book is about the various tests, exercises and trials that our characters go through and the actual world-changing things start and finish at the climax. This might feel a bit tiresome, if you don't like parts where characters undergo training but I loved it.
The book belongs to the dystopian and YA genre but it doesn't exclusively belong to it. The world-building is something that needs to be focused upon in the sequel, to give the readers a sense of the world not just the characters. The Hunger Games trilogy, with which this book has been compared a lot of times had a unique and dread inducing world in addition to the action, exciting story and rootable characters. Still, since the end of Suzanne Collins' trilogy, Divergent is the best from the genre so far.
Veronica Roth surely has writing chops that you don't wanna miss. In her first published novel, she tells a tale which after the initial build-up, is an edge of seat thrill ride. Dark, electrifying, with twists and turns to leave you dizzy, Divergent should be the book you pick when you are feeling in the mood for some excitement.