SYNOPSIS: In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.
During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her. – via Goodreads
Years ago, my best friend Natasha was hopping up and down about me getting to this trilogy, so the Distance Book Club was reinstated quickly. Evidently she needed someone to share this with, and so I got onto it. I enjoyed it all those years ago, and recently decided to revisit it again to see how I felt now. The novel directly takes us into a dreadful dystopian future. The children, however, are not necessarily suffering like you would come to expect, though there are some issues.
I enjoyed the concept of them having to choose a faction, as well as what those factions stood for, though it seemed illogical to me that they would not be able to maintain ties with other family members in other factions, etc. I just couldn’t buy into that, though I understand why it was executed this way. Tris is definitely a better leading lady, far less selfish than Katniss Everdeen (who you all know I have some beef with), so reading about her did not grate on me. I actually really, really liked her as the heroine. She is strong, smart, calculating and enjoyable. Then there is Four. Let’s talk about Four. I have mad love for Four. He is strong, he is mysterious (but not in the annoying way), he is just… the more I read about him, the more I adore him. Major character crushing going on here. He’s just a character I understand, and I appreciate that.
These books are written for young adults, and it is evident in the writing style as well as emotions that are described and the flow of the story. There is a large amount of teenage angst (I am so glad that I am so over that ridiculous part of life), but not as over the top as these stories can sometimes get. There is plenty of petty jealousy, childish hissy fits and obsession, though it works eventually if you can just bear in mind it is a book for young people still in that period in life, so I suppose they can identify more.
It took me a while to get into the reading style as it was written in first person, present tense, which is always difficult for me to slot into. I did enjoy the electricity between Four and Tris – it was incredibly painful at times, and at others so sweet, so there was that. It is actually a brilliant romance that Roth hit on here, something I actually looked forward to when I got to the scenes for them. There is also at least only one love interest, which is refreshing. The romance – back to that. It is great. Four believes in Tris’s strength, not that she is some damsel in distress, and the romance isn’t this “if I can’t have the other, I will simply die”. Gosh and the build up damn near drove me wild, loved it.
There are also a lot of places that blatantly show that Roth is a first time writer, plenty of places she tries for too much mystery and executes with too little gusto, but overall it is definitely not a bad read. Her supporting characters can be entertaining (I really like Will and Christina), but ultimately they are not really robust characters. Roth fills out Four and Tris, but the rest are vehicles to carry the story, no more, no less, which is a pity. The first half of the book is very slow and meandering and seemed pretty pointless in places, but the second half catches and snowballs into something rather good. It is also a quick read, in case you are looking for a light filler between books. I was a bit iffy about how some stuff went down at the end, as it really was a bit of a wreck, what with no finesse and proper build up, but outside of that, I think this is a pretty decent read and would recommend it.