A well-written page-turner with a strong female lead. However, while it is entertaining – particularly the first third – it lacks the originality and emotional pull of other dystopian series openers such as The Hunger Games and Ender’s Game.
(In case you don’t know what the series is about – please see the official blurb at the bottom of this review…)
Roth’s triumph is Tris: a strong female character who gets on with defining her own destiny without being too annoying and whiny (alright, she does whine a bit, but it’s mostly justified). You care what happen to this girl and follow her willingly as she leaves her family to go through initiation into another tribe. However, for me, the book lacks the emotional intensity of The Hunger Games. There are no moment’s comparable to Rue’s death, for example. When [SPOILER ALERT] Tris’ parents are dispatched swiftly in the final pages of the book, I shrugged and read on. We hadn’t spent any time with these characters and it was difficult to feel sorry for their passing. This leaves me worried for the next two installments of the trilogy; with only Tris to really care about I don’t know if I’m invested enough in the story to stay with it for two more books.
The idea of dividing society into a series of factions is a well-established idea seen in a lot of dystopian fiction. Unfortunately, here I felt the divisions over-simplistic and difficult to swallow.
Don’t get me wrong, overall this is a good read (and merits its many 4/5 star reviews). Apart from a bit of slack in the middle (when initiation training starts to drag on – a problem Ender’s Game also suffers with), it rattles along at a great pace, leaving the reader little chance to get bored or distracted.
Now to see whether Roth can sustain the interest over the remaining two books…
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.