It's hard to compete with Suzanne Collins' brilliant Hunger Games series. The dystopian novels cast a long shadow over young adult fiction. For those who are looking for a worthy successor to Katniss Everdeen's throne, Veronica Roth's Divergent just might be the thing. Set in a futuristic Chicago in a world broken up into factions--Erudite, Dauntless, Candor, Abnegation and Amity--Roth's postapocalyptic vision feels prescient and timely for an adult reader, and makes for an all night page-turner for teens.
We follow our heroine Beatrice as she moves from her simple life in one faction into the more chaotic realm of the daring Dauntless. Instead of SAT scores, teens take an assessment test to discover which of the five government groups suits them. Despite being raised as a selfless Abnegation girl, Beatrice does not have a clear faction choice, which makes her dangerous in the eyes of the government. That's where the story really begins. Beatrice changes her name to Tris as she enters her new faction, and the majority of the novel is her training. It's very intense psychologically, well written and conceived. The science fiction elements are not overly strong and exist mostly as a backdrop. This is a story of a character becoming involved with something larger than herself. Dystopian on a whole new level.
For those of you who like a little romance in your dystopian science fiction, don't worry. Tris, an unlikely romantic heroine, finds herself in a strained romantic relationship, which, as an adult reader, I thought came out of nowhere and made or the weakest aspect of Veronica Roth's otherwise inspired novel. The novel didn't need a romance plot, as many current young adult novels don't. While occasionally these love stories make sense in the larger scheme of the series, I find that they can detract from the more important dystopian themes overall.
Bottom Line: Divergent is a fun and thought-provoking start to what should be a fantastic science fiction series for young adult readers. Bold and intense with plenty of action. And a movie that should be just as thrilling coming out next year.
You can find Divergent by Veronica Roth at your local chain bookstore, online or at an independent video near you (click here for a list). Also look for the eBook download on your Kindle, Nook, iPad or other reading device.