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Divergent by Veronica Roth had me spellbound by the end of the third chapter and obsessively reading by page 48. Roth's debut novel is a knockout tale of a dystopian society living in the ruins of Chicago. Yes, I know, yet another YA dystopian tale -- do they publish anything else? Trust me. This one is worth it.
Beatrice Prior lives in a world where people are divided into five factions that base their entire culture around a particular virtue such as Candor for truthfulness and Amity for peacefulness. Each year, sixteen-year olds must choose which faction they will train and live in. This decision is predicated on a test each teen must take. Beatrice's test indicates that she is Divergent, which is a very dangerous thing to be and a fact that she is forced to hide. Further complicating her young life is her desire to choose a faction which is not the one in which she was raised. Choosing another faction means leaving your family and community along with risking becoming "factionless".
I know it sounds grim, but it's not. It's actually an action packed story full of teen angst and achingly sweet romance. What sets this story apart from other derivative dystopian novels is Beatrice's real struggle to find herself. Adolescence, with its ever-changing range of emotions, confusions, doubts and triumphs, is played out brilliantly against the initiation Beatrice must endure as well as her internal conflict. Add in a healthy dose of power struggle between the factions and you've got one terrific read.
What Roth does best is create believable characters that can break your heart as well as make you cheer. Their emotions are so real and so familiar that you immediately identify with them -- even it the reader has not been a young adult in quite a while. I think that's what I find attractive about YA novels. In a way, it's a kind of nostalgia for an older reader, a revisiting of the days when you were keen to take on the world and your naivete was still in tact. Perhaps this is one reason why YA appeals to such a wide audience. At some point, we all want to recapture our youth. It's wonderful that there are writers like Veronica Roth that do it so well. So, looking for a good read? Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Divergent. You'll be glad you did.