Beatrice Prior lives in Chicago with her parents and brother. But this isn’t the Chicago we all know. This is a Chicago based in the future, where society is divided into five sectors – Candor, Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity, and Erudite, each one representing a different virtue. Every year, the 16-year-olds of the community must choose which sector they want to be a part of for the rest of their lives.
Despite growing up in Abnegation, Beatrice surprises everyone, including herself, when she decides to become Dauntless – the faction known for their bravery. She changes her name to Tris as a way to reinvent herself and shed her old faction. She undergoes an intense and extremely violent initiation. All the while she is dealing with new friendships, a confusing new relationship, and a dark secret about who she really is, and how dangerous it can be for her and the people around her if it’s revealed.
What I Thought Before I Started Reading: I’ve heard so many good things about this book. I cannot wait to start reading it.
What I Thought in the Middle of Reading: I’m really not sure how I feel about this book. I literally do not know if I like it or not.
What I Thought when I was Done: Who? What? Where? When? Why? And How?
Questions, questions, questions. This book left me with so many questions. I understand it’s the first in a trilogy so naturally we are supposed to have questions. You wouldn’t want everything to be wrapped up. Unfortunately, I am afraid that most of my questions will never be resolved. The issues I had with the novel revolve around the world Roth has created.
I have no problem when an author of a dystopian novel does not explain everything to us regarding how the current world came about. In fact things tend to get a bit complicated when the writer tries to spell everything out for a reader. I’m fine with a brief description on how the world got to the way it is. “There was a war, lots of fighting, the government took control, and this is the way we are now.” Sums it up, short and sweet. However, I do think that the current world you are writing about should be fully explained and understood.
Who governs the five factions? There was no real sense of who was in charge. I get that each faction had a duty to uphold in society but how was there not a government with all the power? Who controlled the ceremony and made sure that every teen chose a faction and stuck with their faction? She does go into a little detail about what becomes of those who are factionless. They live a miserable life on the outskirts of the city. But why? Do these people not have families? Before choosing to become Dauntless, Beatrice lived with a mother and father who loved her. If she were to suddenly become factionless, what is stopping her from moving back in with her parents?
Why are so many people lacking basic human emotion? Because I do not want to give away any spoilers, I will not divulge too much about this topic. (I had a lot of problems with the ending of this novel and Tris’ reaction to all the violence and bloodshed around her. I go into a lot more detail about it in my Goodreads review. But be warned, that one will seem highly negative and chaotic because it was written immediately after I finished the book. I always need at least a few days to really work out what I thought of a novel.) The novel sets the tone that once you choose a new faction you are saying goodbye to everything about your old one, including your family. By choosing to leave the faction she grew up in, Tris was faced with the reality that she will probably never see her parents again. But why? The entire novel takes place in Chicago, a relatively small city. What is preventing you from visiting your family simply because you aren’t in the same faction? The bond between a parent and child is the strongest bond humans have. How do these parents so easily accept that they simply cannot see their children anymore?
Is Chicago the only city left in the world? As I previously stated, this entire novel takes place in Chicago. There is no mention of what’s happening around the world, the rest of the United States, not even the rest of Illinois. Was there an epic World War III that wiped out the entire world and Chicago is the only city left standing? If so, it would have been nice to have been informed of that. If not, then a small briefing of the rest of the country would have been nice. This goes back to the question of who is in charge. Who is keeping all these people in the city? Why haven’t any of the factionless thought, “Ya know what? I’m gonna head over next door to Indiana. They are a lot more tolerant of us factionless folk”?
Final Verdict: Despite the many problems I had with the world Roth created, I was still entertained. For a first novel, it was impressive. I gave this book a 3-star rating on Goodreads. I will probably read the second book eventually but it’s not on the top of my list of priorities.