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, Tris also learns that her secret might help her save the ones she loves . . . or it might destroy her
I’m starting to think that we LBC Dystopians are a rather exacting group. While I’ve always considered us to merely be discerning readers, I’m starting to worry that our expectations are somewhat higher than most! We demand better! And I sort of love us for it!
Despite the hype that this was the new Best Thing Ever, we were underwhelmed for the most part by this. The language wasn’t challenging in the slightest, which wasn’t something that we excused merely for being targeted at a younger market. So, rather than being a book that we could sink our teeth into; we all flew through it pretty quickly.
Conceptually, we felt that there were fundamental flaws in the structure of the social world that we just couldn’t ignore. For a start – how is EVERYONE not a divergent? We just couldn’t make sense of the 5 part faction breakdown. It just didn’t seem to made sense for all aspects of industry to be divided up and compartmentalised in this way. Aside from it being completely implausible that people – humanity – would have become so splintered in terms of character or personality.
For another, it appears to be a world full of children – the adults have little to no interactions with the initiates. Now – this isn’t new – in order for a child or young person to be the primary protagonist or hero – there are usually absent parental figures. This occurs across young person literature from Harry Potter to Enid Blyton’s school series to Roald Dahl. Here however, adults and grown up’s only appear in nightmares or as a round up. It felt like pretty sloppy storytelling.
We did find the female characters to have a certain degree of depth. Not merely ‘strong’, Tris went through a lot of different experiences and responded to each of them in way that we could relate to. Her mother – possibly our favourite character throughout the book – was mysterious and well rounded – a person as well as a parent. Male character were not served so well. Four/Tobias was the romantic distraction. Eric was a brute. Al was weak. Peter was a bully – all fairly one note characters. In order for the story to work – to back up the segregation of community – this was probably necessary plot wise, but we agreed that it didn’t work.
Mostly – even those of us who really enjoyed this book (mostly, me!) – we found this to be very reductionist. Everything was pared down to one element. Scientific (Erudite) people were evil. Governmental people (Abnegation) had no idea of the reality of the world. Candor people were incapable of analysis, just blurted everything out. And so on. It was limiting.
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