This book surprised me. It surprised me that there are over 18,000 (edit - WOW, now over 35,000) 5 star ratings. It surprised me that this is what Goodreads voters voted the best book of 2011. It just wasn't that good.
It's not terrible. It's OK. It's fast and kinda fun (if you aren't into thinking - at all, it's not just a suspension of disbelief, although it's necessary), it's that there are serious issues with the writing and plot.
I've seen reviews that compare this book to The Hunger Games, and reviews that bemoan comparisons to the Hunger Games, but I think the comparisons are valid. I don't believe that this book would have been published without the wild success of the Hunger Games clearing the way, and there are a lot of similarities and it has a general feel.
I <3 dystopian fiction, so I have no problem with more of it (or other dystopian books) being printed. I just wish this were better.
In this particular flavor of dystopian, something happened. We don't know what, exactly, but it takes place in Chicago - Lake Michigan has been reduced to a swamp, buildings have been destroyed/decayed (fortuitously, the Sears/Hancock tower seems to have largely survived A-OK), and everyone has been reduced to living in factions, except, of course, for the factionless (who, what? Why haven't they had some sort of revolution? there has to be a lot of them). These factions began by people deciding what main trait causes discord (selfishness, ignorance, cowardice, etc...) and then trying to personify the opposite... which is intriguing, but I can't help but think that separating people and causing a greater gulf between populations is NOT the way to assure future peace. Each of the factions is given jobs to do (abnegation runs the joint, in that selfless leaders are best, dauntless does security because bravery is needed, etc...). At some point, everyone is tested for their best fit, but they have to choose their faction (and then make it through initiation). There are some people who don't fit into one faction, and they're known as Divergent.
Divergence is bad. It doesn't make sense that Divergence is bad. Or at least, it's never explained. You can tell why two factions would think that Divergence is bad, because they're more difficult to control, but there is no explanation otherwise.
Which brings us to the world building - it sucks. Balls out, it just sucks, which is a shame, because I love world building, particularly in my dystopian stuff. Many things either don't make sense at all, or they are just unexplained, making the reader wonder what the hell is going on, or just trusting the reader to not care at all at the reasoning behind actions/events/politics/motivations/etc.
Tris, the main character, is downright unlikeable. She isn't pleasant, she doesn't make me cheer for her. I question her actions and reasoning (when there is any) behind her motivations. Her parents both die for her, and there's almost no reaction. In fact, she almost negates their sacrifices for a boy (argue that she's 16 all you want, but her parents just *died*).
She is cruel and heartless, talks about being selfless, but I don't see it. Being unlikeable might make me like her, except that she gets a little Mary Sue when, for not reason at all, she is fantastic at everything she tries. I get the mental abilities, because she's "Divergent" (doesn't fit into their personality caste system), but fighting, knife throwing, etc. skillz shouldn't happen that
I dunno. It was a decent book, particularly for a very young, very new writer, but it just wasn't that great. Will I read the sequel? Probably not, but if I'm bored and it's available I'd think about it.