The concept of Divergent was interesting, but the execution made no sense. Decades ago, things got really bad because of wars. Five theories emerged for why wars were started—aggression, ignorance, duplicity, selfishness, and cowardice. Five factions were formed, each focusing on getting rid of whatever fault they held responsible. Those against aggression formed Amity. Those against ignorance formed Erudite. Those against duplicity formed Candor. Those against selfishness formed Abnegation. And those against cowardice formed Dauntless. It is at this point the concept begins to not make sense. Instead of each faction going off to form their own city to operate as they see fit, all five factions reside together in a cut-off Chicago. Each faction does different things—Abnegation is in charge of the government; Candor does the justice system; Erudite has the teachers and researchers; Amity has counselors and caregivers; Dauntless has police and guards. The problem with the very core concept of this is that you are putting factions with wildly different core beliefs together in an effort to prevent wars. If each faction truly believes their way is the only right way, wouldn't they want to force their beliefs on the other factions? Or look down on the others factions? Or hate the other factions? (The answer, as we see in the book, is yes). It should have been obvious from the start. Dividing people is not a good way to stop wars.
And the creation of the factions is taken to ridiculous extremes. It's not each faction valuing that one trait above all else. It's each faction living so that that one trait is the only way they can act. Selfless people can't be peace-loving. Brave people can't be smart. Honest people can't be brave. Any person that can have more than one trait is something super rare and special called Divergent. In this world, being a well-rounded human being is super rare and special. That really says a lot.
And some of the examples of behavior that's typical of each faction are pretty crazy—Abnegation members only wear gray clothes and don't look in mirrors; Erudite members wear glasses, even if their eyesight is totally fine; Dauntless members jump on and off moving trains, shoot stuff off one another's heads, and refuse to build handrails for paths along cliffs. People also apparently believe that members of a faction are incapable of being whatever they're against. So Candor members apparently can't lie (even the little kids).
At the age of 16, each person chooses which faction to join after taking an aptitude test. Then they have to go through initiation. Those who fail initiation become factionless and must be homeless, poor, and underfed. They also do jobs like garbage collector, janitor, construction worker, factory worker, train operator, bus driver, etc. You know, all the really important jobs that cities require to function. How have they not revolted or something yet?
Anyways, Beatrice, the main character, was raised in Abnegation, but doesn't feel she belongs. When she takes the aptitude test, she gets the result of Divergent which she must keep secret or risk danger. Beatrice decides to choose Dauntless and changes her name to Tris. Then begins her initiation.
Dauntless initiation is ridiculous. Their definition of bravery is really just putting their lives in danger in stupid ways. Kids literally die from some of the things they do. And it's done for no real reason. Like jumping off the train onto the roof of a seven story building. Not necessary, but they do it anyways. A girl dies because she misses the jump.
And Dauntless training is horrible. They're "taught" how to use guns, fight, and throw knives. Their gun "instruction"—they're handed loaded guns and told to fire at targets. No talk about safety, gun maintenance, bullet trajectory, gauging distances, or any of the things that actually happen before a gun is ever handed to someone. Now if this were some ragtag group of kids or something that has to kind of learn as they go, this would be slightly more believable, although still incredibly stupid. But this is the group that is in charge of security and law enforcement. As in police officers and guards. For the city. And we only ever see them have that level of "instruction" before they're deemed competent.
How do they "teach" fighting? By being shown a few types of punches and kicks and then being thrown into one-on-one combat with one another where you fight until one can't get up anymore. And they do that day after day. Knocking someone unconscious is a good way to do serious brain damage. Doing that day after day, even better. And that kind of fighting is also a good way to seriously mess up someone's body, if not kill someone accidentally. Once again, this is how they officially train people who will potentially become the city's police and guards.
And if that's not bad enough, they also put initiates through torture. They hook them up to a device, inject them with chemicals to make their brains freak out, and then force them to live through their worst fears. Some of these include—being drowned, being attacked by vicious ravens, getting kidnapped by faceless goons, having to kill your own family members with a gun. And they have to do this over and over again. It's a wonder most people in Dauntless actually live to their 20s without dying from something stupid, getting crippled, getting seriously messed up in the head, or just committing suicide. Seriously, Dauntless should have killed itself off pretty quickly. Sure, it's said that the group wasn't always that way, that they once were better. Until six years ago when new leaders came into power and said they were doing things this way now. And apparently everyone in Dauntless just went with it.
Our evil faction is Erudite. Tris has always known they were evil because they do things like try to expose child abuse, ask for fair representation in government, and say Abnegation is incompetent for forcing all police to leave the factionless area of town because those people need help, not police. Seriously, up until near the end of the book, those were Tris' reasons for thinking Erudite was evil. Of course, because Tris is the main character, she has to be right, so the Erudite does turn out to have an evil plan to take over, but it's not even a surprise because every person Tris says is evil turns out to be evil. And she knows they're evil before they've done anything to prove they're evil. What is a surprise is how stupid the plan from the "smart" faction is.(show spoiler)
I wanted to like this book, but I found it hard to do so when every few pages (or less) had me going, "What?! That makes no sense!" And it wasn't just big picture ideas or how inaccurately things were portrayed too. Sometimes it was simple facts. At one point, the group rankings are revealed as a progress report. Tris is first, Peter second, Christina seventh, Will ninth, and Al last. The problem? That ranking is out of seven people. So Will is ninth out of seven. And Al is even lower. At first, I thought that transfer initiates (there are seven at this point) were combined with Dauntless-born initiates for the ranking. Until Tris talks with the Dauntless-born initiates and asks their rankings, and we learn that Lynn is first, Uriah second, and Marlene fourth. Since both Tris and Lynn can't be first and Peter and Uriah second, they're clearly on separate rankings. So somehow Will was ninth out of seven, and Al was even worse.
I didn't even like the romance. It initially felt tacked on with Tris going on about how drawn to Four she was, even when he was being a jerk or scary or whatever. Then it just got a bit creepy. I mean, at one point, Four literally told her that he wanted to push her until she broke just because he likes seeing her afraid. He purposefully nicked her with a throwing knife. Those aren't romantic things to me.
Divergent was a cool concept, but I just couldn't enjoy the way it was executed.