Let's see a show of hands. How many of you are weary of hearing about the YA dystopian trilogy? Angsty teens? Where there is a "thing" that happens when they are 16, 17 or 18 years old...a surgery, an assignment, a marriage, a cellular change? It has gotten to the point where I read a synopsis and then proceed to eye-roll myself into a headache.
I shouldn't be so cynical. I know many of these books are really good (I am the biggest fan of Lauren Oliver). It is just...can't we come up with an original idea? Must we go there, over and over again?
Yet, goodness did I hear about this book. It was like a hoard of fevered teenagers stormed BBAW last year and anointed this book the best thing to happen to the literary world. Honestly, though, I would have ignored the frenzy had it not been for my daughter, who selected this book for a lit group at school. If I have a chance to find common ground with The Alien Who Was Once My Child, I take it. So I hopped on board the train.
Synopsis: Beatrice Prior has been born and raised in one of five "factions" in dystopian Chicago...Abnegation, where all are selfless. Once she turns 16, however, her nature will be evaluated, and she will be required to decide where she will spend the rest of her life. Will she stay with her parents in Abnegation, or move to Candor (honesty), Dauntless (bravery), Amity (peacefulness), or Erudite (intelligence)? With a deadly secret in her heart, she makes her decision.
She renames herself Tris, assumes an identity akin to her new faction, and begins the process of a rigorous, and often brutal, initiation. An initiation that will eliminate the weaker candidates via death or at a minimum, banishment to homelessness. In this struggle she becomes acquainted with (and attracted to) one of her trainers named Four, who is mysterious about his past but also feels like a kindred spirit.
Soon it becomes apparent that there are tensions brewing between the factions, and that something sinister is going to erupt and destroy their carefully-planned society and anyone who gets in the way.
My thoughts: I have heard many people compare this book, and the obsession it inspires in its readers, to The Hunger Games. And I can see that. There is a strong female character...a non-traditional beauty with the spirit of a pit bull...who has to literally fight for her life. There is also sexual chemistry (nothing inappropriate for teens) but is incidental to the overall plot. And the powers that be cannot be trusted.
But the book stands on its own. It is definitely fodder for the teen brain, judging by the reaction of my daughter and her friends reading it. But it was a compelling read for me as well. I read it quickly, and when I finished, I was wanting for the second book in the series, "Insurgent", which released on May 1. (Side story...I pre-ordered "Insurgent" from Amazon at a good discount, but when the rubber met the road, I ended up canceling the order and going to Barnes & Noble on May 1st to get it. The Alien Who Was Once My Child couldn't wait. I guess I understand.)
The writing isn't all that spectacular, but there is a good deal of action, and the character of Tris was my kind of girl. And Roth isn't afraid to throw important people under the bus (that is closest thing to a spoiler you will get) - I admire that in a writer. I also really just love Chicago, and got a geeky thrill from various scenes that featured this fair city. Like climbing the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel, or zip-lining from the roof of the John Hancock Building. Eh well, call me a nerd but I thought it was pretty cool.
So onward and upward! I must wait for the daughter to finish salivating all over Book Two, then I will get my hands on it and report back!
4 out of 5 stars