In a dystopian Chicago, cut off from the rest of the country, the people are divided into 5 factions depending on their most prominent trait, which is found out through a process of simulations when they're 16. But Tris's simulation is inconclusive, she's what's called divergent and urged to keep that her secret because, as she finds out later, divergents are being hunted and killed. Tris decides to leave her home faction, Abnegation (selflessness is their motto, governing their part in society), for the Dauntless (the brave ones who function as society's security forces within and without), and is soon immersed in a brutal battle for initiation because whoever fails ends up being factionless, without purpose, without means depending wholly on the goodwill of others, i.e. Abnegation. But it turns out initiation isn't the only thing Tris has to worry about. There is her romance with her instructor Four, and there's trouble on the horizon for the whole society as the Erudite (who seek knowledge, but apparently also ambition and power) start to question Abnegation's role. But mere words don't seem enough in that battle, and maybe being a divergent is more important than Tris thought.
Well, another trilogy about a dystopian future, another society on the brink of extinction thinking of ways to divide and control its people, another first-person account of a 16-year old girl who finds herself inadvertently being different, being a leader, and being the hope of her people. Sounds familiar?
Still, the story in itself is interesting enough with the initiation ritual, the whole mindset of the 5 factions (just think about the whole population being divided in just 5 groups... is there nothing more than friendship, candor, knowledge, selflessness and bravery in the world?) and the way it's determined in which section you belong - because apparently, a youth chooses his or her faction, and can choose any faction even if the simulation points to another. So what's the point of the simulation before the choosing-ceremony? And what exactly is brave about attacking your opponents in their sleep or trying to kill them? The factions are meant to reduce crime, but apparently that only goes for inter-factional crime, because what happens within a faction stays within, and the rules for getting rid of opponents seem pretty flexible. That's one point that wasn't really fleshed out all that well.
As is the case with Four: He's Tris's instructor, and becomes her protector, so that she falls in love with him isn't that much of a leap. But what exactly makes him fall for her? He says it's because she's brave... well, but that's the character trait of all dauntless, isn't it?
Overall, the characters, except for maybe Tris herself, remain rather bland and 2-dimensional, so I'm not too invested in them. The novel itself is well written, the plot reasonably interesting (even though it could have used some tightening up in the middle), but I'm not sure if that's enough for me to pick up the other parts soon. I just have the feeling I've read it all already; there simply is a distinct lack of originality beyond the dystopian vision and of characterization which keeps me from yearning for more.