This is the second volume in a series, the first being Divergent. I really loved Divergent – thought the setting up of the world – the world building as it’s called, was unique and very different, and set it apart. Perhaps I forgave some writing flaws along the way, as I was more concerned with this dystopian solution to the world’s future problems. The city where they live, and it’s fenced – no one can exit or enter without the guard’s permission, is divided into factions, Erudite for those who hunger for knowledge; Abnegation for those who would serve without thought for themselves and are self-effacing; Candor, for those who strive for truth above all else; Amity, where accord and peace hold sway; and Dauntless – where the people are brave, fearless, and yes, dauntless. Dauntless provides the security, Erudite the inventions, medicines, and things that make their city work, Amity the food, Abnegation are the rulers, and Candor is also in positions of power. The only two factions they can’t get along without are Amity and Erudite for what they bring to the table, literally and figuratively. When a youth reaches a certain age, 15 or 16, they are given a series of tests and simulations which will determine which group they should choose. Usually you go back to the group you belong to. Occasionally someone fits somewhere else, and rarely, someone scores good on two factions and can choose. Tris, or Beatrice as she was called in Abnegation, scored well on three – an unheard of thing. She is what is whispered as “Divergent,” or not following the norm. She decided that the life of selfless service in Abnegation is not for her and chooses Dauntless – her brother Caleb chooses Erudite. Once you choose your faction, you go through initiation rites, and in the case of Dauntless, trials, to determine if you are worthy of it.
As this book opens, the city is still reeling from a power play in the previous books, and some people have differing reactions to it. And there are those who are factionless, kicked out by their faction, or didn’t test well in any, etc., or born to a factionless person. Abnegation likes to provide food and clothing to them, but other factions dislike their presence as it upsets the balance. But now, something has to change and various alliances are formed, tested, and split apart, as they try and figure out what is going on, who is behind it, and why. The why is important to Tris, as she scored well in Candor as well as Dauntless and Erudite. She is truly Divergent, and so many of the stratagems employed don’t work on her, and she becomes the focus of some of the groups wanting to use her for their advantage. The book ends with a cliff-hanger, so there must be more coming, referencing what is outside the city, and why the city was set up the way it was. The book was good, but this time, as I was familiar with the set-up, I wasn’t quite as impressed. The actions and reactions often involved Tris, and “Four” as he likes to call himself, her love interest, and her lack of truthfulness, even though she should be fearless, etc. She is afraid, and so things don’t go as planned. They are often running from mistakes she made. But the real kicker in this is the almost complete lack of background information provided on the world and it’s set-up. There is no get up to speed opening. The way it runs is slowly discovered through the book as it advances, and some is never revealed. To me, with my faulty memory, it was once again, like a recent book I read, a study in dredging up as much s I could recall, and then trying to fill in the gaps. So if my earlier re-cap of the set-up is incorrect, you can blame it on that, and the fact that the second books didn’t make certain things clear. Since I loved the world-building, I knew something about the set-up, but little was recalled about the people, or about the actions taken in that book. She sort of drops you in mid-stream. While that may be fine if you are reading them back-to-back, and be unnoticeable, or if you have a superb memory, but if you read the first when it came out, and this one as soon as you could after it’s debut, it’s a long stretch where a lot may be forgotten. And if you never read the first, I think you might be really confused. I almost gave it 3 stars because of that. True serial books, that build on each other, provide, to my mind, better linkage between books, and a brief set-up woven into the next book of what has happened before. But the story line was still interesting, and although the characters remained rather flat, and their emotions par for the course, it still is worth the read.