In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue--Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is--she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself. (Read the full description here.)
This is one of those rare books that would keep me up reading all night except for that silly thing called "work" that requires waking fairly early each weekday morning.
I found Beatrice to be a well-developed, extremely relatable, and very realistic character, although the rest, including Four (to an extent), were unfortunately quite flat. Christina has the personality of every other YA or chick-flick best friend: quick wit, ready encouragement, a hint of independent thought... but not much else.
However, the premise of the book is fascinating. The factions in and of themselves are not an evil system (compared to your typical dystopian, anyway), and the government, rather than being an elite group, is comprised of members from the most selfless faction. And although the aptitude test offers a strong suggestion, people are ultimately free to choose which faction they belong to. Yes, the factionless are unjustly left without community, but not without jobs or or a caring source of aid. It's not a perfect system--I'm not saying I'd want to live there--but it's not exactly oppressive, either. (If you've read the book, feel free to argue with me here. I'm still figuring it out.)
In addition, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Veronica Roth is a Christian author, and that does shine through not only in some of the themes, but also in that prayer is mentioned three times under three entirely different circumstances (not huge, I realize, but this book is geared towards a broad audience).
I love Beatrice's internal struggles and thought processes. For example: Dauntless, perhaps, was not always so bad, the initiation not always so brutal. In fact, their manifesto speaks of more nobel ideals. Perhaps they're not so different from Abnegation after all. Ethics have a place in this book; the necessity of violence is questioned rather than blindly accepted.
I like weak characters who find their strength without losing themselves. I like books with morals. I like tragic characters who rip my heart out, because it means that I have an attachment to the story and that the author is willing to lose some of the "good guys" because that's what happens. I like this book.
(Also, the only thing about the movie adaptation that made me angry is that they changed Tris' reaction to her final fear in the initiation simulation. Why did they do that. It was completely unnecessary. Why.)