And holy crap, Hunger Games!
Beatrice Prior lives in a society where everyone has to live in one of five factions. When you turn 16, you are submitted to a test which shows you which of the five factions you have an affinity with, then you get to choose which faction you will join in adulthood (this actually confuses me - why do they have the test if you still get to choose where you go?) There's Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). Beatrice's family is Abnegation. So if Beatrice chooses to stay with Abnegation, she will get to stay with her family, but if she chooses another faction, she doesn't get to see them anymore (unless they show up on visiting day?) - your new faction is your new family.
So when Beatrice takes the test (which involves being plugged into a machine that gives you a few simulations), her results come back as inconclusive. The lady administering the test, Tori, warns Beatrice that she is Divergent. She tells Beatrice not to tell anyone, then logs the results manually as Abnegation.
So Beatrice is left knowing she is Divergent. It's dangerous for some reason, and she can't talk to anyone. So now she has to decide which faction to join, knowing that she doesn't quite fit into any of them (but that she has more affinity for three of the five). Ultimately she chooses Dauntless; her choice is hard on her family (particularly her father) because her brother also chooses a different faction literally moments before she does. Arriving at Dauntless, she tells the people when she arrives that her name is Tris. And so she is ready for her new life.
But life as a Dauntless Initiate is hard. The Initiates will be ranked and only a set amount of them will be admitted into Dauntless' ranks; the rest will be turned away as factionless. And the Initiates who grew up in Dauntless have a clear advantage when it comes to physical skills because they all grew up fighting and jumping onto and off of trains, while the other Initiates like Tris did not. So the new ones need to work hard to get themselves up to speed if they want to survive and thrive in Dauntless. And Tris gets the added bonus of trying to figure out what being Divergent means (and keeping it secret).
I know that this description doesn't really sound like The Hunger Games. But both The Hunger Games and Divergent are set in a dystopian future which has divided the population up. The Hunger Games used sectors, based on where you live; Divergent uses factions, based on your personality. Tris also reminded me of Katniss, as being this badass young girl who triumphs over crazy odds (huh, and who plays up the vulnerability at times that benefit her - lol that was a comparison I just realized while writing this). Oh, and the physical part of the Dauntless initiation involves teens fighting each other until one of them can't fight any more - that really made me think of The Hunger Games or the movie Battle Royale but without the killing.
Tris' love interest is Four, the guy who is training the non-Dauntless initiates. There was a big reveal about his identity that I'm sure you'll see coming a mile away. But that was okay; I thought their relationship was pretty cute (and I liked how her fears of intimacy came up in the book).
They also had a hilarious exchange when talking about how one of the other Initiates hated Tris:
“'Peter would probably throw a party if I stopped breathing.'
'Well,' he says, 'I would only go if there was cake.'”
I laughed so hard when I read that.
So at the end of Tris's initiation day, rather than celebrating, the bad guys spring their plan. The Erudite leader had developed a mind control serum that works on everyone except those who are Divergent (hence why Divergence was bad and Divergents were killed when they were identified). A whole bunch of stuff happens: Four is a Divergent, Tris and Four are captured, Four gets subjected to a DIFFERENT mind control thing, Tris is going to be executed, Tris is saved by her mom, her mom is also Divergent, her mom dies, she is reunited with the rest of her family, they decide to stop the bad guys, her father dies, she fights Four, she saves Four, they stop the mind control, then they flee. End of book.
I should also mention that this isn't exactly a light-hearted romp either: someone gets their eye stabbed, someone commits suicide, there's an attempted murder, and a whole bunch of people get killed at the end of the book.
In a lot of ways, this book is really silly. I think that most people would be Divergent because we are all a mess of traits (although I understand how the factions might operate if people chose one and just tried to live up to those ideals buy failed some times, like how Tris' mom accuses her dad of being selfish, which is against the Abnegation philosophy). The Dauntless spend a lot of time jumping on and off of trains (and somehow only one person dies from it in the book - shouldn't more of the non-Dauntless initiates have like broken their legs jumping off the train the first time?) But despite all the silliness, it's fun. I mean, the Dauntless jump on and off of trains! Lol
So if you're looking for a fun read that you don't have to think too much about, I definitely recommend this book. It's also a fast read: it's almost 500 pages long, but the type is big so I powered through it over two days.
But that being said, I'm not at all interested in continuing. I know lots of people loved this series, but I just don't think it's for me. :)