In the future, humanity has found a way to survive the wars and poverty of the previous age by dividing society into five factions: Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). Each faction performs specific duties in their bombed-out, post-apocalyptic context in which they live. When children turn sixteen, they go through a series of tests and are recommended for a faction, which is generally what they pick to go into. Most children are recommended for the faction they grew up in. But Beatrice responds oddly to the tests, and she is recommended for a number of different factions. And to everyone's surprise, rather than live like her parents in Abnegation, she chooses the fierce and fearless Dauntless. Can she survive the initiation rites of Dauntless? And even if she does--can she live in a faction that values fighting and competition after being raised to be selfless and giving?
I expected this to be a monstrously cheesy hybrid of The Hunger Games and Harry Potter, but it's actually great. Tris has real personality, and her struggles between fear, kindness, and competitive pride feel realistic. The dystopia and plot are a little too pat, but they serve as a good framework for Roth's tale of choice, individuality, and the consequences of specialization and fractionalization.