Character Development: D
Cover Art: B
If you just love dystopian fiction and everything to do with it, especially the ones with a love story, and you don't really care about writing quality, character development, world building, or gripping plots, you'll probably love this book. Go enjoy it with my blessing. Read no further.
But there are a few things I need to like any book, including dystopian fiction: detailed and believable plot and world-building, original concepts, and characters who are not only developed, but who match up to other characters' perceptions of them.
I got none of that from this book. The world is split into factions based on everyone's main character attribute! Why? Is this a world in which the Sorting Hat ran amok? It's never explained. When I read dystopian fiction, I expect to see a society that I can believe, even with some stretching, could arise if we are not careful now. As in the thinly disguised romance novel Delirium, the societal system in this book makes no sense and isn't explained. It's hard to get into a book when you're constantly thinking, "But why? But how? But...that's just silly."
Definitely no original concepts here. It's Harry Potter crossed with Hunger Games: You get sorted into factions based on your character, and in the faction Tris chooses, you have to fight to the last man (well, last ten men) standing or you're on the street. But while competition worked well in the Hunger Games because Katniss was fighting for her life, it falls flat here. It's difficult to root for Tris because it's difficult to want her to belong to the cruel and corrupt Dauntless faction. I kept thinking, "Why is she worried about becoming a factionless bus driver or janitor? She's a lot more likely to live." Tris's reasons for joining the Dauntless faction are never developed beyond "Their tattoos and dyed hair are cool, and they jump off trains, which is so totally brave."
And then there's Tris. I could deal with the cold and self-serving attitude of Katniss, but Katniss came from a very harsh background and made her decisions because she wanted to stay alive. Katniss made sense. Tris is a little clueless and a lot reckless. Her big sympathetic quality is supposed to be her selflessness, but aside from a few showy acts that were not so much character development as the author beating the reader over the head with a sign that said "Look how selfless she is," it's all about her. I couldn't connect with her, and since all the other characters liked her for this alleged selflessness, I couldn't believe in the relationships, either.
Also, I just LOVE that the evil faction is the one where learning is valued above all else. Yes, thinking only leads to acts of mind control and mass murder. It's much better to jump off trains and make kids fist-fight for a future. Yay, Dauntless.
I really wanted to give this book one star, but then I realized I was just angry about the over-hyping. I think it deserves two. For better dystopia, try The Hunger Games, The House of the Scorpion, [bc:Ship Breaker|7095831|Ship Breaker (Ship Breaker, #1)|Paolo Bacigalupi|http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/611f9eWG9ZL._SL75_.jpg|7352929]. They're just as relentlessly depressing and have plenty of excitement.
Extra credit: The author found a way to squeeze in a sexy scene that somehow managed to make the heroine seem even MORE virginal and out of touch with her sexuality.