Quick plot summary:
Like all good young adult novels, Divergent is set in a dystopian Chicago where the city has been divided into five factions of people: Amity (the kind and peaceful), Candor (the honest), Erudite (the intelligent), Abnegation (the selfless), and Dauntless (the brave). Each child is raised in the faction of their parents, learning the rules and art of being kind or brave or selfless. At the age of 16, each young adult may choose whichever faction suits their inherent personality; if they choose to leave their parents' faction, they are divorced from their family forever.
Beatrice Prior has been raised in Abnegation her whole life, yet she finds the absolute selflessness of the faction impossible and frustrating, so, with difficulty, she chooses to leave and join the fearless Dauntless. The training camp is hard, physically and emotionally, and Beatrice, or "Tris", learns that there is something wrong with her - she is "Divergent." She has never heard the word before, yet she knows it is a terrible, terrible trait to have. However, her flaw empowers her to see that the factions are breaking down, and she must stop the city from destroying itself.
As I was writing that summary, I thought: Yeah, this plot sounds so great! Who doesn't love dystopian societies and war and the story of an underdog rising to the top? And the story is good. It's an enjoyable read, the characters are likable and intriguing, and the impossibility of the choices that they must make is a great starting point for conflict.
But I still didn't love it. And I think it's because the whole premise feels stolen from other books. I was only two chapters in and I felt like I was reading The Giver by Lois Lowry, and as soon as Beatrice chooses to join the Dauntless faction, I felt like I was reading The Hunger Games. I really like both of those books, so I enjoyed Divergent; but it wasn't mind-blowing, and I didn't feel like Roth did anything new. I also felt that the writing left something to be desired. She's a solid storyteller, but there were many moments when I thought "wow, if you had just gone back and edited that sentence even a little bit, it would've been less bulky and cumbersome, and so much more beautiful."
It should be noted that Veronica Roth is only currently 22 years old. Divergent was released in May 2011, which means she was only 20 or 21 when she was writing and editing it. For someone fresh out of an undergraduate degree to publish a quality YA novel, it is quite impressive. And also makes me feel underaccomplished. But I think it's obvious that the problems I have with the book stem from her youth and inexperience writing. It is true that she's a good writer, but I don't think she's great. Maybe that will come in time.
In sum: I liked Divergent. I would recommend you read it if you like YA dystopian lit. It's at a comfortable reading level and the story reels you in. But don't expect Suzanne Collins quality, because Roth isn't quite there yet.