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What You Need to Know About Divergent, the New Hunger Games

Today at Comic-Con, Summit Entertainment will introduce its great new teen franchise hope: Divergent, an adaptation of the dystopian YA series written by Veronica Roth. The movies are already being tipped as the next Hunger Games (in large part because the books have a lot in common, right down to the blazing fire seal on the covers); Shailene Woodley, Theo James, and Kate Winslet lead the all-star cast. So in order to prepare you for the coming frenzy (and to save you about 1,000 pages of reading), we have a prepared a primer on the world of Divergent. Spoilers ahead, obviously.

Tell me about the dystopian society.
A disintegrating Chicago is divided into five factions, organized by value system: There’s Dauntless (which honors bravery above all else); Amity (peace); Candor (honesty); Erudite (knowledge); and Abnegation (selflessness). The factions mix at school and in government, but otherwise keep to themselves, and there is general distrust among the groups. Citizens may not leave Chicago, and they do not know what is beyond the city walls.

Do the teenagers go through a sorting ceremony?
Why, yes! At 16, all teenagers are given a terrifying aptitude test that involves injections and hallucinations. The results of the test are not binding; each teen can decide to ignore his or her results and choose whichever faction feels right. Most citizens choose the faction they were raised in, and abandoning a faction brings great shame on the family. (It also usually means estrangement.) Still, it’s not uncommon; several teens switch factions each year.

Is there a strong, slightly stubborn teen heroine who doesn’t realize her own worth?
Her name is Beatrice, and she was raised in Abnegation — but when she leaves her family to join Dauntless, she changes her name to Tris. The first half of the first book follows Tris as she studies to become a member of the train-jumping, heavily tattooed Dauntless faction (and necessarily discovers her own bravery and inner resolve).

What makes her so special?
Like any other YA heroine, she is introspective, occasionally impulsive, and more beautiful than she or most of her classmates realize. But we also have a plot twist here: The results of Tris’s aptitude test indicate that she is — a ha! — Divergent, a designation that means she would fit in several different factions. It turns out that this is an extraordinarily dangerous result, since the government does not acknowledge the existence of Divergents (and, major spoiler alert, is trying to eradicate them from society). Tris is told to keep her result a secret, and it is wiped from the records.

How does she become the Chosen One?
Well, she is the heroine of a YA novel. But as you might have guessed, certain leaders in the government are up to no good, and it turns out the Divergents are the only citizens with the power (moral or physical) to fight back. Tris joins up with a small band of Divergents in order to stop the government’s evil mind-control plan — and winds up organizing a full-scale rebellion.

Is there a super-hot guy who helps her with the rebellion?
Do you remember Pamuk from Downton Abbey? The mega-attractive Turkish diplomat who dies in Lady Mary’s bed? He is playing Four, the slightly older Dauntless (but secretly Divergent) trainer who falls in love with Tris and tries to protect her from the government overlords.

Is it very violent?
Do you mean: Is the entire second half of the book devoted to a competition in which children kill one another? No, it is not that Hunger Games–y. But once the rebellion gets under way, there are a large number of casualties (including a few main characters, sadly).

Is it a not-so-secret abstinence book?
Tris
does not have sex with Four, even though she really, really wants to. (The Dauntless have this weird training ritual involving fear simulation, and Tris’s fears are basically always having bad sex with Four.) To be fair, most YA books skip the sex; this one is just a little more Twilight-y about it.

Is the end better than Mockingjay’s?
Unclear. Allegiant, the final book, won’t be out until October, so you have plenty of time to get caught up on every little detail and then argue wildly on Twitter. Come, join us; it'll be fun.

Photo: Jonathon Ziegler/ PatrickMcMullan.com