Like The Hunger Games (2012 and 2013) and How I Live Now (2013), Divergent follows the journey of a teenage girl in a dystopian society. Chicago is a city of ruins surrounded by an impenetrable fence, and its inhabitants live peacefully due to a system of segregation. Everyone lives in one of the five different factions: Abnegation, who value selflessness above all; Dauntless, who value bravery; Erudite, knowledge; Candor, truthfulness; or Amity, who value friendship. Every citizen takes an aptitude test when they turn sixteen to determine the faction to which they are best suited. The results are then used to guide them as they pledge their lifelong allegiance to a faction. When the choice is made there is no going back. In this world faction comes before blood. The only other option is to be one of the factionless, who are left homeless and starving.
Abnegation-raised Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley), however, is different. Her aptitude tests are inclusive. She does not belong in one faction: she is ‘divergent’. At the choosing ceremony she is torn between staying with her family in Abnegation and the allure of the exciting, dangerous Dauntless, and at the last moment chooses the latter. Once the choice is made she enters a rigorous training programme, since Dauntless only take the best recruits and those too weak and fearful will be sent to live factionless. Her training instructor is the mysterious, handsome Four (Theo James) who begins to take an interest in his courageous, determined recruit. But even as Tris begins to finally feel that she’s found a place where she belongs, it becomes apparent that, being divergent, she can never truly belong anywhere. To be divergent is to be a threat to the system: a system that is slowly crumbling and will do all it can to eliminate this threat.