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Book Review

This book has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the third book in the "Divergent" series.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Tris Prior grew up in a city once known as Chicago. Everyone belonged to one of five factions based on his or her gifting and personality. Abnegation members prize selflessness and service, while Erudites believe intelligence is key. The Dauntless are brave, Candor are honest to a fault, and Amity members uphold the importance of peace. Those who are tested and fail to fit squarely into one category are called Divergent, and leaders of each faction consider them a threat to the societal structure.

Much about the city has changed since Tris secretly learned she was Divergent and chose to train as a member of the Dauntless faction. Uprisings have taken place, with some calling for the cessation of the faction system. Evelyn Johnson, mother of Tris' boyfriend, Tobias, leads this charge. Another group, called the Allegiant, believes the faction system should remain intact. In the midst of this unrest, an old video made by a woman named Edith Prior resurfaces. When there are enough Divergents, she says, a group of them must leave the safety of their fenced-in city and help whoever is outside. The outside world is a complete mystery to Tris and Tobias. But at the request of Allegiant leaders Cara and Johanna, they decide they must follow this directive.

Tris' brother, Caleb, who betrayed her by leaking her secrets to the now-dead Erudite leader Jeanine Matthews, is in jail awaiting execution. Though Tris is still angry with him, she has Tobias use his connections with Evelyn to break out Caleb. Tris, Tobias, Caleb and Cara, along with friends Christina, Uriah, Tori and Peter, leave the city. Tori is killed during the escape. Amar, Tobias' former Dauntless instructor, and a woman named Zoe meet the group outside of the city and take them to the Bureau of Genetic Welfare. In this large compound, Tris and friends learn surprising facts about the history of their city and the world.

Generations earlier, the government believed bad genes were the cause of society's problems. They began to do extensive genetic experiments, but the consequences of their testing were disastrous. A Purity War ensued, and the Bureau of Genetic Welfare was established in the aftermath, an effort to restore genetic purity to society over time. The Bureau set up test cities, such as Chicago, to secretly monitor everyone via cameras. Only those who were Divergent were considered genetically pure, and the Bureau hoped to draw those people back to the outside world as a first step in the restoration process.

A scientist named Matthew and his assistant, Nita, test Tris and Tobias. They discover that Tobias isn't Divergent as everyone had believed. Tobias takes the news that he is "damaged" hard. Nita pulls him aside and reveals that genetic damage is not the cause of all societal ills, despite what the Bureau says. She shows him that wars and atrocities occurred in the past, prior to any genetic impurities, and she convinces him that the Bureau's fixation on genetic purity is the wrong way to heal society. She gets him on board with a plan to "reset" Bureau members' thoughts on genetic purity using memory serum. She makes him promise not to tell Tris anything.

Meanwhile, Bureau leader David reveals to Tris that her mother worked with them. He shares some of her journals, which Tris eventually and reluctantly shares with Caleb.

Tobias ultimately tells Tris about Nita's plan, and Tris thinks it is a bad idea. Tobias accuses Tris of being jealous of Nita, and the rift between them grows. Tobias helps with Nita's plan to infiltrate the Weapons Lab and take the memory serum. A huge explosion results, leaving many injured. Uriah, whom Tobias had promised to protect, is one of the injured. He ends up in a coma. Nita and Tobias are arrested, but Tobias is released on parole.

During the attempted infiltration, Tris saves David's life. He invites her to be on an advisory council. The more Tris learns about how the Bureau's efforts have harmed her people, the more she dislikes David and everything the Bureau stands for. Nevertheless, she agrees to help him in an effort to keep an eye on him. Tris and Tobias reconcile.

David decides the only way to stop the violence and conflict in Chicago is to erase all of the citizens' memories and start the experiment fresh. Tris, Tobias and their friends make plans to steal memory serum and turn it on the Bureau before the Bureau can unleash it on the city. The Weapons Lab containing the serum is protected by a death serum. Thus, anyone entering without clearance is committing suicide. Caleb agrees to take on the mission, since it's the only way he knows to make things right with Tris after what he's done.

Meanwhile, Tobias, Peter and Amar go into the city to inoculate family members in case the Bureau succeeds in its plans to wipe the town's memories. Tobias goes to Evelyn and offers her the memory serum, hoping she will drink it willingly in an effort to bring an end to the fighting. She hugs Tobias and says she will do this without the serum. She and Tobias meet with Allegiant leader Johanna and Marcus, Tobias' abusive father who has joined her movement. Evelyn outlines a plan for peace, and the Allegiant accept the terms.

Tris ultimately takes Caleb's place in the mission, hoping perhaps her Divergence will make her immune to the death serum. David catches her and shoots her. Just before dying, Tris manages to release the memory serum into the Bureau. David and the others are reprogrammed over time to believe that, while genetic differences exist, genes are neither damaged nor pure. Bureau members are also told they have been working with the government on ways to provide equality for all genetic types.

Tobias grieves Tris' death, as well as Uriah's removal from life support. He considers taking memory serum so he can start over and forget his pain. Christina stops him, reminding him that those actions aren't what Tris would have wanted. Two-and-a-half years later, Tobias is living in a peaceful Chicago. He ponders that while damage is inevitable in life, we can and must help heal each other.

Christian Beliefs

Sitting happily with Tobias, Tris catches herself thanking God for it all. She wonders if her parents' God and their whole belief system, the truths about right and wrong, were something made up by scientists to keep people under control. She wonders if all of those beliefs need to change because she now knows how her world was made. Later, Tris stares out across the land noting the enormity of it. She says if nothing else, it is compelling evidence for her parents' God, a world so massive that it is completely out of human control.

Other Belief Systems

A scientist gives Tris an old human biology book. He tells her people have one quality unlike any other creatures in evolutionary history. He says our ability to know about our world and ourselves is what makes us human. Tris says survival is either about luck or providence, depending on what you believe. She doesn't know, and has never known, exactly what she believes.

Authority Roles

David, the leader of the Bureau of Genetic Welfare, is convinced the world's problems are caused by people's genetic imperfections. He will stop at nothing to restore the world to genetic purity, even if it means harming innocent people along the way. Tobias' parents, Evelyn and Marcus, fight on opposite sides of the battle over factions. Both are power-hungry and manipulative, though Evelyn softens in the end. Marcus was abusive to his wife and Tobias when they all lived together. Tris, Tobias and other teens in the story are left to be the agents of right and reason in a world where most of the adults in authority are confused and corrupt.


The Lord's name is used in vain a number of times. S---, h---, suck and d--- are used a few times as well. A number of gun battles take place. A man is hit with a sledgehammer in one such clash; he screams as people hear metal cracking bone. The man who wielded the hammer gets a bullet in the gut and lies in a pool of his own blood. In Tobias' fear simulation, Tris screams and coughs up blood. Tobias says he likes hitting people because he likes the feeling of power and energy and the feeling of invincibility because no one can hurt him. Tris, Tobias and their group are attacked while escaping from the city. A woman shoots their friend Tori, and Tris shoots the woman in the stomach, killing her. As Tris attempts to infiltrate the command center, she shoots one guard in the leg and another in the chest.


Tobias says most of his dating experience came from group dates, where his friend Zeke would end up making out with one girl and leave him with the other one, who often disliked him. Tris asks him what the Dauntless teach about sex. His response: Do whatever you want, but use protection. Tris and Tobias kiss intensely and caress each other on several occasions. Tris' fingers roam to Tobias' bare chest and under the waistband of his pants. He lifts her up against a wall, and she drapes her legs around his waist. Tris tells him she wants to find middle ground between what she wants with him physically and what she thinks is wise. Both acknowledge, in the midst of a passionate embrace, that it's getting harder to be wise. In another encounter with Tobias, Tris feels she wants to strip away all the layers of clothing between them and everything that separates them. Another time, Tris removes her shirt, embarrassed that Tobias is seeing her pale, flat chest. While kissing her, he puts his hands on Tris' bare hips, when his thumbs move under the tops of her jeans. They wake up on the hotel couch together the next day.

Amar had a crush on Tobias at one point. He is now in a relationship with George. He says relationships like theirs aren't encouraged because the Bureau's main focus is procreation and passing on genes.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

Lying: Characters do a fair amount of lying in order to protect themselves and accomplish their goals in the various conflicts and uprisings.

Serum misuse: Cara spikes beverages of people in the control room with peace serum so they will be drunk while she helps infiltrate the weapons lab. Tobias injects himself with serum that allows him to enter his fear landscape and come face to face with his worst nightmares. He doesn't know if his obsession with the needles means he is sick or brave. The Bureau has created a number of serums for use in controlling the people in their experimental cities. Peter injects himself with memory serum so he can start fresh and be a better person.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

14 and older


Veronica Roth






Record Label



Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers


On Video

Year Published





We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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