Sixteen-year-old Beatrice Prior lives in a dystopian, futuristic Chicago that segregates most individuals into one of five factions. Those outside of these factions are classified as factionless and are consigned to the outskirts of civilization. As the story begins, Beatrice is preparing for the aptitude tests that will decide whether she belongs to Abnegation, Amity, Candor, Dauntless, or Erudite. Her brother, Caleb, faces the same challenge. The aptitude tests consist of a series of simulations that determine a young initiate's suitability for one of the factions. Beatrice's test is administered by Tori, who classifies her as divergent. In Beatrice's world, divergents live in fear of discovery and subsequent annihilation.

At the Choosing Ceremony, Beatrice opts for Dauntless, while Caleb declares for Erudite. Beatrice's father, Andrew, is furious, but her mother, Natalie, is supportive of the siblings' choices. After the Choosing Ceremony, Beatrice joins the other initiates on the train to Dauntless headquarters. There, she reinvents herself as Tris. Her closest allies are Will (an Erudite transfer) and Christina and Al (two Candor transfers). At the beginning of the initiation process, the recruits are divided into two groups. The Dauntless-born initiates answer to Lauren, while the transfers answer to Four. The head of all the trainers is Eric, an arrogant bully who equates merciless ferocity with courage. He informs everyone that the initiate process will be divided into three stages and that initiates will be ranked according to their accomplishments; those who fail to make the top ten will be declared factionless.

The first stage of initiation consists of hand-to-hand combat. Four prepares the recruits by teaching them self-defense and weapons techniques. This is a difficult stage for Tris, as her small build makes her an easy target. Molly, Peter, and Drew (a trio of Candor transfers) are Tris's primary tormentors, both in and out of the ring. Despite her own trials, Tris stands up for Al during a knife-throwing exercise. For the second stage of initiation, the recruits are injected with a serum that generates frightening simulations in the mind. To exit the simulations, initiates must stabilize their breathing and heart rates through sheer will. Meanwhile, Tris impresses Four with her ability to exit her simulations faster than anyone else....

(The entire section is 1049 words.)