If you’re dedicated enough to the original trilogy to be reading this collection, you’re probably not going to be too surprised by this book. Just like Divergent, it starts the day before Choosing Day – the day when all students of a specific age are tested to see which faction of their city they belong in. Except this time, it’s two years earlier. This is where what may be the biggest surprise of the book happens. Tobias does not test as Divergent, but as compatible with Abnegation.
Anxious to get away from his abusive father, Tobias transfers to Dauntless where his number of fears earns him a new name and a new identity. But it’s not all good. His success in initiation makes him some enemies, namely Eric who just so happens to be the second-to-the-top initiate in their class and the one almost passed by for a leadership position.
As Tobias and Eric compete for a place in Dauntless leadership, Four becomes more and more suspicious of connections between his new faction and Jeanine Matthews. Eventually, he meets Tris, and readers start hearing the original story from is point of view. Suspicions rise and passions flare as Four finds himself drawn deeper into a web of conflicting loyalties and closer to the girl from his original faction.
Veronica Roth has mastered first-person narrative. And transitioning from the leading lady’s point of view to the fictitious heartthrob seems like it was an easy task. In writing of these short stories, Roth was able to more fully develop Four’s character. Those who read the entire trilogy are already familiar with his fears, his desire to be a son to one of his parents and his struggle to let people in, but these stories add new depth to his questionings. We can truly get inside his head instead of waiting for him to converse with Tris about their most recent argument.
The biggest letdown was the lack of new information. The only things that surprised me were Tobias’ aptitude test results and how soon he found out his mother was alive. With one book completely focused on Four, one could hope for more complete answers about his past, but Roth doesn’t deliver. Although readers get more inside his thoughts about situations, no new complications were added to his story, nothing to make you question the validity of his feelings toward his parents and enemies.
Perhaps this is a side effect of the collection aspect of the book. Each section of the book was originally meant to be a separate short story. And as four short stories they work. They keep you turning the pages. They give you more of your favorite characters. But as one book, they don’t succeed. Each time a new story starts, it is almost an imperceptible change. However, each one clearly has a distinct dilemma to resolve, and it is done in approximately 70 pages.
Overall, this book was mildly disappointing. Of course, it was nice to hear more of Four. It was somehow refreshing to reenter the dystopian world. It’s still a quick read and a page=turner. But I wanted to learn more. (Oh no, I’m starting to sound Erudite.) My recommendation to fans of the Divergent world: Read it; you’ll like it. My recommendation to fans of good story-telling: Either put off your expectations for a new book or just don’t read it.