I know many people have enjoyed the book and claim it is one of the best books ever. They said for Twilight and Fifty Shades of Gray too, so without any reasoning I dismiss their position. So Veronica Roth wrote this when she was a 20 year old college undergrad and it shows. A publisher quickly picked up this book and it rose to success. It had an unusual pace; its first printing ran for 200,000 copies. This book is full of more holes than Swiss cheese.
First off, the world building is virtually nonexistent. It is a genric dystopia because things are bleak and resources are depleted. I mean how does this society even function? The military is run by psychopaths and no on objects. It does not mention an opposing enemy which is unlikely that there is none. The economy is what? It makes almost no reference to it. Factions apparently get points to spend but no more detail aside from that. How are they earned? How do spend them? How much are they worth? The faction, Abnegation runs the government and it does not explain what exactly that entails. The tropes and clichés are never-ending. There are references to God but there is no depth behind it. The fact there is religion is fine but it would be impossible to do so without consequences to characters. Otherwise it is not a world but just a backdrop where characters do pointless things in a predictable fashion.
Even boy scouts are more morally complex than the entire world and they are supposed to be brave, loyal, kind, etcetera… People do fit into one category with one value and trait. If something that happened that made them that way which would be understandable but no explanation is given so….
In terms of pacing at around 500 pages the book feels slow and poorly developed. It focuses more on a jumble of action than developing characters. The major plot developments are squeezed into the final 50 pages after the reader trudged through boredom for the entire book.
But she wrote a hugely popular novel and it topped many lists. It does not matter if the book is even good or if it lived up to its hype (it did not) but she will be more popular than you will most likely ever be.
There is a reason it became the 2011 Goodreads choice read. It is because the consumers of the young adult genre drove the publishers to the extremes. It has been designed by the natural selection of the publishing industry. It is the end result of the excessive desire for young adult dystopic fiction.
Concerning Roth, she did it. She wrote a book and it sold splendidly. The back cover tells me, she is a full-time write at the age of 20. Roth has achieved her dream. I feel overjoyed for her. I really do.
If you want to read some quality YA dystopian fiction I suggest you check out The Hunger Games or my person favorite, The Maze Runner.