Without knowing anything about the books, I spotted the first one at a bookstore and decided to pick it up. That night, I had planned to read just a couple of chapters before heading to bed. Before I knew it, it was midnight and I had finished the entire book in one sitting, craving more.
I love the premise of the series. Society is split into five factions, each embodying a different virtue: the selfless Abnegation; the honest Candor; the brave Dauntless; the friendly Amity; and the intelligent Erudite. At the age of 16, children must decide what faction they want to join and go through a grueling initiation process to join their faction, or else get cast out into the city, forced to join the factionless.
I greatly enjoyed the premise and the plot, but other elements leave something to be desired. I've heard many complaints about the present-tense storytelling, but that actually doesn't bother me at all;. What did bother me was that the writing just wasn't very good. The writing level seemed very basic and cliched, and I often found myself thinking about how I would change this sentence here or that sentence there, which interfered with the story at times. Still, it's a young adult series, which doesn't require high standards, so I can let that slide.
I'm torn about the characterization. One the one hand, there's a pretty big cast of interesting characters that all bring something to the table. On the other hand, many of them end up being somewhat one-dimensional and flat. Even Tris, our protagonist, felt stunted in her character development halfway through the first book after she starts being awesome at being Dauntless. She also made some very questionable decisions and kept overreacting at the slightest provocation, which got old by the 2nd book. Still, I think Roth did a decent job making the reader invested in the characters.
I'm trying to keep this review as spoiler-free as I can, so all I'm going to say about the ending is that I did not like it. It was certainly disappointing after reading through three books, but I suppose it could have been worse.
All in all, it was an enjoyable series, despite its flaws. The writing style left something to be desired, and it's no masterpiece, but I enjoyed it all the same and I would recommend it to others.