Divergent has been well received. In a review in The New York Times, Susan Dominus wrote that it was "rich in plot and imaginative details", but also that, compared to other such books in the same genre as the Hunger Games trilogy, it did "not exactly distinguish itself". In a review for Entertainment Weekly, Breia Brissey said that it was "flimsier and less nuanced" than The Hunger Games but was good, giving it a B+ rating. Similarly, though critiquing the "simplistic, color-coded world", Booklist reviewer Daniel Kraus positively concluded that the novel was full of "gutsy action and romance" and called it a "spin on Brave New World". Kirkus said it was "built with careful details and intriguing scope". Common Sense Media commented on the book's "deep messages about identity and controlling societies" and on the "unstoppable plot that's remarkably original". It was rated 5 out of 5 stars and given an age 13+ rating.
The book debuted at number six on the New York Times Children's Chapter Books Best Seller list on May 22, 2011, and remained on the list for 11 weeks. It also spent 39 weeks on the Children's Paperback list in 2012, reaching number one. The Times changed its Children's Best Seller lists in December 2012, eliminating the Children's Paperback list and recognizing "middle grade" and "young adult" books separately; Divergent continued its run on the new Young Adult Best Seller list. The novel stayed on the list for 47 weeks until November 3, 2013. According to Publishers Weekly, the combined three volumes of the Divergent series sold over 6.7 million copies in 2013 (three million hardcovers, 1.7 million paperbacks, and just under two million e-books). In the lead up to the release of the film adaptation, Roth's novel topped USA TODAY's Best-Selling Books list in January 2014.
Divergent won Favorite book of 2011 in 2011's Goodreads Readers Choice Awards, and won the senior category of the 2014 Young Reader's Choice Award. It was also number one in the Teens' Top Ten Vote, sponsored by YALSA.