Thursday, 28 May 2015

Divergent | Book & Movie Review

My mum guilt-tripped me into taking my little brother to the park today. She says I spend too much time with my books in bed (lol). So I'm currently sitting on a blanket in the park, the ground feels rough under me, and I'm writing a review of Veronica Roth's YA dystopian novel, Divergent.

I've been meaning to read this book ever since it came out in 2011 and was rated a New York Times bestseller but my studies overwhelmed me. Now in 2015 and off on summer break after my first undergraduate year, I made sure it was the first thing I read. Due to my English degree I have not been able to read for pleasure this year therefore this was appealing in so many ways. I will also include my review of the movie adaptation of Divergent below so you can see how the two worked together.

Divergent tells the story of a teenager, Beatrice Prior (Tris), searching for her identity. The world has been divided into five factions: Dauntless, Abnegation, Erudite, Amity and Candor in an attempt to avoid the five flaws of human nature: cowardice, selfishness, ignorance, aggression and dishonesty. Every sixteen year old is required to choose to live in one of these factions based on an aptitude test. Therefore when Tris receives inconclusive results after hers, she learns that her divergence poses a threat to the system. Her conflicting identity leads her into danger as she constantly needs to assess who is to be trusted with her secret.

I really enjoyed this book. It has to be my favourite YA dystopian novel alongside The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Although, I do have a bone to pick with Divergent's publisher (and all publishers guilty of doing this) because they constantly compare it to The Hunger Games. Consequently, I often felt frustrated reading about Tris' initiation process thinking why it was dominating the plot, because in The Hunger Games Katniss' training was described in a few chapters.

My favourite moments of the novel are in relation to its strengths as a piece of writing. The concept behind the faction world was interesting because it is true that current world affairs are due to cowardice, selfishness, dishonesty, aggression and ignorance. Therefore while Tris struggles with her identity, the novel simultaneously reveals several morals for humans. It questions whether humans can be perfect and if not, can their flaws then be justified? My favourite line of the book, and my quote of the month, is when Tris' mum reminds her that '"human beings as a whole cannot be good for long before the bad creeps back in and poisons us again."'' I've read many YA books over the years exploring different aspects of teenage-hood which we can all relate to but I felt Divergent did something better: it made me want to be a better human. It made me question whether I can be brave, selfless, honest, peaceful and knowledgeable and revealed that there is strength in striving for these traits. an

What was also refreshing to discover was the lack of a love-triangle (yes!) in Divergent. Roth depicts a teenager with a crush on her teacher (we've all been there) but he does not suddenly become the air she needs to survive. Instead we are shown how their relationship slowly blossoms from respect for one another into something more.

Furthermore, I used to hate criticising books I fell in love with but my English degree has made me cynical. Since the initiation process was so long, I felt the ending of Divergent was a little rushed. Tris witnesses the attack but we aren't given a wider scope of the horror that is unfolding before she runs to save everyone. Nevertheless Roth creates a character who is confident in recognising right from wrong but is not a superhero to have figured out everything by the age of sixteen. I can imagine she is a role-model for teenagers and adults of both gender across the globe and therefore I would recommend Divergent merely because she symbolises something we are proud of but also struggle with: our humanity.


I get awfully excited when a good book is being adapted for the big screen. Divergent is one! I knew about this before I had read the book and as hard as I tried to avoid any media coverage of the cast, my will is weak. Therefore I may or may not have watched every single interview of the Divergent cast on YouTube during my A-level exam revision... (procrastination is wonderfully unique). It didn't help that EVERYBODY was talking about how Shailene Woodley was an amazing actor in John Green's The Fault in Our Stars but at least I had high hopes she would propel Divergent into the next big blockbuster.

Directed by Neil Burger and released in 2014, Divergent was intense, witty and inspiring. The opening scenes portray the world of five factions and the fence bordering it all. My favourite scene is right after the Choosing Ceremony where the Dauntless initiates climb up to the train platform and jump onto a moving train. Shailene's acting was brilliant here because I felt anxious for Tris who had lived in Abnegation for sixteen years as well as cringed when she struggled to climb the metal rods supporting the platform. Much like the book, Tris in the movie did not suddenly exhibit dauntless skills in jumping off trains and hand combat. Rather you get to see her character progress physically and mentally 
throughout the movie.

In terms of casting, I accepted Shailene as Tris because her acting reputation was more valuable than the fact that Tris in the novel is much shorter than Shailene's 5 '8". However I am stunned by the resemblance between the character Tobias Eaton (Four) and actor Theo James. The benefit of seeing the cast before reading the book was that I got to see how Theo James's physical appearance suited Four's very well. And then when watching the movie, Theo carried himself exactly how I imagined Four would.

The only thing I am unsure about is the way Neil Burger decided to script the movie. Instead of sticking to a linear adaptation of the novel, he connects different moments together in the movie. I was very surprised that the movie still worked and suggest that in Burger's defence playing around with the events revived a plot which fans were aware of since 2011. It is definitely a must-see blockbuster movie. The movie sequel of The Divergent Series: Insurgent is out on DVD next month so if you like the sound of a movie that will keep you on your toes (on the sofa), check out the compelling Divergent series.

If you have read Divergent / the Divergent series (I'm still completing Insurgent) or watched the movie or done both, let me know what you thought of them in the comments below. I'm always up for discussing Four's tattoos. ;)
Any feedback is also welcome!

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