Although I was pulled into teen action books like Divergent and Hunger Games because I have a teen daughter, I have been impressed at how well crafted the stories are — and how they address deep issues.
Divergent, by Veronica Roth, gets straight to the problem of societal norms and values when main character Beatrice is preparing for the Choosing Ceremony.
For those who have not read the book or watched the movie, in the story humankind is recovering from a near meltdown and to maintain peace, everyone is placed in one of five factions: Amity, Candor, Dauntless, Erudite and Abnegation. Beatrice and her brother Caleb are at the age of reckoning and must take a fear simulation test to help them decide which faction to join.
Once the test results are revealed, they are still free to choose whichever faction they want — but most people choose the faction suggested by the results. The problem for Beatrice — her test results are inconclusive — a very rare occurrence that only happens only to a few: the divergent.
But in a society where it’s “faction over blood,” this presents a deadly problem that may get her killed.
Both Caleb and Beatrice make unexpected choices at the Ceremony rejecting their native Abnegation and leaving their parents behind. The story then follows as Beatrice — who shortens her name to Tris — goes through the initiation process in the Dauntless faction. This faction’s original role was to defend the city, but like all ideals it has disintegrated into something less noble.
One of the inherent problems with creating a movie based on a book is staying true to the original story. Whereas overall, the movie follows the book, it does fail in a few points. One of its most critical flaws is it fails to fully develop the budding friendship of Al, Tris, Will and Christina. These four initiates from various factions bond over the common misery that the basic-camp type initiation process puts them through. The process also brings out the evil side of Tris’ nemesis Peter. Peter’s violent ways are toned down significantly in the movie — probably to garner the PG-13 rating.
Despite the deviation from the book, the movie does push forward the problems of survival and conformity in a dsytopian society. The movie is action-packed and well executed with strong performanace from Tris (Shailene Woodley) and her instructor Four (Theo James). The toned-down fight scenes are still powerful enough and the fearless, almost reckless mindset of the Dauntless faction is portrayed well on screen. Kate Winslet performance of a sick, twisted power-hungry leader is flawless.
Book Rating 4.5 out of 5
The book develops the ideals of the factions in greater detail and also goes into more depth about Tris’ background as an Abnegation child.
Movie: 4 out of 5
Fast-paced story with strong performances, but movie fails to accurately develop important characters like Eric, Al and Peter.
Divergent is the first of three books in the series by author Veronica Roth.