It’s official; I have been sucked into the world of Divergent. I always do this. I ignore something as the buzz builds and builds, and when it finally reaches a deafening roar, I break down. I did it with Harry Potter, believe it or not. When my mom first brought the Sorcerer’s Stone home for me, I thought it looked silly. Flash forward 14 years and I’m sitting in a movie theater sobbing my heart out as a gigantic chunk of my childhood finally comes to an end. The Hunger Games: Not quite as dramatic, but still the same result. I resisted until maybe a month or so before the movie, then finally read the book, nay, the entire trilogy, in one weekend. And now I love it. So when everyone started talking about Divergent, I knew I would eventually have to grab the book, since I’m the type of person who simply has to read the book before seeing the movie.
I read it in 8 hours. I sat down the Saturday evening of the film’s opening weekend (March 22) and didn’t move until 3 a.m. Sunday afternoon, I was sitting in the theater. I saw it again this past weekend and subsequently read the entire second book, Insurgent. My plans for this coming weekend? Allegiant.
As someone who has always been a lover of books, I sometimes feel like a traitor when I like the film version better. But as an entertainment addict, there is no denying that I am nearly equally as addicted to movies. And so, when a new screenplay comes along that’s based on yet another bestselling novel, YA or otherwise, I don’t groan along with the rest of the crowd or whine that Hollywood has no original ideas left. Instead, I smile to myself because it means I get to see yet another world that has so far only lived inside my own head come to life. More often than not, it’s worth it.
Divergent was worth it. The book, published in 2011 by then-21-year-old author Veronica Roth, takes place in a dystopian Chicago where society has divided into five factions based on virtue in order to keep the peace: Amity the kind, Candor the honest, Erudite the intelligent, Dauntless the brave, and Abnegation the selfless, which is the faction our main character, Beatrice “Tris” Prior, belongs to. When a person reaches 16, they take a test to determine which faction they are truly apt to belong to and then take part in a choosing ceremony which allows them to either stay with the faction they were raised in or defect to a different one. Faction before blood: Once you choose, there is no going back. Tris discovers that her test results were inconclusive; she shows traits for three different factions, not just one, a result that labels her “Divergent.” Divergence is dangerous in the eyes of the society’s leaders, for reasons Tris does not yet understand. And this is just the beginning as she decides to take her identity into her own hands.
The book was a thrill ride and it came alive in the performances from Shailene Woodley, Kate Winslet, Theo James, Miles Teller, Zoë Kravitz, and the rest of the talented cast. Director Neil Burger did an amazing job painting the picture of a Chicago that has been torn apart by war and built back up to serve a new purpose. Which did I like better? Who cares? A story is a story and this is an excellent one. See it, read it, and decide for yourself.