Saturday, February 22, 2014

Divergent: The Divergent Trilogy, Book 1 by Veronica Roth; The Book-to-Movie Now on Blu-ray & DVD!

Divergent by Veronica Roth.
Book Review by:
Sharon Powers.

     On April 25, 2011, Divergent became the debut novel for author, Veronica Roth; the book I am featuring in today's book review. Divergent is the first book in a trilogy by Roth, the second book is Insurgent (May 1, 2012), and the third is, Allegiant (October 22, 2013). 

     One of the main reasons I selected Divergent as the subject of today's book review is that Summit Entertainment has purchased the media rights to the book; the production of the movie took place in 2013. I have since learned that the scheduled release date for this movie is March 21, 2014! What a major accomplishment for Veronica Roth on her debut novel. 

     Why is this novel being brought to the big screen? Well, it, undoubtedly, has everything to do with the novel's popularity. Originally appearing on the New York Times Best Seller List for the Children's Chapter Books, the book remained on the list for thirty-nine weeks in 2012; then in December 2012, when that list was eliminated, the book was moved over to the new Young Adult Best Seller List--it met with similar success on this list, as well.

     Divergent also won a major victory when it won the Goodreads Choice Award for Favorite Book in 2011. It also won the Sakura Medal Contest and was number one on the Teens' Top Ten Vote, sponsored by YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association). So, having met with all this success and with the popularity of the book, the novel quickly became slated for big screen production.

     The setting is a dystopian Chicago where all peoples have been categorized and then labeled as one of five types based on personal inclinations. Each faction serves society based on the abilities they exhibit as determined by their faction.

The Five Virtue-Based Factions.
The symbols represent the given faction
     Every year, each person reaching majority performs an aptitude test to determine their proclivity to fit within one of the five designated factions: (1) Can- dor [for people who value truth]; (2) Abnegation [for people who value selflessness]; (3) Erudite [for people who value intelligence]; (4) Amity [for people who value peace]; and, (5) Dauntless [for people who value bravery]; but when the results indicate equal aptitude in different areas, the test is inconclusive, and the person is found to be "Divergent" from the rest of society.

     After testing, the candidates go through a ceremony, choosing which of the five groups will guide their lives. Their choices are based on the aptitude test and what they actually desire. Choosing a group different from their parents and family means they must move away to another part of the city and leave their family behind forever. But, choosing a group antithetical to their aptitude means leading a life of constant struggle against their own innate talents and abilities.

To find out what faction you would fit into, take the Divergent Faction Quiz,
just like I did (My results are just below.). Just click on this link.
It was a lot of fun and it only took a few minutes.
     Once in the new group, if the, now, initiates fail their initiation period, they are ousted from that group and must live life as a "factionless" person, in poverty. They do work no one else wants to do (garbage collectors, janitors, bus drivers, etc.), and are constantly poor, constantly hungry, constantly dissatisfied, never able to advance in career or make their lives better...and never able to go home.
My test results for the Divergent Faction Quiz.
     At the opening of the book, Beatrice Prior, our heroine, faces this very situation. She takes her aptitude test, but the results are "inconclusive." She is told by the tester to keep quiet about the results and not tell anyone that she tests as "Divergent"  from the norm.

   Then, at her choosing ceremony, she does not choose her parents' faction (Abnegation), but chooses, instead, the Dauntless faction. Beatrice, also, immediately chooses a new name for her new life, by shortening her name to "Tris."

     Tris is plunged into a world unlike the "selfless" and gentle world in which she grew up. She is plunged into a world where she must suddenly confront her own fears and conquer them if she is to pass her initiation period and avoid having to live on the streets as a factionless person.

Katniss, heroine of the Hunger Games,
with Peeta on the Victory Tour.
     Tris then faces the typical obstacles any hero faces in the initiation or learning phase (just like Harry, in Harry Potter, Katniss, in The Hunger Games, or even Ender in Ender's Game). Trying to fit in, being outside the group, being unjustly judged, overcoming your own inner fear, learning how to fight, avoiding being killed, social "backstabbing," making friends/finding love, overcoming self doubt, and, of course, achieving success and doing it better than everyone else, so that you come out as number one of the group.
Ender being threatened by Bonzo.

     Threaded in with Tris's experiences in her new Dauntless faction, including her profound attraction to Tobias, we see hints of something much larger at work in the background of the story. We see that Tris gets mysterious messages from her mother, she has a secret meeting with her brother, and "Four" (Tobias Eaton) confides to her some secret and urgent information he has uncovered about the Erudite Faction--that the Erudites plan to use the Dauntless faction to attack and defeat the "selfless" Abnegation Faction. Tris and Four are confused and troubled about all the new information they have acquired. They wonder how the Erudite Faction will be able to control or force Dauntless to attack the people of the Abnegation Faction. They also feel great confusion about their feelings for each other and their overwhelming attraction.

Tris and Four (Tobias).
     But behind all of this, Tris still works to conceal the fact that she tested as Divergent from the rest of society. She wants to trust Four, but circum- stances and appear- ances work against her. looks like Four has secrets of his own. Then, at the conclusion of the initiation period and the initiates passing of the rigorous tests, Tris discovers that she has landed in first place and is assured of a place within the Dauntless Faction (only the top ten initiates are permitted a place in the faction).

     What happens next will leave you on the edge of your seat. Tris and Four will be tested and they must decide whether or not trust is something they can share. In fact, this trust issue is one of the hinges on which their whole future and the future of Dauntless and society as they know it, will depend. Tris's whole family is thrust into the the exciting and action-packed conclusion. Tris and everyone soon learn just how the Erudite Faction plan to take over society by destroying the Abnegation Faction and making the Dauntless Faction do their dirty work. The conclusion is not to be missed!

  The scheduled release date for the movie is March 21, 2014 (USA). This movie is directed by Neil Burger; Writers are Evan Daughtery, and Vanessa Taylor (for Screenplay), and Veronica Roth (for the novel). The movie stars Shailene Woodley as Beatrice 'Tris' Prior, Theo James as Four (Tobias), Kate Winslet as Jeanine Matthews, Maggie Q as Tori, Ashley Judd as Natalie Prior, Tony Goldwyn as Andrew Prior, Miles Teller as Peter, and Jai Courtney as Eric.

     Please enjoy this YouTube trailer for the movie, Divergent:
     Wow! Veronica Roth had her work cut out for her when she created these exciting and intricate plot lines. She definitely keeps the reader on the edge of their seat. In the beginning of the book the action was slower paced and more interior psychological drama, but Roth didn't stop there. She began building one event on another, gradually quickening the pace until the climatic conclusion at the end of the book. How did she do that? One of Roth's major devices was placing the story in a setting that would naturally lead to excitement and action. What am I talking about? Well, I'm talking about the use of the dystopian society as a setting for the young adult novel.

     A "dystopian society" is one that is undesirable, harmful, or unpleasant; the unpleasantness is usually due to a dramatic decline in society, for example, an apocalypse. The harmful or unpleasant side-effects of the societal decline usually center around politics [the government] (e.g., The Hunger Games), the environment (e.g., Logan's Run, and Soylent Green), religion (e.g., A Canticle for Liebowitz, and The Handmaid's Tale), psychology (e.g., Brave New World), ethics and science (e.g., Blade Runner), or technology (e.g., R.U.R. and I, Robot). A few other famous dystopian novels are, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Farenheit 451, and Brave New World (There are many, many more.).

A dystopian society often
exhibits rigid controls on its
citizens--for example,
demanding complete
obedience to the will of the
     OK. So what else? What are some of the hallmarks of literature that utilize this dystopian structure in the book's plot? Well, one would be the stratification of society. Stratification is also seen in our novel, today, Divergent. Roth, though, creates stratas based on innate abilities and inclinations (Amity, Erudite, Dauntless, Abnegation, and Candor). Here, society is grouped into five different groups similar to Aldus Huxley's dystopian, Brave New World (where he used Alphas, Betas, Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons).

     Family is also a critical piece of dystopian society. The government seeks to destroy or control social interaction by exerting rigid controls on the family. Take a look at what happens in our novel, Divergent. If a coming-of-age person chooses a faction alien to their family of origin, they lose their family. And, if they fail their initiate stage of training, they are, likewise, thrust out into a factionless world (without family).

The Book of Eli, starring Denzel
Washington, utilizes a
dystopian setting.
     You get the idea. Other hallmarks of dystopian novels and movies include the following: Politics and Economics [see, V For Vendetta), Religion (See, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep), issues of Identity (see, Gattica), Violence of fighting, war, or other oppression (see, Judge Dredd, Mad Maxx, or The Running Man), and Environmental issues [pollution, not enough food, etc.] (See, Avatar, Soylent Green, and Wall-E).
Gattaca is a dystopian

     Undoubtedly, since novels (and movies) following dystopian themes are so popular and prevalent in society, right now, we will visit this issue again in the future. Because dystopian themes are seen in everything from television shows (like The Walking Dead), to video games (Fallout), novels and movies, I'm sure we will be looking at dystopian themes in new novels as they are written and come into the publishing and reading world. Until then, I hope this quick little nutshell version of dystopian society helps you to appreciate this genre of literature more.

I walk slowly around him. On his back is more ink than skin. The symbols of each faction are drawn there--Dauntless at the top of his spine, Abnegation just below it, and the other three, smaller, beneath them. For a few seconds I look at the scales that represent Candor, the eye that stands for Erudite, and the tree that symbolizes Amity. It makes sense that he would tattoo himself with the symbol of Dauntless, his refuge, and even the symbol of Abnegation, his place of origin, like I did. But the other three? [Tobias says,] "I think we've made a mistake," he says softly. "We've all started to put down the virtues of the other factions in the process of bolstering our own. I don't want to do that. I want to be brave, and selfless, and smart, and kind, and honest" (p.405).
Tobias' ("Four's") tattoos.
     Being "divergent" is what Tris and Tobias are. They have attributes other than Dauntless. They have within them Abnegation qualities, Candor qualities, Amity qualities, and Erudite qualities. Tobias expresses his desire to openly be all of those qualities. That is the reason for the tattoos. They are reminders of what he wants, and yet is afraid to show others because they would know. They would realize he is divergent. And yet, he used his Dauntless courage to place the other symbols on his back to remind him of who he really is and who he openly wants to be.

     As I mentioned in the opening paragraph of this blog post, Divergent is Veronica Roth's debut novel. She has done a very credible job for such a start. She has executed the dystopian novel in an interesting manner, with much to be said in a positive vein about the denouement. 

My rating for, Divergent.
     That having been said, I think she could have done a better job at making Tris more sympathetic. I felt removed from her as a character and found myself caring more about the other characters in the novel than I did our heroine. Even my favorite quote was from Tobias. Tris just felt a little "flat" to me. Nonetheless, on a whole, the book was good. I, therefore, rate this book 4.25 stars out of 5, given my reasons, as stated, above. 

     As always, in books with violence or sex, I caution young or sensitive readers to be wary. Parents who exercise control over children's reading material should be warned of inappropriateness of some passages. For young adult readers of this book, actually, the intended audience, you will find an exciting story with room to grow in the subsequent two sequels;  if you haven't read it yet, I hope you enjoy, Divergent, as much as I did.

Veronica Roth
     Please, please, please, pick up a book and read it this week! It could be, Divergent, or it could be something else in which you have an interest. Read something good and let it fill you up until the book becomes a part of you. Let a wonderful story permeate your being. Let some beautiful words or quotes into your heart and remain there. To get them there, you must actually read something. So, I exhort you to pick up a book and devour it before we meet again in this blog. God bless you. Have a great week. And thank you for joining me, here, to look at Veronica Roth's book, Divergent.
Until next time...
White Rose.
...many happy pages of reading.

My best to you, all.


________________________________________________________ - Divergent (Amazon); - Divergent by Veronica Roth; - goodreads Choice Awards 2011; - Divergent Symbols; - Divergent Faction Quiz; - Katniss Everdeen, winner of Hunger Games (75th Quarter Quell); - Ender being threatened by Bonzo; - Tris and Tobias; - Dystopia; - Dystopian society, "Do Not Disobey"; - The Book of Eli is a movie with a dystopian setting; - Gattaca;*o5iQ4q3RjxfW14o04O*16gYKUOOab-P9xZnrOF3Avl78c8cnaholYaFF27E9lCKCrpxpOwgA93DkTzomr* - Tobias' tattoos; - My rating for, Divergent, 4.25 stars; - Veronica Roth; - White Rose.