Author Veronica Roth was still in college when she sold the story of a dystopian Chicagoan and a girl finding her place in a world that was trying to tell her who she was. Roth wrote a trilogy that weaved civil war, heartbreak, and questions of identity into the wildly popular Divergent series.
divergent has a huge fan base and a three-movie adaptation in progress starring shailene woodley as heroine beatrice “tris” before. the series has sold over 10 million copies as of January 1, 2014, and the first film grossed nearly $300 million at the worldwide box office. The second of these films, Insurgent, opened in theaters on Friday, March 20.
Here’s a summary of the series for those who haven’t had time to read it yet.
what is insurgent?
insurgent is a book written by veronica roth. The movie based on the book is directed by Robert Schwentke.
is the second installment in the dystopian sci-fi divergent trilogy for young adults, consisting of divergent, insurgent, and loyalist. The first two books have been adapted into movies, while the third will see its film version in theaters in 2017. The trilogy was Roth’s first major work as an author, and Divergent was her debut novel. Roth also released a collection of short stories from a supporting character’s perspective titled Four: A Divergent Collection.
all three books take place in a futuristic version of chicago after an unspecified cataclysm.
what is the divergent series about?
We can summarize this in two sentences:
Divergent is a series about a society divided between assigned factions and a girl who doesn’t fit into any of them. The moral force of the books lies in the constant reminder that you must always, under all circumstances, make decisions for yourself, rather than letting society dictate these decisions to you.
Theo James, Miles Teller, and Shailene Woodley in Insurgent (Lionsgate).
what are the factions?
The five factions are based on personality, virtue and strength. each group possesses certain qualities that they mutually value and excel at. the factions are called Abnegation (selfless), Scholar (intellectual), Fearless (brave), Candor (honest), and Friendship (peaceful).
beatrice, the main character, was born selfless, but she is far from selfless. Strong-willed and headstrong, when she receives the aptitude test results from her, she learns that she is “Divergent”, meaning that she doesn’t fit into any clan. instead, beatrice fits into three: selfless, learned, and fearless.
the world in which beatrice lives is not easy. after receiving the results of the aptitude test, a divergent person can choose to remain in the faction he was born into or try out a more suitable faction. however, if they fail the test, they become factionless and are forced to live in poverty.
good, good. I know how this genre works. who is the love interest?
In the first book, Tris leaves Abnegation to pass the test and become Dauntless. The intrepid instructor is an older, handsome boy named Four. (Beatrice earns her name “tris” as he participates in these intrepid initiation tests.)
four is a troubled boy whose father abused him and who unexpectedly finds himself in the middle of a war between the factions. Throughout Tris’s initiation, the two grow closer and closer, revealing Four’s character and his past.
Kate Winslet plays the Erudite villain in the movies. (Lionsgate)
what is the conflict in this series?
The world (or, really, just Chicago) is run by the Scholar Clan and their fearless leader, Jeanine. the scholars want to ruin abnegation by using a serum to basically brainwash the intrepid. take a second to note that these are the three clans tris was tested on.
By the end of the first book, Tris has lost a member of her family, nearly died, and is on her way to safety. In the books that follow, his collision course with Jeanine causes the conflict to escalate.
is this like the hunger games?
divergent was released so soon (2010) after suzanne collins’ immensely popular hunger games series (2008) that it’s almost impossible not to compare the two series. Both series were aimed at cornering the young adult market that had made Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series such a hit.
The fact that both Divergent and The Hunger Games are set in futuristic dystopias only draws more comparisons. however, the similarities extend beyond setting and genre as well. Both series feature strong-willed, teenage protagonists living in divided societies marked by long civil wars.
Still, it’s unfair to classify Divergent as a Hunger Games knockoff. Roth finished writing the books just as the first Hunger Games novel was released. he was just lucky enough to ride a wave that the hunger games helped build.
the real fault of the similarities of the protagonists is probably twilight. that series’ weak, malleable leading lady, bella, had young adult fiction readers clamoring for a stronger, less bland leading lady who had goals beyond falling in love. collins and roth responded to that challenge in a way that readers enjoyed.
Jennifer Lawrence plays Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games franchise,
how popular is the series?
The first book in the series was published in May 2011, where it subsequently ranked number one on the New York Times bestseller list for children. he stayed there for 11 weeks.
when the third allegiant book was released in october 2013, it set a first day sales record for harper collins
insurgent also debuted at no. 1. When the third book Allegiant was released in October 2013, it set a first-day sales record for Harper Collins with 450,000 copies. Allegiant outsold the last book in the Mockingjay Hunger Games series, according to Inquisitr. As a book series, the sales of Divergent and The Hunger Games are on par, but as a movie, the Divergent series hasn’t been as good. both the reviews and the box office pale in comparison to the hunger games film series.
Insurgent stars share an intimate moment (Lionsgate)
Is the series good?
While Divergent sells well and has all the makings of a worldwide smash hit, it has spent most of its time stuck in the shadow of the immensely popular Hunger Games series. the two are simply too similar for Divergent to have been a breakout hit, and the comparisons might have prevented readers outside of the young adult group from giving it a chance.
where roth stumbles is in the structure of the plot and the identification of the characters.
Unlike Katniss from The Hunger Games, Tris is often an immovable force. when terrible things happen to her family and friends, she comes to terms with these tragedies with an uneasy grace that makes her hard to relate to as a reader.
Part of what made The Hunger Games such a compelling and widely engaging novel was that Katniss had a very obvious and possibly achievable goal: to protect her sister and survive. the goal of the divergent series is not so obvious. tris goals are constantly changing in a world where the goal is both survival and some kind of moral upheaval. The lack of a strong, central narrative makes it easy for the books to lose momentum, and even easier for Roth to become charmed by subplots that become plot twists but have little impact on the story.
As in the movies, Roth’s characters have an awkward habit of announcing their intentions before they move. “Now is not the time for ethical debates,” Tris tells his father in the first book, in the middle of a conversation about killing someone for the greater good. it’s a stance that takes the reader out of the story and forces him to ask why, why isn’t now the time for an ethics debate? And it’s those little blunders by Roth to add mystery and suspense that completely break the world she’s created.
will the craze for young adult dystopian fiction ever end?
As far as trends go, the streak of teen dystopias hasn’t been that long. it only appears to be that way because the hunger games and divergent have been running series at almost exactly the same time. we’ve spent about the same amount of time with dystopias at this point as we have with vampires and werewolves after twilight. as such, the landscape of teen literature must change.
the landscape of children’s literature must change
Two potential fads are now emerging in young adult fiction. There are a plethora of John Green-esque books about quirky characters living emotionally tumultuous lives. A Fault in Our Stars was such a beloved, best-selling, and gripping novel that it’s no surprise imitators are beginning to appear. The trend even has a name, “sick lit,” and is populated with books like Cynthia Hand’s The Last Time We Said Goodbye, Gayle Forman’s I Was Here, and Michelle Falkoff’s Playlist For The Dead.
books like lee bross’s tangled webs, with joe schreiber academy and paula stokes liars, inc., are part of the other trend looming on the horizon, it looks like the next great young adult fiction may come from a unexpected source: crime novel. of course. features the daring teenage cops, forced to choose between two incredibly mysterious and sexy crooks.
should I watch the insurgent movie?
If you haven’t read the books or seen the first movie, definitely not. the Rotten Tomatoes score for Insurgent is only 33 percent. as my colleague alex abad-santos wrote in his review:
It’s as if the film doesn’t trust its talented cast to portray basic emotions or convey character ambiguities…the film’s writers clearly don’t trust the audience to remember these sat words. Instead of letting a learned or selfless action speak for itself, those actions must also, as well as the plans and feelings of the characters, be explained.
That said, audiences seem to be enjoying the movie (giving it 71 percent rotten tomatoes), so if you’re already a Divergent superfan, there are worse ways to spend your Saturday than with Shailene Woodley.