If you haven’t heard of Divergent by now, I can only assume you’ve been living under a rock for the past few months. Not only is it the name of a trilogy of dystopian teen novels (written by Northwestern grad Veronica Roth!), the movie adaptation of the first book, starring Shailene Woodley and Theo James, hit movie theaters at the end of March. It can be easy to write off Divergent as yet another in a seemingly endless stream of YA novels set in a hopeless future, but there are a few key reasons why I think it stands out from its many predecessors.
For one, the heroine, Tris, is a great example of a realistic female role model. She is courageous and strong, but can also be vulnerable and very unsure of herself. She displays a range of complex emotions and, in doing so, is extremely relatable and completely human. This is a refreshing contrast to a character like Katniss, from the popular Hunger Games series, who often comes across as very robotic and calculating. Tris is awkward when she has a crush on a boy and defiant when she is challenged and scared when faced with real danger; she is somebody that girls and boys of all ages can admire as a hero who is both fearless and flawed.
Another interesting aspect of the book and movie is its much-speculated-about underlying meaning. A main premise of the story is that Tris does not fit into just one of her dystopian society’s five “factions,” each of which is dedicated to a certain personality trait. This sort of “divergence” is rare and is viewed as a major threat to this society, and many readers have compared divergence to bisexuality. Whether Roth intended for this comparison to be drawn between two concepts of not fitting neatly into a standard categorization or not, I think this metaphor can be a valuable one. Overall, the story is about society’s negative perception of those who don’t seem to fit in. Courageous Tris seeks to prove her government wrong, and thus teaches an important lesson in staying true to yourself and fighting for your cause.
Finally, Divergent’s entertainment factor is off the charts. There’s a reason why dystopian novels like 1984, The Giver and The Hunger Games series have been so popular: it is so fascinating to imagine a world with a seriously flawed government, crazy rules and status quo-obsessed citizens, and the hero or heroine who rescues society. The Divergent novel is well written, fast-paced and a very fun read for teens and adults alike, and I personally thought they did a fantastic job with the movie adaptation as well. It is perfectly casted (Theo James, *swoon*) and retains a satisfying amount of the original book’s content. If you can find the time in your busy spring quarter schedule, I highly recommend you check out both the book and movie versions of Divergent.