If you’ve been paying attention to movie news in recent weeks, then you’ve probably heard the name Divergent thrown around once or twice. And with speculation about up-and-coming names like Shailene Woodley, Alexander Ludwig and Colton Haynes being thrown around as potentials for the leading roles, it’s really no surprise that the book-to-movie adaption is gaining this much attention so early in the production process.
But if you’re not a book lover, the details of the plot line behind Veronica Roth’s 2011 young adult debutmight be a little sketchy. So I’m here to give you a crash course in the world of dystopian Chicago and the characters that come along with it.
Handle (the decision) with care
One of the first things you learn when reading Divergent is that society has pulled a complete 180 from what we’re used to. Instead of people just living as people, they are placed into groups called “factions” – Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Erudite (the intelligent) , Amity (the peaceful) and Candor (the honest). The catch is you get to chose, at the age of 16, whether to stay with your family in the faction where you were raised, or choose another and pretty much never see your family again. Sounds like a good time, right?
No Bella Swan here
If you’re looking for a helpless, hide-behind-your-man kind of girl, then 16-year-old Beatrice “Tris” Prior is not for you. The narrator of Divergent is more of a Katniss Everdeen meets Lara Croft type, only with modern weaponry and less Angelina Jolie lips. Tris is the kind of character that’s hard to get to know at first, even though you’re inside of her head. But that allows for a more interest and complex story to emerge surrounding the character, and gives room for Tris to surprise us as readers.
A man of mystery
Because no young adult novel is complete without the handsome bad boy with a heart of gold, please welcome Four. This dark haired mystery captures the interest of Tris from the very beginning, but Roth keeps the reader’s opinion of the character flip-flopping back and forth throughout the majority of the novel. Do we love him? Do we hate him? Do we just want to hit him and get it over with?
An old city made new
Divergent does something new with its setting, taking the Chicago that we know today and making it something familiar, yet distorted. Like looking in a fun house mirror. Roth casually mentions places like Millennium Park and Navy Pier, as well as the Sears Tower (Willis Tower, to some) through the eyes of Tris, turning our modern day city and turning it into some dream the narrator never knew. Smashing the idea of our Chicago with Divergent‘s image makes for a really great clash or imagination.
Kid tested, parent approved
So you might be asking yourself why you would want to see a movie revolving around a teenage character from a book made for teenagers at a time when people really want to say “Not another teen movie!” and actually mean it. But much like recent hits like Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games and Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series, adults are really getting into the story line. (My own mother just recently devoured both Divergent and its sequel, Insurgent, in just under two weeks.) The plot allows for more than just the standard “I’ve known him for three days, but I love him” thing. Instead there are meaningful moments, like self-discovery and adult decision making that a person of all ages can connect with.