In which Ashley McDonnell breaks down exactly why people love the Divergent series.
Unless you live under a rock (and you don’t, because you’re reading this), you probably know the movie adaptation of Insurgent, the sequel to Veronica Roth’s YA phenomenon Divergent, went full Dauntless and beat all other movies to a pulp at the box office. As any Hunger Games fan knows, you have to read Divergent (instead of just reading the Hunger Games over and over again. I totally don’t do that…). It hits a lot of the same high notes as the Hunger Games: a female lead (Tris) who’s not afraid to throw down, a strong-but-oh-so-sensitive male love interest (Four; One through Three were taken) who treats the heroine as his equal, and a revolution led by teens that will either save or destroy humanity (what are you gonna do?).
That said, the Divergent series has many merits that are distinctly its own, and seeing Insurgent this weekend (which is very different from the books) gave me a new appreciation for what the series does very, very well, both on the page and the screen:
- It has the right amount of romance. At least among my own friend group, the romance between Tris and Four plays a crucial role in the series’ popularity. And I agree: I dig their relationship. It’s refreshing not to have a love triangle. Four respects Tris even when their beliefs don’t align in any way. Their disagreements come from fundamental differences in their characters, not petty misunderstandings, and they don’t exhibit a lot of teenage awkwardness. It’s nice to see the complications of their romance play out, without the love story overshadowing everything else.
- Four’s past inescapable. Maybe I’m just a sucker for tortured heroes, but I like the way Four’s past—abused by his father, abandoned by his mother—becomes even more painful in the present, as he must choose which parent to ally with. Forgiveness becomes a strong undercurrent from Insurgent into Allegiant. How can you forgive people who have so greatly wronged you? How can you work with them now, supposably for the greater good? While an emphasis on forgiveness is present in the latest movie, it’s handled much more thoroughly in the books.
- There’s lots of female-led ass kicking. Yes, the Insurgent movie at times takes a lot of liberties in adapting the book, but I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t have fun while watching. There’s a scene toward the beginning of the movie, where Tris, Four, and Tris’s brother flee the Dauntless trying to capture them, which segues into a fight sequence on a train, which is, quite frankly, thrilling. Part of me believes the Divergent series is better suited for the screen because much of the series describes people shooting one another, or trying to infiltrate this or that building. Plus, since we continue to live in a world where female-led action flicks are considered risky business, it’s great to see Tris hold her own at the box office. In one minor-but-awesome divergence (pun intended) from the books, Tris holds her on-again, off-again enemy at gunpoint. Her enemy is unfazed, saying, “It’s not like you’re going to shoot me.” Exasperated, Tris replies, “Why does everyone keep saying that?” and then shoots him in the arm. Like a boss.
Ashley is an editor at Scribd. She would rather take her chances in the Hunger Games than have to choose a faction to drop out of. She’s made it her mission to celebrate the best in young adult fiction with lovingly made collections like Logged In and #WeNeedDiverseBooks.