Divergent directed by Neil Burger (movie)

Burger, N. (Director). (2014). Divergent. [Motion Picture]. United States: Lionsgate. 

Genre: Action, Romance, Dystopia

Reading level/ interest age: 13+ movie rating, 15+ interest level

Plot summary:     
Tris is fast approaching the age where she must decide what faction to choose. Factions are typically chosen with a test to determine which one a candidate shows the most aptitude for. During her test, something goes wrong and Tris is ushered out of the room as quickly as possible by an administrator. Told she could be divergent, Tris runs back home to contemplate the news. Divergents are a threat to the system and are usually exterminated whenever one presents itself. On the day of the faction ceremony, Tris decides to keep her secret and declares herself to be Dauntless. People in this faction are typically described as good fighters, fearless, ruthless, and cunning. Tris struggles to fit in and ends up finding another Divergent in the group, a boy who calls himself Four. Their beginning starts out rocky but Four eventually decides to help Tris fit in. Together, they train to keep their secrets hidden but their government is bent on sniffing out and eliminating all who are Divergent. 

Reader’s annotation:

Like every teenage girl, Tris just wants to fit in. During her test to determine a faction, she learns she is in great danger and must hide her secret if she wishes to survive. 

Information about the author:

“A filmmaker whose unyielding obsession with the concept of truth versus illusion resulted in one of the most highly praised independent features of 2002, Neil Burger studied fine arts at Yale University before transitioning from painting to experimental film in the late '80s. In the years that followed, the aspiring filmmaker would develop his screenwriting skills before getting his big break as the director of a series of MTV advertisements created to promote literacy. Following a productive stint with Ridley Scott Associates, it was finally time for Burger to take a crack at directing his first feature film. A remarkable mockumentary detailing the confession of a former Marine who claimed to be the mythical "second gunman" in the Kennedy assassination, Burger's Interview with the Assassin took the spirit of The Blair Witch Project and effectively infused it with a healthy dose of modern conspiracy theory. Of course, after such an auspicious debut, fans and critics were bound to be curious as to what the imaginative director would come up with next. 

“Although his sophomore feature, The Illusionist, seemed to share little in common with his previous effort on the surface, a closer inspection reveals that Interview's primary themes of illusion and reality are still very much in tact in the stylish tale of a turn-of-the-century Vienna magician who uses his powers to unmask the hypocrisy of the aristocracy. With a budget 20 times that of his impressive debut and a trio of talented actors including Edward Norton, Paul Giamatti, and Jessica Biel at his disposal for only his second full-length feature, it appeared as if emerging filmmaker Burger would be using the magic of cinema to explore the unknown for many years to come” (Buchanan, 2014).

Curriculum ties: N/A

Booktalking ideas:

1.       If you found out you were divergent, would you tell your family or do what Tris does and pick a different faction to keep them safe?
2.       Why do you think Tris got the tattoo of the flying birds?

Critical evaluation:

Divergent is sincerely disappointing as it is just another typical dystopian story that came to the silver screen in a mad attempt to give the populace what they demand. The success of other current dystopian novels such as The Hunger Games cannot be expected to keep C list movies like this one afloat. Whereas The Hunger Games is simply set in a dystopian society, the focus is on the games and not the politics of the world the characters live in. Divergent is misleading because the viewer is lead to believe the story is solely about Tris and her choice of faction. However, watchers find out later that Tris is merely part of an experiment. The letdown is similar to what some may have experienced upon realizing the ending of The Life of Pi. Tris is a typical female heroine struggling to fit in and the viewer quickly becomes swept up in her quest to remain safe. The feeling of being tricked upon finding that none of her struggle matters is an awful way to prepare the audience for a sequel no matter how fast Divergent books are flying off the shelves. Let this movie rest in peace.

Challenge issues:

·         Violence

Defensive Maneuvers:

·         Have the library’s collection development policy memorized and on hand in case a situation arises.
·         Keep positive reviews on hand to refer to or hand out when needed.
·         If the book has won any awards, mention them to the patron and briefly explain the award.
·         Listen to the patron and practice good customer service skills when communicating. Let the customer know where or if he/she can escalate his/her complaint.
·         When necessary, cite sections of the ALA’s Library Bill of Rights or refer to the ALA's Strategies and Tips for Dealing with Challenges to Library Materials.

Why included:

Divergent was a mildly successful movie adaptation of the book and I believe that readers of the book would enjoy seeing their characters come to life. I also think that teens can learn visually by adapting what they know of the book to what they see on screen.


Buchanan, J. (2014). Neil Burger Biography. Retrieved August 22, 2014 from

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