Divergent – For Once, the Movie Might be Better than the Book

Uh, Theo James is pretty good looking, guys.

Uh, Theo James is pretty good looking, guys.

We, your authors at Ladies On The Shelf, love us some young adult fiction. It’s not something we have ever shied away from – it’s consumed us since we were actual young adults.

Divergent hits theaters tonight, and promises to be in line with fellow YA dystopian trilogy The Hunger Games – but despite our YA love, something about Divergent just didn’t hit the same chord.

Familiar with the term the “Mary Sue”? Here we discuss whether that’s what bugged us about the series or not.

NOTE: SPOILERS AHEAD. And, uh, Caitlin is the only one who has read the whole series (and she is a cynic).

First off, ladies-  did you read the whole series?

Erin:  Full disclosure, I only read the first book. But I think that’s ok..

Jessi: I only read the first one, too. I must not have loved it?

Caitlin: I read all three. I don’t know why. They were each a regurgitation of the first.

Erin: I enjoyed the first one overall, but I had absolutely no desire to continue on. I even downloaded #2, but felt very “Meh.”

Jessi: I just checked and I bought them all, but only read the first. I think I probably thought the second would bring annoyance with the characters’ decisions. The third would be predicable. I must have purchased them all in the middle of reading the first book when I was all into it. It’s happened before. I’ve learned I need to sleep on these kinds of purchase decisions.

Erin: Impulsive book purchases! I’ve been there.

So, is Tris a Mary Sue?

Caitlin: Some thoughts I have about why Divergent didn’t work for me:

It’s not just the fact that Tris Prior is Divergent and can withstand things that other people can’t – it’s that she also becomes a leader, a go-to guy, and apparently, the only person who can figure anything out. Sure, you get inklings that others are on to secrets and uprisings at foot, but guys, by the end of book three, they even go as far as admitting that her gut instinct is better than most peoples. She’s a teenager. I don’t buy it.

I think that was what bothered me most about the series – we’re thrown into a sloppy dystopian Chicago where teenagers run things. Well, they run Dauntless. Which is ok, right? Because they’re BRAVE (sarcasm).

Oh, and even when you get to the end and they tell you why the factions exist (there had to be a reason besides people feel like “I choose to be a nice slave laborer for the rest of my life,” right, RIGHT??), it feels thrown together. Like the concept – “OK, there’s this society, and the mean people are security guards, and the smart people make computers, and the nice people pick the fruit” – came simply at first, but kind of fell apart when you start picking at it.

Jessi: Did anyone else think that this was going to end with a larger group of Divergent banning to overthrow the system? You know, with maybe an “Oh, Tris, you’re so brave to risk yourself by revealing yourself as a Divergent so you can save others! Lead us!” moment? That would only increase the Mary Sue-ness, but it could make a bit more of a statement. Now, I haven’t read the rest of the series, but my hope is that these books are more than just one exceptional girl taking this thing down. I hope it’s about realizing people can more than just one thing…everyone has that special something; anyone can be brave/selfless/whatever, blah blah blah.

Cait, you read the series. Is it more than just the exceptional girl saving the day? Blink once for yes, and twice for no.

Caitlin:  How spoilery should I get here?

Yes, she does save the day at the end because she has special powers. There’s a teeny bit of team strategy, but she kind of leads the team, the ultimately hijacks the mission to save the day herself.

Really, if I think about it, all three books follow the same formula: shady business caused by some kind of corrupt leadership, Tris and Tobias catching on to said shadyness, a shoot out/chaos/”oh my glob, Tris, are you trying to die? Do you even LIKE me??”, followed by “OK, who’s gonna be in charge now that we overthrew the leadership?” Rinse. Repeat.

Erin: I appreciate that the author tried to make Tris a more complex character with her conflicted familial relationships and guilt about disliking the fat kid or whatever, but I think Tris absolutely displays some Mary Sue tendencies.

But overall, that didn’t really bother me. It’s annoying that she’s suddenly the best of the best at everything, but that did make for some action packed scenes that were at least entertaining. My problem with Tris’s character is that she’s…boring. With all the kick-ass shit she’s going through, her narrative voice is still just kind of flat. First person narration in YA fiction is very, very common, and I think a lot of authors just don’t get it quite right.

Jessi: The Mary Sue-ness didn’t bother me either. Maybe Tris can start her own faction, Spiceless.

Caitlin: I think given the action this MIGHT work as a movie. For Divergent anyway. For the latter two… Well…. Let’s hope the move improves on the plot.

Erin: I thought Divergent (the book) was entertaining even with its flaws and I’m hoping the movie is good. I think Tris’s character might translate better onto film.

Jessi: Hey, let’s plan to like the movie better than the book! This could be a new thing for us.

Erin: But we’ve been burned before!


Erin: Ok I’m not going to let Ella Enchanted get me down. I think the movie’s going to be fun.

Caitlin: I think there is no way this can be worse than the book. They cast pretty people for the sole purpose of making out. Plot barely matters, if you read their campaign slogans.

You can catch Divergent at a theater near you! Watch out for our review coming soon


  1. I have only read Divergent and was left with meh feelings about it. I agree that the first person narration was flat.One of my complaints with the book was the love story, Tris who is supposed to be so intuitive and smart takes half the book to figure Four out and realize that he likes her. Then they discover that they are both divergent and in the next chapter they are suddenly in love. I didn’t buy it. Another scene that drove me crazy was her test where she has to go through her fears. The whole book she has done nothing but fret over anyone finding out that she is divergent but then it doesn’t show up in her test. However, the trailer for the film looks great and I keep thinking as I read the book that it read like instructions. There was no life to the writing. Maybe the people involved with the film can breathe the necessary life into this story. I know I will certainly be at the theater this weekend to find out.


    • Excellent comment!

      We tend to agree about the love story. In a plot that already seemed a little half-thought out, the love story seemed like an after thought. Like “Oh, this is a YA novel, we probably need a hot guy.”


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