Book Review: Inside Divergent: The Initiate’s World

Inside Divergent: The Initiate’s World, by Cecilia Bernard

When I requested this book, sight unseen, from my library’s hold system [1], I had in mind the sort of book that provided some meaty text, such as essays examining the larger connections of the Divergent series with the larger world of dystopian teen and young adult literature and film adaptations [2], of which I must candidly admit I am a fan. Alternatively, I was hoping for a work that might provide some kind of detail into technical aspects of recreating the post-apocalyptic world of “New Chicago” and how Ms. Roth’s vision of a possible future for her beloved city was realized. This is not either of those kinds of book, but although it is a slight and rather breezy and more than a little superficial sort of work, it is not without value to the right kind of reader.

In fact, this book appears to have its purpose in seeking to provide a glimpse of the world of Divergent to those who either are not fans of the series but would be mildly curious about it given the photos of attractive young people on the book’s cover (sometimes a book expects to be judged on its cover) or those who are already fans of the series and are looking for reasons to feel enthusiastic for the film adaptation. Considering the success of the first film in the series (which basically ensured that the rest of the trilogy would be green-lit with expectation of Hunger Games-type mass audiences far outside of the fan base of the novels themselves), this hope was realized and this book suggests at least a little bit of a way forward for film studios hoping to expand the appeal of movies beyond a small core group of fans. After all, teen and young adult movies are notoriously hit and miss, every Divergent or Hunger Games or Percy Jackson that meets a wider popular audience being balanced by a City of Bones or Vampire Academy that ends up on the list of worst film flops and is quickly forgotten except by the hardcore fans who bemoan the fact that the twelfth novel in the series will never be made into a film.

In light of the clear business purposes of a book like this whose art is not the skill with prose that Ms. Roth possesses in her writings, but rather the visual presentation of the worthy art of costume and set designers as well as the actors and actresses who play the roles of Tris and Four and others, it is worth examining the materials and approach of this work and suggesting their implications. This particular book is under 150 pages, and just about every page is filled either with a still shot of the setting or (more usually) the actors, with the rest of them filled with graphic design that supports the movie’s aesthetic, usually with some very short text commenting on the photo or drawing and its significance for the movie. There is little explanation of the plot beyond the very initial bare bones, discussing the factions within the world of Divergent, the main characters of the book/movie, and the initial choices that must be made and process of initiation, and some brief initial comments about the Chicago of the future as well as what exactly a divergent is. For those who have read the book already, this particular book does not offer further details or insights into its worldview or into the technical aspects of making the movie.

What it does offer, though, is enough of a taste of the world and its characters and the general framework of the story to appeal to those who are not familiar with the book but are sufficient fans of the genre of dystopian teen and young adult literature or film in general (and it is a pretty large audience) to be excited by the appearance of skill and quality. This book succeeds in that effort. I am pretty sure that had I read this book before watching the movie I would have been far more enthusiastic to see it, even having not read the novel at all, since it would have given me some frame of understanding the nature of the societal design that the novel has and the basic fish-out-of-water premise that the main character faces. Given that I am at least somewhat empathetic of the plight of people who are in unfamiliar places and situations (given the course of my own life), that would have been enough to sell this film. Make no mistake, that is what this book aims to do, and it succeeds at its purpose. The achievement of this book suggests that film studios which seek to make profitable film series based on book adaptations of works that are somewhat popular within a genre but wish to achieve a wider popularity beyond it are well served to sell the world to potential wide audiences by using film visuals to showcase the beauty of the fictional world that has been created. This can both drum up support for a fan base for a film adaptation as well as attract those who would potentially enjoy a well-made movie whose source material they are unfamiliar with. This book, as slight and superficial as it is on a literary level, does suggest the appeal of film art supported by suggestive but not particularly explanatory text in order to serve the designs of corporate profitability. One only wonders why efforts like this are not done more often.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/03/31/library-card/

[2] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/05/05/the-rigidity-of-dystopian-identity/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/06/30/book-review-divergent/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/05/17/book-review-wool/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/09/24/we-dont-need-another-hero/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/10/05/the-hunger-games-trilogy-and-the-perils-of-adaptation/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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4 Responses to Book Review: Inside Divergent: The Initiate’s World

  1. Pingback: Book Review: Insurgent | Edge Induced Cohesion

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  3. Pingback: Wicked Is Good | Edge Induced Cohesion

  4. Pingback: Book Review: The Maze Runner | Edge Induced Cohesion

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