BOOK REVIEW: Divergent (#1) by Veronica Roth

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Star Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Short Reaction: Um, WHAT WAS I WAITING FOR??
Published on/by: February 2nd 2012 by HarperCollins Children’s Books (first published January 1st 2011)
Format: Paperback
Page Count: 489 pages
Synopsis provided by Goodreads: In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue–Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is–she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are–and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, Tris also learns that her secret might help her save the ones she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

STORY TIME ON THE EVENTS LEADING UP TO ME READING THIS:

Yes, why the HECK am I reviewing this book? Everyone and their grandmother have had the pleasure of diving into this roller coaster of a book…so why am I so late to the party?

Yeah, let me explain…

I bought Divergent (the UK cover was only available to South East Asia at the time) in 2012 because even back then, it was all the book blogosphere could talk about. Flash forward to two years later where it still sat on my shelf, bound by its plastic wrapping. Yes. I deserve to go to book prison. There should be a book prison. Heinous crimes like these do not deserve to go unpunished.

Now, what actually pushed me to finally read Divergent? Firstly, it was my best friend. She, like me, had put off this trilogy for as long as she could remember. However, she had a school holiday (we go to different schools) and she decided to finally marathon the series. She slept at 6 am for three nights finishing this series. Secondly, it was the movie. My best friend still had ‘Allegiant’ to go and she was not excited for the movie adaptation at all. Please see why here: Vampire Academy movie. By the end of the movie, I was sold. My BFF, however, was not. (She’s hard to please). Sure, it was a little ‘lol, yeah right’ in soooo many parts, but I found that if you just shut up and nod and take what they give you, you will have no choice but to enjoy the story as it is: a huge roller-coaster (ferris wheel, wink wink) of fun!

Now, let’s ignore the part where I took another four months to pick up ‘Divergent’. I just wasn’t in the mood to commit, okay?!

AND FINALLY, MY NON-SPOILERY BOOK REVIEW:

This book was GREAT. It was just so, so much fun. I loved the world, I loved the characters, but most of all, I loved that I was able (eventually) to separate the actors of the movie with the book. Soon, I was able to form a hotter and younger Four (very important) in my head and also, take things into perspective a little bit. Upon tackling this book (and movie), I had to remind myself of what a fellow reviewer said on Goodreads, which is that the Divergent world is ultimately a game compromising of rules that seemed to be made up by 11 year olds. If you start to question them, things will get loud. But if you just play the game as it is, you will be rewarded. And the reward? Just a plain ol’ fun bucket of fun! Cos that’s what Divergent really is! A huge big sack of action and fun.

I instantly liked Book Tris better than Movie Tris, and well…I also instantly developed the fangirliest crush on Book Four. Granted, I knew the events that would unfold, but the story told in this medium, for me, was ultimately better. I understood interactions clearly this time round (even though I watched the movie twice– the second time put me to sleep, I DON’T KNOW WHY, DON’T ASK ME TO EXPLAIN!) as well as developed a better feel and appreciation for the romance.

Even though the faction system was silly, in my opinion, this whole process of transferring and adapting in new communities and environments was really fascinating to read about. I especially loved Tris’s newfound friends like Christina, Will and Uriah and how different they all were in their mindsets. The initiation process was the best part of the book (apart from Four’s godly presence) as it was incredibly fun to read about. The pacing was on par and the atmosphere created put me on the edge of my seat.

Now, to explain why I did NOT give this a full five stars. You would think it’s because I read this after watching the movie, thus eliminating the factor of surprise, but that is definitely not the case as I was able to read ‘The Help’ by Kathryn Stockett after watching the movie (oh, about 8 times) with fervour, giving it a well-deserved 5 stars. The reason for a 0.5 deduction is because even though I’m trying hard not to make noise over the silliness of the faction world, it’s still a little weak, if I were to nit-pick critically. This whole ‘Divergent’ aspect was interesting, but again, I was super confused (even after watching the movie twice). I had way too many questions when I reached the end of the book that I believe should have been addressed in the first book of a trilogy.

All in all, I have little complaints because this world gave me the beauty that is Four. That is all.

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FILM REVIEW: Vampire Academy

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I’ve been waiting for this movie for a while. My group of friends had read the series a couple years back and they’ve been pushing me to read it countless of times. But I was strong. I simply didn’t want to, not because I had a problem with vampire fiction or anything but because I knew if I went down that road, I’d drive myself over the cliff and crack my head open on a sharp boulder, all six books in my arms. Yes, I am that kind of fan. My devotion is like nail to skin, teeth to gum, sun to sky. I will go down with a “ship” if I have to. It was on my birthday that I finally requested the Vampire Academy book set of 6 from my mother to which she responded with “dream on” and bought me the Naked 2 Eyeshadow palette instead. Before I go on I should disclose that my parents do encourage reading, just not the pleasure kind. And so, begrudgingly, I bought the first Vampire Academy book with my own money. And only 4 months later, did I begin reading.

Fast forward to February 15th 2014.

Dressed in a faux motorcycle zip-up jacket and black pants adorned with fake zippers (zippers make everything look hardcore), feeling like the dhampir I pretended to be, I was ready. Tickets were bought and my best friend and I were off to see the movie. Backtracking for a moment, I should impart you with the knowledge that my best friend– who had read every book at least a dozen times, loathed the trailer, the TV spots and about any other marketing clips that were released prior to the premiere. She furiously told me that the Waters Brothers had warped the entire theme of the book and made it look stupid and frivolous. I previously didn’t really have any feelings toward the clips or TV spots as I had watched all of them before I read the first book, so I just baited my time. After reading the first book and going back to the clips and the trailer, I honestly still didn’t share the same views. I just thought that they used the humour in the book and amplified it so that people who’ve never read the books would want to watch it. There hadn’t been a movie with supernatural creatures and dark humour out there yet (I’m assuming here), so naturally I thought the marketing team was trying to distinguish itself from the preconceived comments like “omg ew it’s like twilight!!!!”. Boy, was I in over myself.

Now, on to the movie.

Overall, I’ll give it a C-, bordering on a D. It wasn’t good, but it wasn’t goddamn horrible. I enjoyed it better than this other book to movie adaptation cough City cough of cough Bones cough but still…it was bad.

It opened with a really famous M.I.A. song, “Bad Girls”, blaring in the background as the audience was taken into Lissa’s nightmare, where she relived the car crash that killed her family. It was choppy and almost comical. As soon as that scene wrapped, I just wanted more! And not “more” in the good sense of “I couldn’t get enough!”. I wanted more emotion, more drama, more pain on Lissa’s front. It is, afterall, Lissa’s pivotal change in character. From Princess living a charmed life to Princess who had the whole weight of her family’s name, Dragomir, on her shoulders, since there was no one else in her family left to carry it. I felt like the car crash scene should have been stressed in the movie because it plays a heavy part in Lissa’s character development. It was just a bad montage of bloody bodies and broken glass that was ultimately way too short.

Now, I don’t particularly think Lissa was badly casted. It wasn’t the Lissa I imagined, but she did have some redeemable scenes. I especially enjoyed all the scenes where she was walking with Oscar, her cat, in her arms. So queer and yet Princessy, don’t you think? It was that subtle, comical move that people could appreciate. No need to overdo the jokes, Waters Brothers. A problem I had with movie Lissa was that she was a little saucy. Is that the right word? She had a bite that was slightly more Rose than Lissa should be. Also, her accent was so thick at times that I couldn’t catch on to what she was saying. Case in point, when she walked into her dorm room and saw the bloody words “BE WHERE”. She mutters, “they couldn’t even spell beware”. The timing and the circumstance would have made that a very funny moment BUT I COULDN’T EVEN HEAR HER SAY HER LINES PROPERLY. It was just a gurgle of words incorporated in a fake British accent. I only understood her quip after replaying that scene a couple of times on YouTube. And that speech at the end of the movie? I cringed so much that my eye contacts were wrinkled. NO, THIS WASN’T IN THE BOOK, THIS IS NOT WHAT LISSA WOULD DO. It was bad, you guys. The speech was so cheesy, so overly dramatic. And when Rose started crying? *Stabs eyes*

Now, Zoey Deutch as Rose? I kind of actually loved. I really really enjoyed her. She wasn’t perfect or spot on or anything but she was so fun to watch! She delivered snarky lines with pizzaz and I enjoyed her fight scenes. The only sad thing was that I felt no chemistry between her and Dimitri. It was all too quick; their “romance” all telling but no showing. Yeah, you can tell us that they dig each other, but you failed to show us the supposed chemistry. There were some really cringe-worthy scenes between them– actually, you know what? ALL OF THEM. Like in the book, I understood their attraction even though they were not supposed to even consider each other romantically. Richelle Mead wrote their relationship in a way that we can understand why they fell for each other. But in the movie??? Uhm, that chemistry was non-existent.

Honestly, Dimitri could’ve lost the hair. It made him look 40. If he had short, cropped hair, he would’ve looked mid-20s, like the age he was supposed to portray. I know, I know, Dimitri had long hair in the book, but it just looked awkward on the actor, Danila Kozlovsky. I felt weird watching their quick whirlwind romance. Their training sessions were also almost non-existent. In the books they were fun and interesting, the time they spent with each other that led to their bond, but in the movie it seemed so rigid and weird and short. I was so iffed at that point, thinking that I couldn’t cringe any harder…until he called her “Roza”. My best friend and I hid our faces and stuffed our fists in our mouths to suppress our vomit. It was waaaaaaay too early in their relationship to be calling each other cute pet names, AND ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU LOOK LIKE A FORTY YEAR OLD. It was just weird, weird, weird. Couldn’t they have waited till waaaay later or something? When we could actually believe they were in love or at least when they’ve started to show some sign of emotional affection? I only saw school-girl crush and creepy Lolita googly eyes at that point. It was way too instalove for me.

Sarah Hyland and Dominic Sherwood played Natalie Dashkov and Christian Ozera respectively and I honestly loved them. The character, Natalie, was a slightly altered version of the Natalie we know in the book. She was nerdy and goofy in addition to the bubbly, talkative book Natalie. She delivered some great awkward lines like, “Nobody has ever seen me, like, naked before?”. But the end. Oh, the end. When she turned Strigoi, I was in hysterics. “Maybe you could join me [in the afterlife as a Strigoi] so we can be BFF’S. BEST FRIENDS FOREVER.” It was over the top, sure, but I felt like the film was so off the “acceptable” charts that I just lost myself and started laughing anyway.

Dominic Sherwood was divine, as he was good looking. He is easy on the eyes, I tell ya. And shamefully, that was the first thing I noticed. He played the dark, twisted Christian well, and I enjoyed watching Christian come to life on screen. The weird thing was I didn’t feel that much chemistry between him and Lissa, as when he was with Rose. I really enjoyed the banter between Christian and Rose and every scene he had with Lissa seemed all too instalove and rigid too watch. But you guys. Dominic Sherwood. Swoon.

The notorious Mia Rinaldi, played by Sami Gayle, impressed me less than almost all the other characters, save for Dimitri. She was half the Mia I wanted her to be, half the Mia we all know and hate in the books. She was a watered down, diluted, petty version of the real b*tch we’ve all come to despise. High school has its mean girls, I get it. But the Mean Girl in the movie we were all expecting? Pathetic. I remember meeting her in the first book and was so disgusted with her character. That was a mean girl. Movie Mia? Petty. She didn’t deliver with the gusto required, and therefore the movie had missed another mark. I actually find it kind of unacceptable. You are telling me that the director of Mean Girls couldn’t even pull off a proper mean girl in this movie? Are you joking? Wasted opportunity.

Mason was so-so. He seemed way too pale for a dhampir however, and I was shocked they didn’t cast him as a Moroi or something. He portrayed Playful Mason okay, until that scene where Rose tells him to stop bothering her about Jesse because of his crush on her and he simply said, “OK” and walked away. It just seemed so weird and unnatural. Did anyone else notice this weird cut?! Sloppy, sloppy.

Now, the most anticipated scene: the lust scene. It was…not as bad as I’d imagined, actually. This scene, among a few others, was directed differently than in the book. It was actually kind of…funny, whereas in the book, it was intoxicating and sensual, and oh so very serious; the movie played the scene as a caricature of what it was supposed to be. Every move was exaggerated and it was really weird but sort of funny at the same time. I get that they were trying to make it comical though, so I guess they succeeded in that. It just simply was not the lust scene I was expecting at all.

Another underwhelming scene was the make out session with Jesse. Boy, wasn’t that a letdown? I almost screamed, “That’s it?!” at the screen, with a fist full of popcorn waving in the air. That scene in the book was like the start of Rose’s character development. This was where Dimitri told her she was more than what she thought of herself. The making out was so underwhelming (I sound like a pervert, but c’mon, you thought it too!) and Dimitri’s bust in was even less so. Where’s the dramatic entrance? The deep, concerned talk that eventually evokes Rose’s senses into becoming a better version of herself? I’m sad to say but it seemed almost unnecessary in the movie, as the scene was shamefully unexplored. It was just downright embarrassing on Rose’s part.

Altogether, this movie could have been infinitely better. One of the greatest problems it had was the editing. It was choppy and sloppy and made the entire movie look cheap. Another was the overuse of humour. One of the greatest things about the books is the humour, but the movie overplayed it to the extreme, hoping to distinguish itself from all the other vampire movies out there, but all it did was make the movie seem silly almost to the point where the true nature of the story was lost. It had too much of the faux Mean Girls essence going on (which they also failed at), when really, they could have focussed more on the plot and the character development. I’m not sure if I should hope for a Frostbite movie, as I don’t want the world to sit through another not-so-good adaptation, but I really want to see Adrian Ivashkov come to life. But who knows? Maybe if Vampire Academy pulls through in the box office internationally, they’ll learn from their mistakes and make Frostbite, the sequel, a movie that us book lovers and new audience alike, will love. (Doubt it. Just trying to end on a positive note.)