Review: Divergent, by Veronica Roth

The writing was tight and I enjoyed how it showed what Tris thought and felt, rather than told. Every sentence, every paragraph, every scene had a purpose. There were only a few paragraphs where I noted repetition.

PLOT: 3.5
Tris was born in Abnegation, the faction of the selfless. When she becomes of age, she must choose what faction she’d like to devote her life to the Abnegation, the Dauntless (the brave), the Erudite (the intelligent), the Candor (the truth-seekers) or the Amity (happiness friendship). And it’s faction before blood having a relationship with your family if they are in a different faction is frowned upon. Which I didn’t like.

The problem with extremes is that they are often unbelievable. How did the world end up like this? Is the whole world like this, or only future Chicago? The idea that peace could only be kept by creating factions based around a particular way of thinking a very restricted way of thinking isn’t believable. And while maybe as an exercise that’s fine, but it makes it difficult to enjoy the story of these nagging questions keep popping up. I did like the way the characters explored these factions and attempted to break with their way-of-thinking barriers.

However, the idea of factions is nice to entertain, and it makes you think what faction you would choose if you had to. It’s nice to think that I’d choose Dauntless, but I’d probably die during the intense daredevil training. I hate lying, so I’d probably end up in Candor but I don’t like the idea of sharing everything with everyone. The Erudite would be another good fit, but the way some of them are portrayed in the story well, you’ll have to read it to find out. We don’t see much of Amity in this book but it seems like they’re a bigger part of the story in the sequel. They seem to be artsy and agricultural, so I might be the happiest there.

There’s a lot of story packed in these pages, and I felt I enjoyed it more once I got acquainted with the world. Despite its flaws, once you get reading, you get caught up in the world and you can’t stop.

My favourite character became Four in about the middle of the book. At first, he seemed a little unkind and standoffish, but as his character is revealed, we start to see why and sympathize with him. The relationship between Four and Tris starts subtly and builds over the course of Tris’ initiation training.
Obviously Tris’ character arch is the biggest of all (with Four’s coming in second). It was fun watching her grow through her training. I felt like I grew along with her.

The relationship with Tris’ mother was another pleasant surprise. Tris struggles with her feelings about her family throughout the story and this struggle comes to a climax near the end of the book, where I got unexpectedly emotional about it. It’s weird how subtle hints can creep up on you in a burst of emotion. You realize that you care when you didn’t even know it.

Despite some of its flaws, I enjoyed this book. It was a read that kept me up past my bedtime. I’m pretty excited to see where the story is going to go in the next book, and I can’t wait to read it!

Eagle Eye Review

Creative elements:

Eagle Eye, the high-tension, high-budget, high-powered actioner starring Shia Labeouf and Michelle Monaghan lights up the drab September skies with an exhilarating thriller that constantly climaxes, even though the payoffs are too little in comparison to the hype that went into promoting the film.  It featured some of the best actings I have seen for a straight action film, even if it is a bit over-the-top.

Jerry Shaw and Rachel Holloman both get a mysterious phone call from an unknown woman who demands they follow her instructions or else they will face the murder of their loved ones and themselves. On top of that, an FBI Agent, Thomas Morgan (Billy Bob Thornton), joined by Air Force investigator Zoe Perez (Rosario Dawson), tries to track down Jerry and Rachel, as they become the United States’ most wanted terrorists.

One professional critic used a phrase in a review of The Dark Knight that really stuck with me.  It was the phrase, “constant climax”, and it was used as a negative. Well, if there ever was a movie that had a negative constant climax, it was this one. Not because the scenes weren’t executed beautifully or the action wasn’t choreographed with precision. No, it was because after all the sweating and grabbing the seats and the emotion, all the observers get in return is nuts and butter, and it drags the movie down a bit.  It was very entertaining, but it lost the sticking power that separates good fluff films from great Oscar worthy films.

To expand on that thought, remember in The Dark Knight how we waited with so much anticipation to see Harvey become Two-Face?  If, in the end, he had ended up looking like Krusty the Klown, well, that film wouldn’t have grossed over $520 million, would it?  The point is, there were no jokes at the end of the punchline D.J. Caruso was writing. That was my major gripe with the movie.

On the positive side, as I said before, the acting was some of the best I’ve seen in an action film, which was a pleasant surprise.  This was not the screaming, insecure Shia  from Disturbia. This Shia is giving Pacino-like monologues and crying like Tobey Maguire. I applaud him and give him a lot of credit for displaying so much growth in so little time.  Michelle Monaghan brings in her usual grace and wisdom to an otherwise by-the-books role.  There is an actual life for Rachel that she brings to the table and it makes the constant climaxes all the more exciting.

In conclusion, Eagle Eye is a great popcorn flick that will probably fill up the seats in its opening weekend.  However, the reward for its expansive and expensive climax does not match its admission price, and that’s a downright shame, since it could have been a contender.

2 ½ / 5 stars