BY ANGELA WATERCUTTER
11.13.13 | 2:12 PM
Over the last year, movies based on “young adult” novels has gotten heavy. Where once we had wizarding worlds (Harry Potter) and teen romance (Twilight) now we see kids fighting life-or-death battles against the system and subverting norms left and right.
To wit: Divergent. Based on the young adult novel of same name by Veronica Roth, it centers on a young woman named Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley) who does not fit into one of the five virtue-based factions: The Selfless, The Intelligent, The Brave, The Peaceful and The Honest.
Prior is a “divergent,” someone who doesn’t neatly fit into one category, the way people in her society are are supposed to. Confronted by a cold-as-ice Jeanine Matthews (Kate Winslet) with the idea that divergents “threaten the system,” Tris opts to join the Dauntless faction even though the test to find her virtue proved inconclusive. It’s the story of every person who couldn’t find a career path so they created their own – it just happens to be with done with kids.
When WIRED spoke to Roth this past summer at San Diego Comic-Con she commended the adaptation of her book for not feeling “teenager-y at all.” This seems to be the new paradigm for young adult films – take the term very literally and put a young person in a situation where they have to deal with adult decisions like leading a war against an alien race (Ender’s Game) or starting a rebellion (Hunger Games).
It’s likely no coincidence that the trailer for Divergent, out March 2014, is coming less than two weeks before the U.S. premiere of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Both films are, yes, being released by Lionsgate – which owns Divergent‘s studio Summit Entertainment – but also it’s probably smart to associate Tris with Katniss Everdeen. They already have fairly similar, if not overlapping, fanbases and there is no one burning brighter right now than the Girl on Fire, who is currently at the vanguard of the gritty teen revolution. They’re young, but they appeal to adults too.
“I think it’s very natural in a way because teenagers are searching for a sense of agency in a situation where they feel very powerless,” Roth noted. “When you put a character in a situation where you show that they can work within their limitations to do something really amazing that’s going to be a story that appeals.”