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Movie Review: Divergent

One of the book-based movies that I’ve been looking forward to this year, That Guy and I met up with some of my former workers and a bunch of my teen volunteers to see Divergent opening weekend. Our group was a very mixed bunch- some of us (myself included) had read the entire trilogy, while others had read only one, and still others hadn’t read any of them at all but still were anxious to see the movie. 


After letting go of all my expectations of the movie matching the book (something that I have learned for all book based movies), I was entranced with it. To me, the movie is Tris’ transformation from who her parents want her to be to who she is actually is inside.

There are a ton of reviews of the movie already, but I think that these three really say things extremely well:


1. I adore Shailene.

I’m sorry, all the press that is comparing her to Jennifer Lawrence can suck eggs, because they are both awesome. In fact, there’s this:

 She’s perfect as the searching Tris, and grows into the character well. I can’t wait to see where she goes from here.

2. “Supporting” Casting

The supporting cast rocked, and I really wish they had more of a role. I can’t believe that with Maggie Q and the rest of the cast they only had small bits and pieces.

3. Fearscapes

I really got what they did with the fearscapes and the testings, and was worried how that was going to play out. I could completely see it going weird, hokey, and all bad CGI and everything, and it didn’t- the scenes were real and drew you in, and played on the emotions (in good and bad ways) so that the audience felt what the characters were feeling as well.

4. Costuming

I loved the costumes and the attention to detail- that the Erudite were meticulous and sharp edges while Abnegtion was greys and homespun. Dauntless was black and hard materials, while Candor was white and black and crisp and sparse. I wanted clothes from the various factions, which is saying something because if you know anything about me, I am NOT a clothes person. My fashion choices run to sarcastic t-shirts.

5. Fighting

The attention to the fight scenes were extremely choreographed and thought out, and were well-played, especially making you believe in the real fights. You could tell (as did some of my teens who are actually taking martial arts) what type of fighting styles the training came from, what type of moves they were going to make, and the fights actually MADE SENSE most of the time. Note- if you were in my theater, I do apologize, because we were the group yelling about how you should always pull up your hair in a fight.


1. The lack of diversity among the factions

I noticed it, That Guy noticed it, and my teens definitely noticed it when we talked about it afterwards- they were joking around that they had to be Dauntless because no other faction would take them based on their skin tone. There impression, and mine, and That Guy’s, is that all the other factions were white- everyone who was a POC was Dauntless- including the final scenes in the simulation room, the bodyguards I peg as Dauntless, not Erudite.

I’d have to go back and watch the movie for sure, but it made a huge impression that the only faction that even remotely had POC was Dauntless. It was huge for my teens, and if they picked up on it and joked on it, how does it effect others? I know a huge debate has been ongoing about the casting of Theo James, and I still come down against it because this would have been a huge chance to have a main character be a POC and show teens they have a place.

2.  Will/Peter/Al

The casting of Peter and Will were too similar to my whole group. It was hard for the non-readers to tell them apart, and everyone was extremely confused as to why Peter and Al had it in for Tris in the first place. They weren’t sure whether they were Divergent-born or not, and it just confused everything. In the book it’s extremely clear (and completely relates to themes that were dropped from the movie) yet it’s murky enough to confuse non-fan movie goers.

3. Lack of Explanation

The movie fast-forwards up to the Choosing Ceremony and right into the politics of Tris’ choosing without really explaining WHY there’s huge politics behind it. Yes, Abnegtion is under scrutiny, and yes, Marcus has issues, but why is that taking down the whole faction? (Notice you never heard about his wife, who deserted him and Tobias- and she’s huge in the next two books). Why is Erudite trying to take over? Why not Candor? Why now? Why are people looking to Tris and her brother as political fortune tellers? It’s murky, and not well explained.

4. Merging of the Transfers and the Divergent-Born

There’s this gigantic thing about how being Divergent-Born gives the initiates an advantage over the Transfers, and that’s why the Transfers (Tris, Christina, Will, and others) have to trained separately for the first stage of Initiation. It’s mentioned in the movie when the Transfers are handed over to Four. It’s a major plot point in the book, and fuels a number of sub-plots in both the book and movie (including people learning whether or not she’s Divergent, Peter’s jealous, and the attack on Tris). Yet, after that first mention, it’s a non-issue in the rest of the movie. Never mentioned again. Poof.

5.  Mom

Yes, I get that when you get a big name actress they need more screen time, yes, meeting up with her mom clandestinely means more tension, and yes, I get to hammer home the point that it’s Faction before Blood they cut the Family Reunion time after the first stage of Initiation. However, during the Family Visiting Day in the book is when Tris learns that her mom was Dauntless, not when she was shot. And when she was SHOT is when she learns that she was DIVERGENT. IMPORTANT POINTS TO BUILD PEOPLE.

So, did you see it? What did you think? Agree? Disagree? Share in the comments below!

Sunday Reflections: How to Balance the Divergence in Us All

For those who haven’t read it, or don’t care to look it up, here’s the basis for the dypstopia of Divergent in a nutshell.  Divergent is set into the future Chicago, after a war that destroyed nearly everything- across the entire United States, and possibly the world. Tris’ people are divided into Factions- societies where the people fall into based onto the trait they most value: bravery (Dauntless), honestly (Candor), intelligence (Erudite), peace (Amity), and selflessness (Abnegation). You are born into a Faction and strive to uphold their values, and choose during your ceremony to either stay in your Faction or join another, and Serve your Faction to maintain the Harmony of the City. To do less, everyone is told, is to challenge the rule and order of the City that keeps them safe.

And Tris is Divergent- having traits of more than one of the Factions- and that, history tells them, is what lead to the destruction of the world.

Now that you’re caught up, you’re thinking, Christie, what does this have to do with teen services?

Because I think out of all of the different types of libraries, teen service specialists have to be the most Divergent of all, and that takes a huge toll on us, mentally and emotionally.

Take a minute an really think about the different virtues represented in the Factions, and about what you do in teen services.


ABNEGATION: The Selfless

We don’t think of ourselves as Selfless- in today’s world, we think of that more for those who go on Mission Work or Peace Core or Red Cross work. Yet when you take a step back, when we’re advocating for teens, ALL teens, we are helping a hugely undeserved population in the library world- one that’s consistently lost. They need strong adults to listen, to understand, to help them and be a strong force for them, to encourage them, and that’s what we’re doing by being their voice in the public world. we may be the ONLY voice they have in a city- teen services can be few and far between, and unless you have someone yelling for you, you don’t get noticed. WE are that voice. We are the ones helping with homework when they don’t understand, staying late to get papers done, taking notice when things don’t seem right and making the connection to make sure that we’ve done everything we can to make sure they’re as safe as we can make them.

Yet we also tend to run ourselves ragged, never taking breaks or eating at our desks when we should be taking breaks, pouring personal time into work ideas and tracking down resources when it should be spend on family or ourselves. 


A lot of times we don’t see ourselves as Brave either- that goes to police, fire, front line responders, and those constantly putting themselves in harms way. Nonetheless, we’re the ones facing the age group no one else wants to face. How many times have you heard, “Oh, man, I wouldn’t want your job!” “I don’t know how you do it!” We do the crazy programming- the lock-ins, the gaming, the Fear Factor and Silent Library programs. We talk to the awkward and bring them out of their shell, we talk to the ones that don’t look all cute and pretty and fluffy. We sit and chill with the ones who just want to be at the library, and we approach the ones who others deem “scary” and find out what’s going on behind the veneer. We learn their lives, we become their second family, and they tell us about their day. We learn their loves, their heartbreak, and their losses, and that becomes our own. They’re “our” teens.

And that takes a toll, because when they graduate you miss them. When something wonderful happens you celebrate with them. When something bad happens, your soul hurts.


CANDOR: The Honest
Working with teens forces you to be as Honest and as Real as you’ve ever been. While you have that public face that’s always there in front of patrons, they KNOW when you are putting up a front. If you work with smaller kids you can pull off cheery and happy, and with adults you can pull off polite and reserved- with tweens and teens they KNOW in an instant if something’s off.  And tweens and teens will be completely honest reflections with you as well. You know if you’re doing things right because they will either show up to programs or not. They will tell you to your face is something sucks or something seems OK (read, awesome but they’re too cool to say something). 
You can’t make promises you can’t keep because they’ll remember, and pull them out at different times- and once you break a trust, no matter how small, it’s broken for life with tweens and teens.

AMITY: The Peaceful
And while you’re having to be Honest, teens look to you to be the Peace. Not only are you the rule enforcer and the limit setter, they are looking to you to be a constant in their lives. In a world that’s constantly changing, having someone who is always listening and always there for them is huge- especially when they don’t have that at home.  They need you to be the one solid thing, a touchstone that they can come back to time and time again when the world doesn’t make sense. 
Never mind that your world may be falling apart, personal or professional. You could be sick, you could be falling to pieces, but they need you, so for them, you are the Peace.

ERUDITE: Intelligence
Finally, teen services specialists are always the Intelligence. We are the ones that are coming up with programs on the fly, and usually with limited or no budget. We’re keeping up with trends (Rainbow Loom- orthodontic bands and crochet hooks, who knew?), learning school paradigms (STEM, STEAM, STAAR), and balancing it all against the demands of the job and the systems that we work in. We can be youth librarians (balancing out teen services against all the ages), teen specialists (less than a 1/3 in all public libraries), school librarians (growing smaller daily), managers…  doesn’t matter what the title is- we’re all striving to keep teens engaged, our directors and city happy, our funding growing, and keep ahead of the curve on everything new.

All within 40 hours or less a week.
So is it any wonder that we’re Divergent? We are everything- and at times we are just exhausted. We need to remember during our time off that it IS our time off. It is our time to take time for ourselves, whether that’s through dinner dates, lunch dates, a spa day, or just scheduling out time for ourselves. No errands, no doctor appointments, just whatever makes us happy and rejuvenated. If that’s turning off the phone/tablet and having a Netflix marathon, or curling up with a book that is not teen related, fine. GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION.

During the workday, take these tips to heart:

And remember, your Divergence is wonderful.

TPIB: Divergent Truth or Dare

My tweens and teens are completely excited for the Divergent movie. You have NO idea- I have been getting asked for MONTHS when it’s coming out, can we go see it together, when are we going to go see it… and these are GUYS. So those of you with a mix of teens I know are having tons and tons of teens excited- which is completely wonderful because they are excited about something that came from BOOKS. So what better way to celebrate than with a huge themed game of Truth or Dare!

Where did it come from?
First, the wonderful Veronica Roth and the Epic Reads Crew shared how to do a Tea Party:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rB3gzdvSINo?rel=0]
which is awesome, but got me thinking…. how can you do that with teens and no heat source?!?!? Nope, not gonna work. Soooo doesn’t work for me. BUT, I could combine CANDOR and DAUNTLESS into a huge Divergent themed TRUTH or DARE.
Think about it. CANDOR stands for brutal honesty, right? That’s always what is supposed to happen in Truth or Dare. So that would be the Truth part. And DAUNTLESS is fearlessness. So the Dare part. The only thing would be it would need to be controlled….  It would need to be harnessed…  It would need….

Nope, just a little planning.

Before your party, create a list of cards for CANDOR (truth) and DAUNTLESS (dare). You can print them out using publisher or anything else you have, or you can write them out on index cards; if you want to be really fancy, you can even put the faction symbols on the back.
Make sure that they question/challenges are things that the can answer without too much embarrassment or ribbing from friends and the challenges that you can actually do in the space that you have. You don’t want things to come out that are extremely sensitive, and always make sure that people have an out clause if they want one. Teens should always be able to be a part of something without actually participating if they don’t want to- if they want to be part of the game without playing, they could be a timer for a challenge, or a scorekeeper.
CANDOR questions could include:
  • If you could be anything- regardless of talent or restrictions of any kind- what would you want to be when you become an adult?
  • What is your dream school?
  • What is your favorite type of candy?
  • What book that everyone loves about that you hate?
  • If you could live anywhere, where would it be and why?
  • What is one subject in school that you actually like and why?
  • Name a movie that you love that other people don’t like
  • Name an actor that you don’t like
For DAUNTLESS you could use challenges from Minute to Win It or Fear Factor. I’ve done Fear Factor as a program before, and used a lot of edible challenges like lime jello with pimentos and bacon bits made into a brain, Buddy the Elf spaghettios, and mixed up baby food. Other ideas:
Note: for set up of dares, I like to put them together in bags or boxes with labels that I know what they are but others don’t, so I can grab them and go, or have a cart set up but covered so that it’s all a mystery how things get put together. Then again, I am usually the only person running my programs.
 Also keep an eye out for particularly hard questions and challenges that still will work with your teens and space. They could be more intense questions, or more intricate questions, or redoing a challenge that they did but with a faster time. Create those cards, but set them aside in case you need them for the DIVERGENT variant. These will be the Aptitude Test questions.

I plan to subtly dress in Faction colors during the week, although there’s no way I’m doing red pants. Sorry. For the party, however, I think I’m going to have to do Erudite since I’m leading everything- but if you’re looking for ideas, the web is full of them. Definitely encourage your teens to dress in faction colors as well.
To actually play, split up your teens into comfortable sized groups. I tend to use 4-5 per group/team, and depending on the group I’ll either let them split themselves up or split them randomly. With this being a Divergent party, if you can get them split into factions first (or five groups) even better. There are quizzes that you can print out and have them take, you can randomly assign them, you can pinpoint colors that they’re wearing- all sorts of options.
Have them sit in separate spaces, similar to the Factions set up during the Ceremony. Then get it started. The person with the first letter in the alphabet walks up and chooses CANDOR or DAUNTLESS. Then they will have to perform the task- question or challenge. 

And here is where it can get interesting- you can play AMITY (and let everyone keep going even if they don’t complete the challenge or someone decides and proves they’re lying) or you can play for DIVERGENT (and make someone sit out if they fail). If you play AMITY, play nice until all the questions are complete, or people are tired of the game and want to switch to something else. If you play DIVERGENT, then the winners are the members still standing in the last Faction. However, you now take on the role of hunting out the DIVERGENT among the City, and those that are suspiciously able to go through the CANDOR and DAUNTLESS questions and challenges must face the APTITUDE tests.

And have fun!

Previously, Cindy Shutts talked about her awesome party plans earlier and I am completely jealous that she’s going to be able to get her teens to eat quietly.

Karen gave us wonderful instructions on how to make really cool rainbow loom Divergent bracelets with and without faction bottle caps. Note: I have found that using the actual Rainbow Loom products from Choon’s Design are far superior to the knock-offs. I’ve had tweens come in with their own bands and we’ve finger-weaved together (me using my stash as I haven’t had a loom makerspace yet, and they with their knock-off bands), and theirs will snap/break. So if you can, buy the original.

And we are still pinning to our Divergent pinterest board– and will be adding to it as I bet the movie will take off similar to The Hunger Games.
What wonderful things are you doing? Share in the comments!

TPIB: Divergent Faction Themed Rainbow Loom & Bottle Cap Charm Bracelets and Necklaces

I spent the weekend learning to make fishtail Rainbow Loom bracelets with my tween, in part because we are making Divergent faction bracelets at my upcoming program for the movie release party. Also, because I am a mom that rocks.  I decided to add bottle cap charms to give it that extra touch.  Here’s what I learned . . .

All you need to make a Fishtail Bracelet is these, not the whole loom.  The little blue part removes to be your “mini loom” and the hook is, well, a hook. You can get 15 at $3.65 a piece for $54.75. 
For the bands for Divergent factions, you need the following color bands

Black (for both Dauntless and Candor)
White (for Candor)
Blue (for Erudite)
Grey (for Abnegation)
Red and Yellow (for Amity)
The faction colors are (based on the clothing described in the books):
Abnegation (The Selfless) – solid grey
Erudite (The Intelligent) – 1 blue article, the other colors don’t matter
Dauntless (The Brave) – all black
Amity (The Peaceful) – red and yellow
Candor (The Honest) – black and white

The fishtail is actually pretty easy to make. You can find a tutorial here.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ukv83Cvq3jk]

Once we figured it out we made a ton.  They are very easy to do so you can socialize while looming. 

Faction Symbol Bottle Cap Charms

Teen participants can find out what faction they are by taking a faction quiz at Divergent Fans.
You can also make faction symbol bottle cap charms and add them to necklaces using an O ring. Simply print out 1 inch faction symbols.  You can make these in Microsoft Publisher by using the “Insert Shape” function.  Size your circles to 1 inch and use the picture fill function (tutorial here).
You can make bottle cap crafts easily using this tutorial.  Bottle caps are available at a very reasonable prize from Oriental Trading, I recommend using the flattened bottle caps for this project because you need a surface to punch a hole for the O ring.  I bought the 1 inch epoxy dots off of Amazon because it is so much easier than trying to use real epoxy glue, less messy and no drying time. 
Before you assemble your bottle cap, you need to use a jewelry punch to put a whole in your bottle cap so that you can add the O ring to attach your battle cap to your bracelet. 

An extra note: We made some bracelets but found that we liked making our fishtail creation longer and using it as a necklace actually.  The charms worked on the bracelet, but they could get in the way.

Also, you can use this tutorial to make any type of Rainbow Loom/Bottle Cap Charm crafts.  Duct Tape works really well if you don’t want to make your own circle inserts for the bottle cap charms.  On the left we used Duct Tape and on the right we made Sherlock themed bottle cap charms as well.

TPiB: Divergent Programming, a guest post by Cindy

Divergent Program Outline
Faction Quiz. J-14 style
Amity Art Contest design a new cover for  Divergen
Erudite Quiz on Divergent and Chicago history
Dauntless (Truth or Dare) Divergent edition
Abnegation  Divergent Snacks
Candor (Who are you challenge)

Divergent is very popular right now and the movie is coming out soon, so we know it will only grow in popularity. Living in a suburb near Chicago, the buzz around the books is great because teens love talking about landmarks they recognize. We have included Divergentin our previous programs doing shrinky-dinks with faction symbols, and for our summer reading program our theme was Have Book Will Travel, so we created literary passports in which many of our teens used Divergent as one of their destinations. We have regular Teen Advisory Group meetings and the teens mentioned wanting to have a Divergent event so I know I had to do it. 
Take the Faction Quiz at Divergent Fans
We are not having our Divergent Program until after the movie comes out. I have learned to do related programs a week after the movie releases. We plan for our program to be held on March 25. Before the program, I plan to ask each of the teens a secret question and pretend it is related to a future program. This will actually be the abnegation portion. But they will not know that until later. 
The next part of the program will be the choosing of the faction ceremony. The teens will pick one of the five factions –Amity, Erudite, Dauntless, Abnegation and Candor.  I am going to make buttons for all of the factions so that they can wear the buttons during the program. The faction ceremony will divide the teens into teams making awarding of the prizes during the program easier. We will then have contest based on each of the factions.  The first contest will be the Amity art contest where each team will create a new symbol for their factions. Points will be awarded for creativity.
Erudite quiz will test their knowledge of the series, but most questions will come from the first book so that teens who have only read it will be able to do all right. We will also include Chicago trivia because the books take place in Chicago. Points will be award on correct answers.
The dauntless challenge will force teens to face their fears in the ultimate game of truth and dare. There will be physical challenges to complete during this section so that the teens can get up and move around.
The fake abnegation challenges will be to eat in the abnegation manner where the food is passed to the right and the teens will have to wait until everyone is served to eat. They will also have to eat plain food and eat quietly. They will be asked not to talk while eating. This is will be fun to see if the teens can succeed at this challenge. After the portion is over we will announce that this was a fake challenge and the real challenge was when they came in and the points will be updated accordingly as long as the teens do not kill us for messing with their minds. 
Candor is a harder challenge so I am going to have them draw a picture of a window and in the window they will have to draw who they are. An example of this kind of drawing for myself would be a window with a dog and a heart, A heart that has a lock on it to show I have a hard time letting people into my heart by when I do they stay there forever. Anyone who puts effort in this will get all the points.
We will then total the points and the find the winner who is a real life Divergent. I am hoping to have Divergent swag to give to the winners. I was able to pick up signed copies of the paperback edition of Divergent for this event. 
Cindy Shutts is the Teen Services Librarian at the White Oak Library District in IL. You can follow her on Twitter at .

Random Dystopia Generator; a journey through genre fatigue and what happens when the market becomes oversaturated (a not a book review)

Without a doubt, Dystopian is a hot genre right now.  I have read a ton – I have bought a ton – and my teens are definitely asking for them.  But after a while, they are all starting to blend together.  Recently I began reading The Forsaken by Lisa M. Stasse (awesome cover), and I began to realize what my problem as a reader has become.  Let me take you on a trendy reading journey. (Please note, this is not a review.)

In the beginning of our book, Alenna sits at home with her family when the government comes to arrest her parents for being rebels.  As I read this opening sequence, it immediately brought the beginning of Crewel by Gennifer Albin to mind.  Crewel came out earlier, but I had already read it.

Then Alenna is taken to a facility to watch a live feed of lost souls that are sent to a place called The Wheel.  The purpose of this feed is to demonstrate how you don’t want to be a lost soul; it’s all about reinforcing government control.  This brings about almost every dystopian to mind, but particularly ones like Delirium by Lauren Oliver and Matched by Allie Conde.

Then Alenna is taken to a place where she has some testing done to determine whether or not she will stay in her community or be sent to The Wheel; to determine whether or not she is a Lost Soul.  Again, it has the familiar ring to it.  Whether they are testing you to see what your skill is or whether or not you are “Divergent“, it seems the government is very much in to testing.  Beware government testing.

Then we get to The Wheel.  Think Katniss being placed in The Arena or kids coming up the elevator in The Maze Runner by James Dashner, or even the outer areas in Unwind by Neal Shusterman.  The Wheel has a Lord of the Flies survival feel to it.  If you learn one thing from reading dystopian fiction, learn this: the end of the world brings out the basest, most survivalist tendencies of mankind.  It ain’t pretty.

Of course, when the teens arrive at The Wheel they divide up into factions who compete for power.  Think Variant by Robison Wells or Quarantine by Lex Thomas.  Although some of the groups are truly bad guys, even the good guys have to resort to questionable tactics to survive – see my point above.

Don’t get me wrong, this post is not meant to dismiss The Forsaken, which may or may not be a good book (I’m still in the process of reading it).  What it is is a statement about the flooding of a genre market and how all the pieces start to bleed over into one another.  As a reader, you begin to compare each element to all the others that have come before.  Every dystopian hero gets compared in your mind’s eye to Katniss.  Every renegade society on the outskirts of civilization gets compared to the districts, or the maze, or the area outside the fence in Delirium.  At times, it almost seems like there is a formula and a writer steps up to a row of jars and pulls an element out of them:

Jar 1 – plucky heroine (sometimes hero)
Jar 2 – intrusive government agency
Jar 3 – test for social acceptedness
Jar 4 – unique location to be banished
Jar 5 – quirky gangs fighting for power, etc. 

Viola’! There’s your random dystopian generator.

Thankfully, there are always those twisty element that separates it from all the other dystopian novels and  keeps us coming back for more.

Don’t get me wrong, many of the dystopians that I have read have truly been great.  I am a huge fan of The Hunger Games, Delirium, and Crewel, to name just a few.  I loved Unwind and the sequel Unwholly.  And I freely admit that The Forsaken may be a good book (I am not in a position to write a review as I have not finished reading it).  I understand the value of reading in our comfort zone: I went through a phase where I was reading every single Star Trek the Next Generation book because they were exactly what I needed at that time in my life and they made me happy.  But there is also value in revelation, in being challenged, being stretched, and thinking.  To be fair, The Forsaken may end up being that revelation for some readers, it may even end up being that for me after I finish it. But I am setting it aside for the moment to read some fantasy and science fiction that are not dystopians.  In the immortal words of Ross Gellar, dystopian and I are “on a break.”

I will say this about The Forsaken, the back cover has this as its blurb: “What if you were imprisoned for a crime that hasn’t even happened yet?”  Although this is certainly not a new concept, see Minority Report, it certainly is turning out to be a timely one in light of the Aurora, Colorado shootings.  If you read any of the news on the topic, there has been a lot of discussion around the concept of trying to keep guns out of individuals who have mental illness and may be likely to snap, which definitely fits into the concept of pre-crime.  That will make The Forsaken an interesting discussion.  And, of course, like all dystopian novels, there is good discussion to be had around the concepts of government control and what role every day citizens play in trying to curb excessive government regimes.

So there you have it, our journey through the random dystopian generator.  What are your favorite dystopian conventions (and favorite dystopian titles)? And what dystopian conventions are you ready to retire?  Do you think Dystopians are finally reaching their saturation point?  What do you think will be the big trends in 2013?

Random note: The word dystopian was used 12 times in this post.