Is Tris a brave, compassionate, sharp but self-doubting heroine who is worth rooting for, or is she an angsty, self-absorbed person with little human decency despite her upbringing, and some sort of constant mild concussion that blinds her to the bleedin' obvious?
Was Eric's eulogy to Albert a sincere Pet the Dog moment, or was it a lie simply to make himself look good? While Tris thinks it's the latter, Living Lie Detector Christina didn't point it out.
Ass Pull: Every single use of a magical serum to fix something in the plot. Need to mind control someone? There's a serum for that. Need someone to tell the truth? There's a serum for that, too! Need to erase someone's memories? Once more, there's a serum for that! There's even a death serum, if you need it. It might be written into the plot, but it seems suspicious that every time the characters need a quick fix to their problems someone created a serum to do it.
Base-Breaking Character: Al. Some fans were really sad that he died and felt his death was a tragic cautionary tale against withholding forgiveness. Other fans felt that he deserved to die and that Tris was right to not forgive him.
Broken Base: The ending of Allegiant. Specifically, the death of Tris, the main heroine, which has gone on to become a major point of contention among the fandom. Many readers felt this was an unnecessary stain on what would have otherwise been a satisfying ending, and that Tris breaking into the Weapons Lab in Caleb's stead robbed the latter of a chance to finally redeem himself for his betrayal in Insurgent. However, another camp argues that her death is a fitting resolution to her character arc, which was all about self-discovery and understanding the true meaning of sacrifice. Some also believe that killing off the hero helped to set the books apart from other dystopian YA stories such as The Hunger Games, which Divergent is frequently compared to. Reviews on Amazon averaged 2.5 stars when the book first came out, and there has even been clamoring for the film series to leave Tris alive (which has more or less been granted with the cancellation of Ascendant). At least a few Fix Fics have also followed suit.
To make matters worse, the epilogue released in 2017, We Can Be Mended, has Tobias and Christina hook up, five years after the events of Allegiant, which has attracted some ire. Detractors feel as though the pairing came out of left field, as the two were never shown to have much chemistry throughout the series, that it's a slap in the face to the dead Tris for her best friend to start dating her boyfriend, and that the two work much better as close friends than lovers. Those who don't mind the pairing point out that the two deserve to be happy after everything they've been through, and that Beatriceprobably wouldn't wantTobiasto be miserable forever.
Cliché Storm: A big part of the reason for the backlash the series has gotten is that, to many readers, it doesn't seem to do much more than re-use the tropes that The Hunger Games used to much greater effect. Even the cover art looks similar.
Condemned by History: Many people who originally liked the series when it first came out in the early 2010s are nowadays much more likely to criticize it for being a blatant Cliché Storm of post-apocalyptic teen drama tropes that were extremely popular at the time thanks to the release of The Hunger Games, a series that used the tropes in a much more efficient way. The lackluster reception of the film adaptations, up to the point where the finale was Quietly Cancelled, didn't exactly help the book series' reputation.
Fanon Discontinuity: Some fans prefer to turn a blind eye to the epilogue short story We Can Be Mended, mostly due to Four getting together with Christina, five years after Tris's death, which has generally not been well-received. See Broken Base above.
First Installment Wins: The first book seems to be the most remembered (although it's the second that's the most critically acclaimed), and the first film likewise seems to be the most preferred. It helps that it's the most faithful adaptation.
Ho Yay: In the prequel novel, there's rather a lot of it between Four and his mentor Amar. Amar takes him under his wing as soon as he transfers to Dauntless and becomes his first friend. As Four isn't used to the Dauntless way of being so affectionate with each other, some of it does come across as a romantic subtext. What's more is that the portions of the novel where he helps Tris (because he's fallen in love with her) parallels how Amar helped him. When Amar shows up in Allegiant, he indeed confirms that he was interested in Four in a romantic way, but noticed that he didn't reciprocate his feelings.
It's Popular, Now It Sucks!: Even more so than The Hunger Games, as The Hunger Games is still typically considered to be great dystopian literature, whereas it's harder nowadays to find people who will openly admit to liking Divergent despite it being a major critical and commercial success initially.
Misaimed Fandom: All of the "which faction are you" quizzes and people proudly discussing which faction they are, considering a major part of the novel is that the faction system is oppressive and wrong towards Divergents and Factionless, and that it ultimately turns out all five factions are failed genetic experiments whose various flaws caused the apocalypse.
Numerous candidates for when Peter crossed this. Shining examples are how he stabbed Edward in the eye while he was sleeping. Then there was the time he hung Tris over the chasm (claimed it was just to scare her) and groped her chest, while mocking her for "feeling twelve".
For Caleb, betraying his family to the Erudite. The full information about the outside world and what Jeanine told him has yet to be disclosed. But regardless, it doesn't change the fact that he sided with the faction that killed his parents and helped with the capture and attempted execution of his own sister.
Narm: The reveal that the factions are people who are genetically damaged and unable to feel or express more than their dominant trait means our heroine's super-special unique ability is being completely normal. It would almost be an incredibly clever twist except the book still presents Tris as being special for it.
Rescued from the Scrappy Heap: In Divergent, Peter was an seemingly irredeemable bastard. However, Insurgent showed his moreadmirabletraits. First, he helped Tris escape execution. Sure, it was out of obligation, but it's still something. Near the end, he took the time to comfort his grieving mother after finding out his father died in the invasion. More so in Allegiant when he reveals that he knows he's a horrible person and disgusts himself but can't help it and decides to wipe his own memory in hopes of becoming better. Makes him almost cross into Jerkass Woobie territory.
Rewatch Bonus: If one reads the prequel from Four's perspective, him shooting Eric in Insurgent now carries a lot more weight. It's revealed that Four's mentor Amar was also a Divergent. Eric, who was a spy for Erudite, told Jeanine this and Amar was found dead. Four knew this all along but was powerless to bust Eric.
Spoiled by the Format: Allegiant alternating between Tris and Four's POV, unusually for the series, might tip the reader off that Tris is going to die.
If Peter, Molly, and Drew do something to irritate you, just breathe a sigh of relief that they'll be humiliated for it later by Tris' hands.
Marcus gets one in Insurgent when Tobias gets laughed at for fearing him. So, to prove that he's no coward, he gives Marcus a well-deserved beat-down.
They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: How some people feel about Tori Wu in Allegiant. She is among those who get to the wall, but is killed before she can escape with everyone else. And this is the start of the book, meaning she gets to have no impact on the plot at all — other than setting up an Anyone Can Die situation. She becomes a Forgotten Fallen Friend quite quickly too.
Wangst: Depending on the reader, Tris' endless agonization over everything might be off-putting. Insurgent suffers the most from this trope, with Roth admitting that she was inexperienced with writing grief at the time and had to conduct research in order to portray Tris' mourning and guilt on the heels of the previous book as realistically as she could.
Four. He's actually an Abnegation transfer named Tobias who left because his father, Marcus, constantly abused him.
Al didn't belong in Dauntless from the get-go and only joined to make his family proud, when he clearly belonged in somewhere like Amity. His entire initiation experience is agonizing and terrifying to him, and he grows more and more distant until eventually, when it's clear that his only choices are factionlessness and death, he joins with Peter and Drew in their attempt to murder Tris, regretting it immediately afterwards. It gets worse when Tris coldly rejects his pleas for redemption, despite being fully aware of his mental state and the intentions behind his actions, which leads to his suicide. A major What the Hell, Hero? moment for many readers.
Tris, by the end of the first book. During initiation, she is bullied, verbally harassed, and sexually assaulted for being a "Stiff", becomes a victim of attempted murder, feels guilty when an ex-friend dies from suicide, watches her entire world and society crumble around her, is forced to shoot one of her best friends (who was mind-controlled), loses both of her parents, and is nearly shot and killed by the boy she loves (who was also mind-controlled). Her mental state continues to spiral downwards in Insurgent, to the point where she is nearly Driven to Suicide in the Candor Headquarters, and only holds back because she thought it would be ungrateful towards her parents, who sacrificed their lives for her. She also turns herself in to Jeanine without any escape plan, and the text makes it abundantly clear that she actively wants to die at this point.
The announcement that Uriah will be cut from Divergent and saved for the sequel, The Divergent Series: Insurgent. Some believe that Uriah's purpose in the first book wasn't that important, while others that love the character still call heresy on it.
Shailene Woodley as Tris. A lot of book fans felt she was all wrong for the role, and many reviewers described her performance as "disaffected" - plenty comparing her unfavourably to Kristen Stewart in the Twilight films. Others however, particularly around the time The Divergent Series: Insurgent was released, praised her as one of the best parts of the franchise - and she enjoyed the same level of hype that Jennifer Lawrence got from The Hunger Games.
In Divergent, there's Tris getting the flag instead of Christina like in the books. Those who argue against the change say that Christina needed her Moment of Awesome after being abused by Eric. Others say that it has much more meaning if Tris is the one who gets it, visually showing that she has finally earned her spot (as Christina had never been in danger of being cut).
Jeanine Matthews is the cold, egotistical leader of Erudite who hides her hunger for power behind a veneer of good intentions. Striking a deal with the leadership of Dauntless, Jeanine has most of the faction brainwashed and has them attack Abnegation, intending to wipe out the entire Faction. When confronted by Beatrice "Tris" Prior and Tobias "Four" Eaton, Jeanine has Four brainwashed and orders Tris executed, and later shows sadistic relish when she tries to force Four to murder Tris. Jeanine intends to open the mysterious box left behind by Chicago's Founders, believing it contains a message validating her persecution of Divergents. To this end, Jeanine has Divergents captured and put through the box's tests, uncaring when this results in their painful deaths. Upon discovering that Tris is the most likely to open the box, Jeanine threatens to force several innocents to commit suicide unless she turns herself in. When the box's message reveals that Divergents are the solution and not the problem, Jeanine tries to get rid of it, revealing that she is more interested in maintaining her power than doing the right thing.
Eric Coulter is one of the leaders of Dauntless who takes joy in hurting others. During Dauntless Initiation, Eric has the initiates brutalize one another in sparring matches, forcing Christina to hang over a chasm for surrendering in her match. Eric later tries to force Al to step in front of the initiates while they are throwing knives, and then has Four throw knives at Tris for standing up for Al. Revealing himself to be an ally of Jeanine, Eric oversees the attack on Abnegation, murdering a Divergent and trying to kill a seemingly brainwashed Four out of spite. Eric later helps round up Divergents for Jeanine's deadly test, executing one for not being a strong enough Divergent before attempting to do the same to a child.
Peter Hayes lacks the redeeming traits he has in the books and commits even more crimes while maintaining his sadism and ambition. Initially a Dauntless Initiate who took joy in beating Tris unconscious during their sparring match, Peter revealed his true colors when he tried to murder Tris for doing better than him in initiation. When Jeanine attacks Abnegation, Peter willingly aids her, guarding the control room for the brainwashed Dauntless. Peter would later betray Tris and helps Jeanine come up with her plan to force people to commit suicide to capture Tris. Upset that Jeanine was willing to let him die, Peter betrays her and releases Tris. Peter later forces Tris to take him beyond the wall to meet the Bureau of Genetic Welfare. When Tris rebels against the Bureau, Peter agrees to help its Director, David, in his plan to wipe the memories of everyone in Chicago. Manipulating Evelyn Prior into releasing the memory serum, Peter nearly kills Evelyn when she tries to back out, only to then let Tris sabotage David's plans when he realizes he's not safe from the serum.
The Divergent Series: Insurgent — for those who liked the first film, is it a step backwards (especially for lots of changes from the book)? For some who disliked the first one, they felt it was an improvement (with more material for Shailene Woodley to work with, increased screen time for Kate Winslet, better pacing). And some felt it was on par with the first one, being as good or bad as they felt it to be.
The Divergent Series: Allegiant was panned by most critics, but some felt it was an improvement over the first two films. It doesn't help that the book it's adapting is the most divisive of the three, and some of the many changes made are still up in the air as to whether or not they are improvements.
Critical Dissonance: The film received mixed reviews from critics, but was generally well-received by audiences and fans of the book, and had a massive $55 million opening.
Ensemble Dark Horse: Octavia Spencer's portrayal of Johanna was quite well-received. Viewers who loved her work in The Help and felt she's been criminally misused since her Oscar win (due to Hollywood not having many roles for black actresses outside of movies about race) are glad that she's at least getting to showcase her talents in a big budget franchise.
A large amount of the first film's press came from the fact that Kate Winslet of all people was the villain. Half the interviews asked her about it.
A significant number tune in just for Shailene Woodley as Tris. Although there was some Broken Base (see above), a large amount of people felt she was perfectly cast, some even feeling she improved the character from the book. Chris Stuckmann called her the best thing about it in his review.
Kate Winslet makes Jeanine such a bitch that she's incredibly entertaining to watch.
Miles Teller as Peter also deserves a mention, giving a pitch perfect performance as a smug sociopath while being very funny when needed.
Memetic Mutation: The fact that Ansel Elgort and Shailene Woodley who play siblings Caleb and Tris Prior, would later star as lovers in The Fault in Our Stars prompted plenty of memes about Tris or Caleb about to have a romantic moment, only to realise they're in the wrong movie. To a lesser extent, there will also be references to The Spectacular Now where Shailene Woodley played the girlfriend of Miles Teller.
Misblamed: Robert Schwentke initially received the brunt of the criticism (and blame) for the sequels' deviation from the source material and the films' rapidly declining quality. However, it was later revealed that the studio, Lionsgate,had rushed the third filmAllegiant into production to "hit a date". Additionally, the producers of the series (Douglas Wick and Lucy Fisher) actually encouraged Schwentke to deviate from the vision of the original director (Neil Burger), causing the many creative decisions that fans were displeased with.
Some reviewers have pointed out that while Dauntless's habit of doing Le Parkour to board the overhead railway is clearly meant to embody how free spirited and brave they are, but the movie makes them look more like the cast of Fame or West Side Story than police/army recruits. Mark Kermode in his BBC review also thought their jumpsuits looked "a bit Blake's 7", which may become Narm Charm for some viewers.
In the first two films, there's Ansel Elgort's exaggerated running. It's obviously a choice to try and show that Caleb isn't as fit as Tris and Four, but it's a bit too pantomime to take seriously.
Tris's pained squealing in The Divergent Series: Insurgent during the trial in Candor.
During Max's trial in The Divergent Series: Allegiant a random man steps out of line and shouts "we ought to slaughter you!" in the most hammy way imaginable.
If The Descendants and The Spectacular Now didn't have people convinced, Shailene Woodley's reaction to her mother's death in the first film won a good few critics over. Many were also surprised at how well she held her own against established talent like Kate Winslet, Ashley Judd, Naomi Watts and Octavia Spencer.
Zoe Kravitz was mainly known for being Lenny Kravitz's daughter, so she got a new set of fans for her part as Christina. Fans have likewise lamented her lack of screentime in subsequent films.
Uriah gets cut from the first movie, is a real One-Scene Wonder in the second and has no lines at all in the third. It's possible he may have got more in the planned Ascendant movie, but that'll obviously never see the light of day.
Christina is also featured less and less as the series goes on. In The Divergent Series: Allegiant she practically disappears for the entire second act.
Edward and Will get less opportunity to show off some of their more Erudite skills and quirks (Will memorizing a map of the city, Edward having taught himself hand to hand combat as a pre-teen etc.)
Marlene's friendship with Tris is largely cut, robbing her death in the second film of a lot of meaning.
Unnecessary Makeover: While Tris's Important Haircut was in the Insurgent book, for the film they opted for a pixie cut that doesn't do Shailene Woodley's face much favours (the short style she had been sporting beforehand was much more flattering). They were partly affected by getting rushed into production so soon after the first film and she'd cut it for The Fault in Our Stars, but it was an odd decision to go even shorter - since it wrecks Willing Suspension of Disbelief that Tris gave herself a salon perfect pixie cut with layers all on her own with just a window as a mirror. By contrast, in the book she cut it to chin length, or basically the style she has in the third film. Apparently the actress herself didn't want to wear a wig, worried it would look too fake in the action scenes.
What the Hell, Casting Agency?: The casting of Theo James as Four has gotten this reaction, not because he's bad in the role but because he looks way too old. In the books Four is meant to be 18, while James was 28 when the first movie was filmed and looked it. Shailene Woodley was 22 playing 16 year old Tris, but she could pass for a teenager much better than James and so looked far younger next to him. Considering the pair have a romantic relationship, the apparent age disparity weirded out some viewers. Woodley stated that Four was supposed to be older in the movies, about 24/25 years old, but considering Tris is still meant to be in her late teens this didn't help matters, as it means Four is still nearly a decade older than high school-aged Tris.