Big Brother is watching you
Film review: 1984 (adapted from the novel by George Orwell)

In a totalitarian society governed by the voices behind “Big Brother”, Winston Smith found his secret escape in the form of keeping a journal. In a life so contrived and regimented, where men and women were forced to rewrite history in order to obey their oppressors, Winston Smith dared to fall in love. In a soul-destroying landscape of rotting children and burning debris, where his every move was accounted for by the giant glaring eyes of Big Brother, Winston Smith faced an ultimatum in a torture cell numbered 101.

1984 is a tale of the time – a horrific dystopia envisioned in George Orwell’s 1948 novel of the same name. Whether this film aims to reflect a fictional time or one that could easily be recognised in Nazi Germany or Communist Russia, it warns the audience of the possible deterioration of society. In it, Director Michael Radford effectively displays key themes of Orwell’s story, such as propaganda, media manipulation, and the power of language in shaping human thought.

First impressions count, and this is certainly true of this film. The opening sequence is harrowing, and enough to induce nightmares. Hundreds of citizens of Airstrip One, enslaved, indoctrinated and mesmerised by the Party are seen shouting “Traitor!” at a screen presenting the face of the ‘enemy’. They are taught to believe wholeheartedly in the propaganda that shapes their lives. Their minds are manipulated in such a way that the most positive report of all is the fact that their chocolate rations – yes, poverty has struck – have risen by twenty five grammes. The citizens are brainwashed in every aspect of their lives; children are taught to monitor their parents for thought crimes so that they can report disloyal behaviour to the Thought Police; they are forced to wear dreary, boy-scout-style uniforms to make them feel united in a youth group, mirroring those of the Hitler Youth that existed in Nazi Germany. People are trained to be suspicious of each other from a very early age, and are encouraged to report acts of defiance against the Party.

Winston works in a corporation with a name as ironic as the Ministry of Truth, in order to eradicate the past and re-write history as the Party wants it to be told. Winston claims that “Freedom is the freedom to think that two plus two equals four,” but in the extreme case of his torture in Room 101, he must undergo the process of brainwashing until he believes that two plus two may not equal four, but five. If the Party tells him it is five, then the answer is and will only ever be five (or at least, until they update the last edition of the Newspeak dictionary).

As part of the Party’s agenda, publicity is essential in promoting the values of their ideal society. There may be a war going on outside, but it is designed to be a constant, continuous struggle, and not to be won, in order to bring Society together for one cause. Publicity of the Party means that Big Brother’s unforgiving face is on posters plastered everywhere, to remind people that they are forever being watched. The blood red colour in the background of the posters is another stark contrast to the otherwise bleak landscape of Airstrip One, and it acts as a warning to the citizens who cannot escape their lives governed by this figure. Furthermore, a distinct female voice constantly recites statistics through speakers, supposedly to encourage people that the situation is improving. The effect in reality is the opposite. The voice is a reminder of the eternal struggle of the people under the Party’s regime, and the depressing world in which they live.

The lack of freedom is expressed throughout the film, either through the almost monochromatic visual tones, or the destructive imagery of inconceivable living conditions (such as Winston’s room), created to shock the viewer. Colour is used sparingly in the film, so that when an extreme close up of Julia’s red lips or a wide shot of the lush green hills of Winston’s dreamscape appears, the viewer is left with an uncomfortable sense of danger.

Despite the wealth of the Party, the population is left to believe that they are no less worse off, and left to suffer with limited rations of food, as well as dormitories resembling prison cells, and tentative relationships. No one is ever allowed privacy, as helicopters hover endlessly around the dilapidated landscape, as a constant reminder that “Big Brother” is watching them, like their conscience. Most iconically, George Orwell created the term “Newspeak” for 1984: an abbreviated language used to make communication more precise and less liberating. Parsons, Winston’s neighbour, is the character who engages the most significantly with this, and often uses the term “doubleplusgood” to express satisfaction. As well as spoken language, there is no freedom in thought, as they are taught that individuality leads to rebellion and disobedience.

Can you imagine your work colleagues spying on you, or your own children reporting you to the police for illegal, illicit thought patterns? Perhaps not. But how about interactive flat screens fixed to walls, or cameras following you on the streets? How is it possible that in 1948, when flatscreen televisions and closed-circuit television cameras were not yet invented, Orwell could conjure up such ideas? To what extent have we somehow fulfilled Orwell’s prophecy in our times, and how can we ensure that we do not create a reality for his most unbearable dystopic dreams? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.


Top Ten Summer Reads 2015

The weather may be dire at the moment, but it’s still summer! For some reason I associate books with seasons, depending on where/when they’re set and how they make me feel. Sometimes I save books for the winter simply because they have either a darker, more ominous cover or a pale blue, icy looking cover – reflecting the darkness and coldness of harsh winters. Likewise, books with covers that are brighter and have a floral design I tend to save for the summer, and books that I know are ‘ChickLit’ I take on holiday with me (because lying in the sun with a heavy 400-page psychological thriller makes me feel uneasy at the thought of it)! I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but who actually follows that rule?!

Here are (in no particular order) my top 10 light reads for the summer time – perfect for reading whilst lounging about in the sun, in the park, or shut away in your bedroom (if it rains nearly as much in your area as it does here).

1 – Ink by Amanda Sun ink-by-amanda-sun

Katie has recently moved to Shizuoka, Japan, to live with her aunt. She is clumsy, socially awkward and is still adjusting to the new culture. She encounters a seemingly dangerous boy, Yuu Tomohiro, and as the spring flowers blossom, so does their relationship. Katie is desperate to find out Tomo’s secret, and finds herself somehow linked to a magical power originally from ancient Japanese mythology. When Katie has the opportunity to move in with her grandparents in Canada, will she leave behind her new friends, Tomo, and the living ink sketches, in order to escape the gang eager to stamp out Tomo’s destiny?

I absolutely loved this book – how the fantastical elements are so smoothly incorporated into Katie’s story. Despite it being a fictional story, it really opened my eyes to Japanese culture and daily life, and there is even a glossary at the back so that you can pick up some of the conversational Japanese used by the characters. I also enjoyed the outdoor descriptions and learning about the tradition of having a picnic under the blossom trees. Finally, the illustrations throughout the book are a lovely accompaniment to the story and really bring the sketches to life for the reader. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in fantasy, world culture, and art.


2 – Meet Me At The Cupcake Café by Jenny Colgan

A typically British summer, a typically awful boyfriend and a typically awkward woman trying to recover from losing her typically boring day job. When her amazing cupcakes save the day, everything turns around and life begins to pick up again. Read this if you enjoy romance and cake (who wouldn’t?)

PaperTowns2009_6A-198x3003 & 4 – Paper Towns by John Green and Life Of Pi by Yan Martel Life-of-Pi

These books are bursting with colour and adventure. The Paper Towns characters are on a mission to find Margo, who has mysteriously disappeared, leaving clues everywhere. Q’s friends are lively and hilarious, each with their own quirks. They are now high school graduates and decide to go on a big journey to retrieve their friend. In Life Of Pi, Pi finds himself alone on a lifeboat with a tiger and a zebra, bound for the great unknown. This is a wild and imaginative journey where Pi learns to tame Richard Parker (the tiger) and provide for himself whilst hopelessly traveling in the ocean. I love both Pi’s insightful commentary on his life story and Q’s witty narration. I would recommend these books to readers who have an inner explorer and love escaping to other worlds not too dissimilar from their own. Click here to read my post about Paper Towns.

FangirlWIP5 – Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Rainbow Rowell is perhaps my favourite author to date. I am so excited to read Attachments (which I have been saving until after my exams) and Landline (when it’s out in paperback). Fangirl is quite relevant to me at the moment because, as well as being a huge fangirl, I am also starting university in September like Cath and Wren. This is such a wonderful novel, and I would highly recommend it (along with Rowell’s other books). Click here to read my brief review.

Book-delirium6 – Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Yet another dystopian novel that I love, where each 16 year old has surgery to remove ‘love’ and is forbidden to have particular feelings. Lena realises that she does not want to participate in the government’s scheme, and finds a way to escape and live as a nomad beyond the borders. This is a coming-of-age story about first love and brave acts of rebellion.

161433477 – We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

This book is all about family politics and one girl’s experiences of the past few summer holidays spent on a private island. It’s poetic and exciting, and there is a huge plot twist at the end (so make sure you avoid spoilers)! Click here to read my brief review.


8 – The Other Life by Suzanne Winnacker

In the suburbs of Los Angeles, Sherry’s family are in hiding until the Military tells them it’s safe to come out of their shelter. They have been waiting for 5 years, and their food has now run out, so Sherry and her dad decide to venture out to find food, even though they risk their lives. When Sherry’s dad is captured by mutilated creatures, she has no choice but to run away with Joshua, a hunter who is lurking nearby. How will she find her family again before they die of starvation, and how will she rescue her dad? I have just read this post-apocalyptic novel and although there aren’t many aspects that differ from other current books of this genre, it was a really good read. The action is gripping and exciting, and the characters are all interesting in their own way. I liked that there is a focus on developing the character of each family member so that the reader gets to learn about their personality and what makes them tick. I would recommend it to any fan of dystopian fiction (the cover says that it’s appropriate for fans of The Hunger Games, which I can partially agree with).

9 – The Selection by Kiera Cass 10507293

Potential princesses and pretty dresses – need I say more?

10 – Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur5982448

This book is aimed at younger teenagers, but I enjoyed it all the same because of the heart warming and uplifting story of the young protagonist. The story centres on Aubrey, who is recently orphaned and decides to try and survive by herself during the summer. If you like stories about families and young children finding their way in the world, this book is for you.


Ask The Passengers by A.S. King, Anna And The French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, and Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson are three books that I would love to add to this list… but I haven’t read them yet! They’re just sitting on my shelf, begging to be read this summer.

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2014 Book Wrap-Up (Part 2/4)

(11) If I Stay by Gayle Forman


Series: If I Stay (book 1)

My rating: **

Genre: Contemporary

What it’s about: a girl who has a tragic accident followed by an out-of-body experience, where she must decide whether she wants to die or wake up to a world where her family are dead.

Pros: the narration flips between the past and present to create variation; the family of the protagonist is described in a lot of detail; one of the key themes is music and the conflict between genres, which is something different and interesting.

Cons: it is not the most exciting plot and the ending does not evoke any particular emotions; it does not live up to the expectations.

Would recommend to: fans of The Fault In Our Stars and Thirteen Reasons Why

(12) Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell


Series: Stand-alone

My rating: *****

Genre: Contemporary

What it’s about: a first-year college student who writes fanfic for a series similar to Harry Potter, and has a twin sister who could not be more different.

Pros: it’s so relatable! So many feels! Rainbow Rowell is an incredible writer!

Cons: nothing – this book is perfect.

Would recommend to: All teenage fangirls

(13) Horde by Ann Aguirre


Series: the Razorland trilogy (book 3)

My rating: ****

Genre: Dystopian

What it’s about: A group of hunters trying to kill the remaining horde of zombie-like creatures in different settlements, in order to create peace.

Pros: It follows on from Outpost really well; there are so many action scenes; I like that Deuce finally figures out that she can be a Huntress and a girl at the same time; this book has the best epilogue I have ever read -it’s adorable and makes you feel very satisfied.

Cons: The narrative spans over a long period of time, so it cuts out days or weeks, which ruins the flow at times; I was a bit disappointed that the Freaks could speak and communicate in the end; it was very long and some of the battles could have been cut out?

Would recommend to: Someone who likes a lot of action

(14) Promised by Caragh O’Briencar

Series: Birthmarked trilogy (book 3)

My rating: ***

Genre: Dystopian

What it’s about: A young woman leading a group of nomads to a walled city for refuge, who faces imprisonment and DNA experimentation against her will as a sacrifice.

Pros: as Gaia brings the group back to where she grew up, it links all three books of the trilogy together nicely.

Cons: the start feels a bit disjointed from the end of Prized; the relationship between the protagonists doen’t seem as swoonworthy as in other YA novels – even though Gaia accepted the proposal, I wasn’t convinced that she was truly in love (and with the right character!) and I ended up not caring too much.

Would recommend to: Someone who wants to finish the Birthmarked trilogy (just for a sense of peace)!

(15) Every Day by David Levithan

evrSeries: Stand-alone

My rating: ****

Genre: Contemporary

What it’s about: A genderless presence waking up every day inside a different person’s body, who falls in love and tries to have a relationship in their many states of being.

Pros: it’s such an original idea, and it manages to answer all your questions and doubts about the process by the end; there are so many interesting characters’ lives we get a glimpse of throughout the book; there are lots of profound statements and messages in the writing.

Would recommend to: Younger teens with a sense of adventure

(16) Escape From Camp 14 by Blaine Harden


Series: Stand-alone

My rating: ****

Genre: Non-fiction

What it’s about: A true story of the only prisoner to have escaped a camp in North Korea, and how he lived before and after his incredible escape.

Pros: this is a brilliant insight into the totalitariansim of North Korea; the story is gripping and harrowing.

Would recommend to: Someone who likes inspiring stories from other cultures.

(17) The Death Of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell bee

Series: Stand-alone

My rating: ***

Genre: Mystery

What it’s about: Two sisters living home alone who, having buried their parents in the garden, are faced with demands from a man owed money from their parents, and a kind neighbour who tries to protect and raise them.

Pros: it’s a heart-warming story with narration shared between two very different personalities; the general idea is completely unique; the inclusion of setting and context is consistent.

Cons: the subject matter is sometimes too graphic; some passages are a little boring.

Would recommend to: Someone looking for something completely different.

(18) The One by Kiera Cassone

Series: The Selection (book 3)

My rating: ****

Genre: Dystopian

What it’s about: A girl in the running to become the next princess, who must decide whether her heart belongs to the prince, or to a boy she has always loved.

Pros: this book is so much better than The Elite and was a really nice ending to America’s Selection story; look at the cover – it’s stunning; America finally makes her mind up about who she wants to be with.

Cons: the sub-plot about the rebels is irritating and is never explored deeply enough; the protagonist makes friends with the enemy but then something bad happens to the ex-enemy…

Would recommend to: Someone who likes modern-day princesses

(19) We Were Liars by E. Lockhart lie

Series: Stand-alone

My rating: *****

Genre: Contemporary

What it’s about: A wealthy family who own a private island and holiday there together every year, even though the tension rises as each sister demands to be left with the most riches in their father’s will.

Pros: the writing style is at times poetic, and always engaging; having family politics as the subtext makes for a more intriguing plot.

Cons: the author sneakily creates a huge plot twist at the end which messes with your mind!

(20) Looking For Alaska by John Green

lfaSeries: Stand-alone

My rating: ***

Genre: just YA

What it’s about: a group of unlikely friends at a mixed boarding school, who enjoy pulling large-scale pranks, and end up trying to solve a mystery about the death of their close companion.

Pros: all the characters are quirky in their own way; there are lots of passages that made me laugh out loud – I’ve never laughed so much whilst reading a book (John Green is quite the story-teller); the book is extremely quotable!

Cons: it reveals bad habits to younger readers.

Would recommend to: Someone who likes mysteries, and possibly someone who’s been to a boarding school because they could relate.

My rating system:

* means it’s really bad ** means it’s not that great *** means it’s mediocre **** means it’s really good ***** means it’s amazing

Note: let’s be honest, I have no idea what a ‘Contemporary’ novel even is…

The Maze Runner

Film review: The Maze Runner

WARNING: There will, as usual, be spoilers involved.

My peak cinema season kicked off with a trip to see The Maze Runner, which I had much anticipated (especially as the release date had been postponed from Valentine’s Day ’14). Don’t judge me, but I actually took a notebook and pen with me to the cinema, so that I could record my reactions there and then, as the story unfolded and Dylan O’Brien’s charm radiated from the screen. Although it was (obviously) dark, and I couldn’t see what I was writing, I found it to be a useful experience, and I think I’ll do it in the future.

Let me first talk about the opening scene. For the first few seconds, we are left in darkness, and the black screen allows for sound alone to set the scene. You can hear all these clanging, mechanical noises, and then suddenly, Thomas, our protagonist, comes into view. As the lift rattles and rises in the shaft, the tempo increases, and you can actually feel his fear of the unknown. Even in those first few seconds, we get a sense of danger, and the not-too-subtle ‘WCKD’ stamp on a crate hints at what is yet to be discovered about Thomas’ situation.


  • Thomas was by far the most interesting character to observe. I liked his reaction of pure bewilderment as he first entered the Glade, how he questioned the rules, and how he let his moral judgment override the expectations set in place for him. I believed in Thomas – he gave us all hope – and he just so happened to be played by a gorgeous actor who nailed the role.
  • Minho (pronounced ‘Meen-ho’ in the film – don’t you hate it when names sound different in your head?!) wasn’t introduced near the beginning, even though he is a key character in the story. In the scene where Gally challenges Thomas to a fight, you can see Minho’s face burning with silent rage – the intensity in his eyes. It becomes obvious that he is a deep thinker and uses his experience in the Glade/maze to make wise decisions. Also, he is well respected among the Gladers, and doesn’t appreciate Thomas’ risky behaviour – “You don’t get it: we’re already dead.”
  • Gally was perfectly portrayed as the stocky, brutish bully by Will Poulter. What struck me was the way he was obsessed with keeping to the rules and his refusal to accept change. As soon as Thomas stepped on the scene, he knew things would be different, and I believe that he feared losing the attention and power he had earned from the Gladers. His strength and commitment to the community’s wellbeing was admirable, but his need to belong became increasingly more desperate throughout the film, creating tension in the Glade.
  • Newt was a cool character to see presented on film. He could be seen nonchalantly leaning against wooden posts or casually explaining the ground rules to Thomas. He was the kind of guy I would have wanted to become friends with – friendly but edgy and shrewd. Thomas Brodie-Sangster was the actor: lanky, dirty blonde hair, and smug smile to complete the look.
  • Alby didn’t do much for me. Although it became clear that he was the most respected Glader who led the community, he wasn’t the strongest character, or one that made an impact on me; I didn’t feel particularly sad when he died, and I felt that life in the Glade could continue without him.
  • Chuck was absolutely adorable! I just wanted to pinch his chubby cheeks and give him a huge hug! He was very well cast, and really brought out the true essence of the character.
  • Winston was a character that I could not remember from the book. Therefore, I was surprised by the amount of dialogue he was given, despite not being a main character.
  • One character I do remember from the book is Frypan, but I don’t recall his appearance the film. His name was etched into the wall with the rest of the Gladers’, but his name was never used in dialogue, and I was a bit upset that he wasn’t part of the main cast.
  • Onto the women… Teresa was simply awful. Kaya Scodelario’s performance ruined the film for me, in a way. I know that a few other cast members were British, but her American accent was the least consistent and the least convincing. Teresa is supposed to be special, but she ended up blending in with the rest of the Gladers almost immediately, and accepting her situation without much debate. Overall, I was not impressed, and expected more from the character.
  • Ava Paige wasn’t bad… I just wanted to say that she looked and acted exactly like Kate Winslet as Jeanine Matthews in Divergent, and Meryl Streep as the Chief Elder in The Giver. The hair and white dress, as well as posture and speech control was mostly the same, so she didn’t leave much of an impression on me.
  • The Grievers weren’t what I expected at all. Everyone’s interpretations are different, but somehow I expected a slug-like beast with mechanical saws, spears and pincers poking out of its body. Instead, we saw giant robotic spiders with gooey heads and a claw at the end of a scorpion-style tail. For me, what ruined the effect was their movement. They scuttled along too fast, as if they weren’t even touching the ground, so they looked a bit ridiculous in places. I know it’s fictional anyway, so that shouldn’t matter, but to me, aesthetics always matter!
  • In general, the characters were convincing Gladers who seemed to know their place. Sometimes their actions (particularly those who had no dialogue) seemed contrived, but mostly you could tell they had Glader instincts; eg. at one point in the maze, Winston is afraid the trapped Griever will suddenly lash out, so his hand instinctively goes to his knife in his belt.


  • Light: When Thomas was in the lift, it was dark, but when he was let out, the brightness was overwhelming – his escape brought relief and a sense of safety. However, when the Gladers were dragged out of the WICKED building, the natural light of the scorched desert landscape caused something like the opposite of hope – the fear of reality. I thought that these examples of contrast in light helped to intensify the characters’ emotions and circumstances. The use of fire in the evening was a simple yet effective way of creating atmosphere in the Glade. Candle lighting cast a mysterious, warm glow onto the faces of the Gladers, whereas the bonfire sparked a dynamic energy among them.
  • Colour: I loved the warm, earthy tones of the images in the film. The brown, beige, cream and pale blue clothing worn by the Gladers blended in well with their environment, and the brown hues added to the raw, almost rustic feel of that setting. The maze itself had a different feel altogether, with its silvery grey walls, dark green ivy and red stencilled numbers. The cold colours here made the space seem more confined, and presented a dark, damp, metallic labyrinth. Another other complete contrast was the desert outside the maze, which was a bright, golden colour. I thought that this over-baked panorama perfectly represented the ruined land caused by the Flare.
  • Shots: Overall, the film was visually stunning. Yet instead of making it look too Hollywood-esque (like in The Book Thief, where you wouldn’t believe there was actually a war going on) the filmmakers managed to keep an authentic feel to the settings, whilst using impressive shots to tell the story from a futuristic point of view. I liked the way the focus would shift from background to foreground, often to sharpen the image quality for a character’s emotion in a close-up and to blur the candlelit backdrop. The focus shifting also lent itself to switching between dialogue between two characters standing near each other. Whilst in the maze, the camera would sometimes show the open sky, then pan down to the claustrophobic space between the walls, and down to the Runners. This smooth action gave us a sense of location and time of day whilst the Runners were below, before we saw them in action, and it was very effective, in my opinion. One other aspect that I liked was the hand-held camera work as the Gladers were running through the crop fields. There was just enough shaky footage to get a sense of urgency and panic, without over-doing it to the point of making you feel uneasy (like in The Hunger Games, for example).


Sound is definitely not my forte, but I shall attempt to describe my thoughts… Firstly, Alby’s voice was unclear, and often I could just hear a faint whispering coming from the general direction of where he stood. Strangely enough, the voices of other characters seemed to be projected behind us in the audience, no matter where they were on screen. The sound effects were good because they set the scene of a tropical jungle landscape for the Glade, and the mechanical noises complemented the metallic maze. Perhaps the stereotypical tribal noises were a bit over-the-top, though. I also felt that the musical score itself didn’t go very well with the on-screen action. It seemed like a very generic action movie soundtrack, as if anyone could have bought it from a loyalty-free website to layer behind a home-made video for YouTube. In terms of tempo, the music’s increased with the pace of the visuals, but it was nothing that enhanced the experience, and sometimes the sound seemed to clash with the images because attention to detail was overlooked. To put it more simply: it wasn’t exactly Pirates of the Caribbean.

Comparing the film to the book

Although I must have read the book at least 4 years ago, there are still parts that have stuck with me over time. I can’t think of many obvious details that were missed out about the world of the Gladers (except for Thomas and Teresa’s telepathy and the WICKED beetles with cameras), which is a good sign. There was the same idea that you were learning about Thomas’ situation as he was, because his memory had been erased. Everyone starts off from the same point, without prior knowledge, so the storytelling is very important in the film. I’m pleased that the Gladers’ vocabulary was kept in the dialogue. I remember hearing ‘shank’, ‘greenie’, ‘klunked’ and ‘shuck’ (although I wish ‘shuck-faced shank’ could have been used too). I thought that Chuck died before the Gladers broke through to the WICKED HQ, so I was so happy that he lived through that episode. However, I was utterly mortified when he was killed later on. This had a bigger impact on me because I wasn’t expecting his death at that point (my memory must have been wrong, or they could have changed the ending). It was emotional for the audience as well as the characters who had grown so attached to Chuck. In the book series, ‘bergs’ – flying ships – were described as the transportation used, yet in the film, somehow all of the surviving Gladers could squeeze into a small helicopter. Will bergs be used in The Scorch Trials or will helicopters be the standard mode throughout the series of films? Finally, I think that the ending was altered in the film. I recall that in the book, the Gladers just about broke into the HQ, were met by some staff, and the rest was left ambiguous so that questions could be answered in The Scorch Trials. I personally think that the film could have ended with a shot of the white light at the end of the tunnel, rather than spending a few extra precious minutes explaining the Trials and taking the characters out of the HQ. I can see why it ended the way it did, but my idea could have been equally as effective, in my opinion. To conclude, the themes of the book (for example, team building, determination and a sense of community) were illustrated very well in the film, and I doubt that James Dashner could have been disappointed with the way in which his imagination was transformed into another medium of reality.

Questions left unanswered in the film

  • Who were the men clad in black at the end, ushering the Gladers out of the HQ? What was their role and who did they work for?
  • Who was the man in the helicopter?
  • How did the Gladers conceptualise time? One character said, “Meet me in the woods in half an hour,” but none of them wore watches, so how would they have a clue about time?
  • How could the Gladers leave with no food or supplies? The maze was huge and they didn’t know how long they’d be in there for. What if they needed medical equipment etc? Were they so confident that they could find a way out so quickly?
  • Why did Ava Paige feign her death? 

Question for my readers: Have you seen The Maze Runner? If so, do you agree with my ideas and interpretations, or did you have a completely different experience at the cinema? Let me know in the comments below!


Film Review: Divergent

By some kind of miracle, I was able to watch Divergent on Friday – the opening day in the UK. Dream come true, right? My two friends and I raced to the cinema with 5 minutes to spare, extremely excited about what we were about to see. First of all, I have to congratulate Veronica Roth. I’m so happy for her, and couldn’t be more pleased with how it turned out. I know the film is completely independent to the book, but I feel that it was a good representation of the original story, and it was pulled off very well. I had low expectations because I was too let down by The Hunger Games film and didn’t want to be as disappointed; however, I was not at all disappointed this time – I was highly IMPRESSED.

I want to start off with the ‘bad’ things I noticed about the film. I don’t have much criticism, so let me just get it out of the way. It’s not even to do with picking out differences between the film and book, which surprises me.

Music: Most of the time, the music was suitable for the situation, and wasn’t over-dramatic or anything. However, I absolutely hated the music that had singing in it. I found it very intrusive, and it didn’t go at all. Plus, Ellie Goulding was used as the main soundtrack artist, and I can’t stand her voice. It just didn’t work for me, and ruined the film.

Sound: The tone of the film (especially at the beginning with Tris’ voiceovers) was quite calm – either to set the scene or to create tension. But it was hard to hear everything that the characters were saying. I know that acting for film is totally different than acting for theatre because you don’t need to project your voice (as the gaffers pick up the sound from a close proximity to the actors). But some lines were barely audible, and I don’t think it was the cinema’s fault! I wouldn’t say it needed to be a lot louder, they just needed to have slightly raised the volume when the actors were whispering.

The sound wasn’t the only thing that was toned-down, in my opinion. I imagined the Dauntless to be more hardcore, somehow. They were definitely portrayed as badass, kickass people, and the instructors were menacing, but I feel that they needed extra… oomph?

Casting of extras: Your choosing ceremony is supposed to be when you turn 16. When the group is being briefed before the ceremony, I saw that there were lots of fully-grown men, and not enough young-looking people. I guess it didn’t matter too much, because it wasn’t mentioned in the film about the age of the initiates, and they all looked more mature. I guess that’s me being a bit picky.

Injuries: Something I didn’t understand was how the characters recovered so quickly from injury. One minute, they’d be shot in the shoulder, the next they’d be running down the street, with not even a glance at the bullet wound or a wince of pain. And Jeanine! I can’t believe that Tris threw a knife right through her hand, and when it was taken out, she was barely traumatised. I partly blame the actors, who should have done ‘method acting’ to be able to empathise with their characters more (I can’t criticise them too much because they were brilliant, really). I also partly blame whoever was supposed to check the film in post-production for continuity errors.

Veronica Roth: She had a cameo during the zip line scene, but it was too brief! It was too dark to see her face properly – I just recognised her physique and haircut. It’s a shame that she couldn’t have stayed on screen for longer…

Now onto the good stuff, because there’s a lot of it! A little bonus which has nothing to do with the film: I got a free book, which is an exclusive sample of the first 6 chapters of the original novel. I already own Veronica Roth’s masterpiece, but it’s such a nice memento of the special occasion.

Introduction: The introduction was so well thought out and it carefully pulls you into the Divergent world. I believe that if you haven’t read the book, the introduction explains everything so that you don’t need to have done. I loved the slow panning of aerial views of the dystopian Chicago city, complete with Tris’s explanatory voiceovers. The faction system is also described in sufficient detail, providing snapshots of their individual lifestyles.

Characters: They were extremely well portrayed on screen. You could see the personal development in each one. Caleb transforms from a smug, secretive Abnegation brother into a smart, brainwashed Erudite academic (a strong believer in the ‘faction before blood’ motto); Al transforms from a sweet, conscientious lad into a jealous, guilty wreck (it’s a sad, sad situation…); Four transforms from a tough, unforgiving instructor into a sympathetic, sensitive and protective (and totally gorgeous) boyfriend – at first he had no romantic intentions but then you can start to see him smiling to himself, which is so cute; Tris transforms from a shy, indecisive girl into a brave, selfless, independent and headstrong Dauntless initiate. Tris’ development is the most obvious and important, which is what makes her such a fantastic role model. Not only does she realise that she needs to train to survive, but she thrives in the Dauntless compound, and improves more than any other initiate (referring to the scoreboard). There are so many lessons we can learn from her determination, perseverance and feistiness. I also found Jeanine’s character worked well on screen. Her Erudite-coloured eyes and calm approach made her seem more threatening and cold than perhaps being outright aggressive. She has so much power and control, and her Erudite language woven subtly into her dialogue has a scary effect.

Actors: They were so much better than I had expected. Trust me when I say I’ve watched a fair amount of interviews with the cast, crew and author herself! I wasn’t keen on Theo James playing Four, just because he didn’t look like I imagined Four to look in my mind. But in the film, he fitted Four’s persona so well that I not just accept him as the face of Four. Shailene Woodley also wasn’t my first choice. Now I don’t know who I would have preferred in her place! They were both excellent and they deserve a lot of praise for their portrayal of such inspiring characters. Kudos to the casting directors for surprising us all, in a good way. It was great to see some other familiar faces – Miles Teller, Ansel Elgort (my baby) and Kate Winslet, for example.

Relationships: The relationships within the Prior family seem so tense, especially at the beginning of the film. This really added to setting the scene and laying out the family situation for the viewers. In the book, Christina and Will get it on, but here the main focus (understandably) was on ‘Fourtris’. I did notice how Christina and Will become closer all the time, and their growing relationship is definitely implied through the way they interact. I thought this was such a clever way of addressing the situation without dwelling on it and stealing the power couple’s thunder! Four and Tris were adorable. I ship them so much, and the relationship works so nicely in the film, which made me happy. The awesome thing was the development of their relationship. Usually in films, you can immediately tell who’s going to end up with who, and they get together within the first third of the film. But in this case, the crescendo comes at just the right point; there is enough time for them to build up a level of trust, and for Tris to gradually steal Four’s heart through her bravery and strength. The romance doesn’t dominate the film – it’s just kept very real and Dauntless-like.

Pace: The film has great pace; nothing is too rushed or too boring. It’s gripping throughout, and you never know what’s coming next.

World building: As I mentioned, the introduction helps build up an image of the rusty dystopian world in which the factions exist. The landscapes are beautifully shown, and nothing looks too CGI at all. The fence has an air of mystery about it, and the viewer is left to wonder what will happen in the next installment of the trilogy, with reference to it. It’s absolutely believable. The factions are all true to their characteristics described in the novel, and their buildings and costumes help to reflect each one’s nature. The style and colours of the costumes make Veronica Roth’s world come to life on the screen, and I appreciate all the details. I liked the style of the Abnegation houses: simple, grey and low key. Inside the Priors’ home, it’s kind of dark, and nothing has labels. It’s a combination of wood and olive/ grey tones along with dim lighting. I’ve seen a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff, so I already knew what a lot of the sets would look like. The ones that I hadn’t seen came as pleasant surprises, and I was so fascinated by the way in which all these fictional places had been created. I particularly liked the jazzy tattoo parlour (and how the tattoos were printed on rather than injected with a needle).

Themes and messages: All of the key ideas and themes from the book were translated beautifully onto the screen. I could spend ages analysing everything, but there’s not really any point because if you’ve read the book then you’ll know that there are important things we can learn from the story and characters. I feel that young people can come away from the film having gained something (inspiration or hope) that they didn’t have before. I think that Divergence itself is explained well in the film, and it’s a significant idea that holds the story together. It doesn’t dominate the plot but the threat of being Divergent crops up at random times, reminding you of the danger Tris is in. It’s mentioned enough times for you to take it seriously, but the film is really more than just Divergence: it’s about friendship, loyalty, uprising, society and all that the factions stand for, plus more.


I recommend this film to those obsessed with the Divergent book(s) because it does stay true to the original work. However, maybe it’s not the best idea to read/re-read it just before seeing it, because you’d probably pick up on a lot that has been omitted. But anyway, it’s a really great film and I certainly enjoyed it.


Divergent Premiere: Top Ten Soundtrack Songs

When I first read Divergent, about 4 years ago, I fell in love with the story. When I found out that Neil Burger was going to direct a film adaptation of the dystopian novel, I couldn’t have been more excited about the project. No matter how mainstream this franchise has become, it’s still MY THING.

Divergent hit the cinemas in the US on 21st March, and finally it’s the UK’s turn to welcome the film to our box offices, this Friday! In honour of this, I have decided to create my own playlist of songs that I would use in the Divergent soundtrack.

I have not heard the real film soundtrack*, so this is purely based on my own imagination and ideas about themes and moments from the book. I know it’s subjective, but to me, these songs have lyrics that are relevant to the story, and so I look forward to sharing them with you. The order in which I have compiled this list reflects loosely the chronological structure of the plot.

1) Map of The World – Plain White T’s

Tris has yet to discover her true identity. She struggles to find out where she fits in, not just faction-wise, but in the grand scheme of things. She feels insignificant, especially as she’s Abnegation-born, and has no sense of freedom until joining Dauntless. She has never had the opportunity to think for herself or about what she wants. This song is about Tris asking herself what matters to her and where her priorities lie. Where does she fit in?

2) Welcome To The Black Parade – My Chemical Romance

The title of this song is like symbol for Dauntless members; they are like a parade of black-clad soldiers. As well as the black clothing and tattoos, the ‘black parade’ represents the display of confidence that comes along with a Dauntless attitude, and the darker side of society. To me, this song is all about Tris realising her responsibilities and the implications of choosing Dauntless over Abnegation (which would have been more acceptable). It’s like Tris’ calling to the faction and a ‘welcom[ing]’ once she has been initiated.

3) What Are You So Scared Of? – Tonight Alive

Four is a very strict instructor, and taunts Tris at first for being a Stiff. This challenging voice is prominent throughout the song, although it could also be an internal voice in Tris’ head, forcing her to conquer her fears when she lacks confidence. This could be a fitting song for the moment when Tris decides to be the first jumper, to prove herself worthy. She needs to realise the consequences following her choosing ceremony, and that with bravery comes selflessness. Also, everyone is scared of something.

4) On Top Of The World – Imagine Dragons

Tris starts to develop early on in her Dauntless training, as a person and as a fighter. She knows that she can’t give up and become Factionless, so she tries her best to fit in and make Four proud of her. On the ferris wheel, Tris feels quite literally ‘on top of the world’ and it’s nothing like she’s ever experienced before. She encourages Four when he admits that he’s afraid of heights, and enjoys the thrill of learning who she truly is.

5) Undisclosed Desires – Muse

Tris is not a confident and head-strong character when she starts off in Dauntless, but now she knows how she feels about Four. In this song, I feel like there are two voices: Tris’ and Four’s. Tris explores her thoughts about her love for Four, and admits her passion to herself, which scares her. Four wants to make Tris feel safe, secure, and above all, beautiful. They forgive each other for being ruthless and accept each other for who they are, as they can’t be defined solely by society.

6) Guts – All Time Low

Tris becomes more confident and learns to take risks and what the meaning of freedom (within the oppressive society) means. She realises that she has power and strength. She is brave and bold, and it feels amazing to have ‘the guts to say anything’.

7) Uprising – Muse

This song reflects the corrupt society that keeps secrets from all of its citizens. Everyone is manipulated and kept under Jeanine’s control. However, the end of the novel sets up for an uprising, whereby the people feel they can’t live like this anymore; they feel like the truth is being kept from them and they want to overrule the system.

8) You Know What They Do To Guys Like Us In Prison – My Chemical Romance

In the end, Four is brainwashed by Jeanine’s programme, turning him into some kind of robot. He loses his identity completely and is degraded. Tris is insane and wants him back desperately because she loves him so much. Four is trapped in his own internal prison, and Tris is the only one who can save him.

9) The Reckless And The Brave – All Time Low

In the beginning, Tris doesn’t fit in anywhere because she’s Divergent, and so choosing a faction is a major issue. Even in in the Dauntless compound, the training is too intense, and she worries that this lifestyle is not for her. Tris finally feels like she belongs, and she’s not ready to leave until she’s initiated; her determination prevails. She comes to realise that she can be selfless and brave simultaneously, and that’s what makes her special. She has fled from her Abnegation roots and become her own person. This song celebrates her recklessness and bravery, and how it has helped her in her initiation among other things.

10) In The End – Black Veil Brides (BONUS: Allegiant)

Regretfully, I couldn’t pick the ideal 10th song for Divergent! So I skipped to Allegiant, because this song pretty much sums up the ending of the trilogy. I don’t want to say much else because that would force me to give spoilers, and I’m strongly against Allegiant spoilers! Just listen to the lyrics and see if you can relate it to the story – whatever you come up with is probably what I’m thinking as well.

Did I pick the right songs? How does this compare to your ideal Divergent soundtrack? Let me know in the comments!


*I reluctantly saw the music video to Ellie Goulding’s Divergent song, and I hated everything about it. So I decided not to listen to any of the other music from the soundtrack, and I wanted to create my own.