Author: Veronica Roth
Genre: Dystopian, Speculative Fiction, Young Adult
Publication Date: May 2012
Hardcover: 525 Pages
One choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.
Tris’s initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.
New York Times bestselling author Veronica Roth’s much-anticipated second book of the dystopian Divergent series is another intoxicating thrill ride of a story, rich with hallmark twists, heartbreaks, romance, and powerful insights about human nature.
Stand alone or series: Book 2 of the Divergent Trilogy
How did I get this book: ARC from the Publisher
Why did I read this book: I really, really enjoyed Divergent, the first book in this trilogy. I wasn’t expecting to love that novel as much as I did, and yet by the end of last year, Divergent had made its way onto my Best of 2011 list! Naturally, I could not wait for the release of Insurgent, and the book quickly shot to the top of one of my most highly anticipated releases of 2012.
**WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS UNAVOIDABLE SPOILERS FOR DIVERGENT. If you have not read book 1 and would like to remain unspoiled, look away! You have been warned.**
Following the shocking, deadly events at the conclusion of Divergent, Insurgent opens with a devastated Tris as she struggles with the loss of her parents and her guilt over killing her friend, Will, while he was under the influence of a mind-controlling serum. In the attack on the city, using brainwashed Dauntless soldiers as manpower the Erudite gunned down Abnegation members before Tris and her friends could stop the simulation, leading to a mass execution of most of the Abnegation faction. In the aftermath of this devastation, the remaining Dauntless faction has split between traitors that have allied with the Erudite, and outcasts that are systematically being hunted and killed by their former faction-mates.
Since thwarting the attack and stopping the power-hungry Erudite before they could sieze complete control of the city, Tris, her boyfriend Tobias (the Dauntless leader formerly know as “Four”), her brother Caleb (an Erudite defector), and a handful of Abnegation survivors have escaped with their lives and have turned to Amity for safehaven. While Tris and her friends find temporary sanctuary amongst the peace-loving faction, their respite is brief as it becomes clear that Amity will not take a stand in the conflict between factions, nor will they seek a fight with the formidable army of Erudite and Dauntless. Forced to leave the neutrality of Amity, Tris, Tobias and others seek out the only other remaining groups for aid – Candor (the honest) and the Factionless. In their quest to find support, Tris and her friends are sorely tested. Friends become enemies. Secret alliances and truths come to light. And even the bond between Tris and Tobias might not be enough to withstand the forces that threaten to tear them apart.
So, all cards on the table: I was not as enamored with Insurgent as I was its predecessor. Don’t get me wrong! Insurgent has many of the elements that I loved in Divergent – there’s action, some truly conflicted characters, and great plot twists along the way. By that same token, there is a frustrating amount of repetition, action that doesn’t really amount to much in terms of advancing the actual story, and so much angst/PG sexual tension/overall emo-ness as to detract from the awesomeness of said characters.
First, the good. I love that the book begins immediately following the dramatic conclusion of Divergent, with Tris, Tobias and their ragtag group of survivors seeking help and nursing their wounds. As a character, Tris is deeply hurt, not just physically with her shoulder injury, but with the consequences of her actions after killing a good friend – a secret that she guards very closely from Tobias and everyone else. I love that Tris is so conflicted for much of the early part of this book, unable to even touch a gun without recalling the trauma of killing Will, unable to deal with the huge gaping pain of her parents’ deaths. Tris, in turn, locks down and tries to protect herself from future pain, even from the boy she to whom she so desperately needs to open up.
I love this about Tris – her resilience, her pigheadedness, her abrasiveness (rooted in the best intentions, of course). At the same time…the pigheadedness and abrasiveness got a little old after a while as her secretiveness and hurt drives a huge wedge into her relationship with Tobias, and serves merely as a mechanism for teen angst. There’s a lot of that in this second book (not nearly so much fun as jumping from buildings, Dauntless initiations, and uncovering secret plots, let me tell you). There’s a lot of Tris and Tobias sharing passionate crushing kisses with…nothing happening afterward. It’s all very PG-friendly, “his hands skimmed my shoulderblades” and “I pressed myself against him urgently, burning and melting” and…that’s it. Theirs is a chaste relationship of passionate kissing, in great traditional romantic YA fashion – the dreaded S-word never enters anyone’s mind, or before it does, Tris and Tobias are back at square one because she’s pushed him away to deal with her angst/he’s pushed her away because he can’t protect her and it’s killing him (gag)/you get the picture, right?
I am not a fan of these protracted angsty love stories. It’s comedic, because of the chastity; it’s frustrating, because SO MUCH TIME is spent on these exact. same. exchanges. repeated ad nauseam – meanwhile, there’s a WAR going on, people! Needless to say, characterization in this novel and the focus of so much of the book on Tris and Tobias’s romance kind of bummed me out.
On to the story proper: I love the interplay between factions, and the way that Ms. Roth has effectively set the Erudite bullying their way to power through the more amenable/less fearsome factions. Candor is cruel in its own honest way, and Amity seeks peace over conflict at all costs – this serves the Erudite interests very well. That said, there’s something comedic to the evil of the Erudite, and I still have a hard time believing the motivations for seizing power and for wanting to test on the Divergent (surely, it would be much easier to kill them – and I’m not talking some injected serum that can be faked. I’m talking bullet to the brain, here.). Surely there are better ways of seizing power – but in the grand tradition of inept villains and villaineses, those responsible parties in Insurgent go the circuitous route, monologuing, allowing their seemingly-defeated victims a chance to get away and thwart their dastardly schemes. Yet, while the Erudite and their schemes felt a little disingenuous, I was happy with the inclusion of the Factionless in this book and the importance of the Divergent population overall.
There’s a huge hulking twist by the end of the book that isn’t exactly unexpected (and it’s certainly not very plausible – when you start to think about this society, the ages of people, the fact that there are DIVERGENT that should be immune to said twist – it doesn’t quite add up). That’s ok though. I like the twist. It is the stuff of crazy bordering on ludicrousness, but I actually love this big ol’ Twilight Zone/LOST/lunacy. I’m excited to see how this all shakes out in the next book.
All criticisms said, maybe my under-enthusiasm for the book is really a case of ‘it’s not you, it’s me.’ Almost all of the reviews I’ve seen thus far for Insurgent sing the sequel’s praises as being better than its predecessor. For me? I’m still invested in the series, I’m still excited about Tris and her adventures, and I still definitely enjoyed this book – I just wasn’t blown away. We’ll see how everything shakes out with the release of book 3.
Notable Quotes/Parts: Check out the excerpt below:
Rating: 6 – Good
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