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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Book Review: Insurgent

Welcome, welcome to the YA Book Club. This month we, along with the rest of the planet, read Insurgent by Veronica Roth. In case you’ve been living in a well-furnished cave, here’s the summary:
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.
Let’s begin at the beginning, shall we? And that’s with Divergent, the first book in what will be a dystopian trilogy. I purposefully waited two eons to read Roth’s debut novel, mostly for motivation (as in, “Hey, loser, finish up your revisions and you can read Divergent”), and wasn’t disappointed when I finally—finally—picked it up. I realy enjoyed Divergent and was worried Insurgent would fall into the Second Book Slump (SBS to those in the know).

If you haven’t read Divergent, why don’t you spend the next five minutes in the world of absurdly cute animals instead of reading this review? There are major spoilers ahead for Divergent. Consider yourself warned.

I hoped Insurgent was just as good as Diverent. What I didn’t expect—what I never expect when it comes to sophomore novels—was to enjoy Insurgent even more than Divergent.

There are so many things I liked about this book. Alas, I have no desire to write a review nearly as lengthy as Roth’s 525-page novel. So I’m going to only talk about those things Insurgent does that Divergent didn’t.

And because I know Internet readers are notoriously distracted (oh look, a foldy cat!) I’ve broken my thoughts down for you (hey, Mean Girls gif!) into nice little subcategories. So:

The mysterious
Much of what I loved about Divergent was present in Insurgent—a keep-you-up-all-night pace, careful prose, strong world-building—but we’re tossed into the second book without lead-up. Whereas in Divergent  Tris spent a lot of time getting her bearings and adjusting to her new faction (time I found really interesting and fun to read, mind you), this book opens with her in the midst of dealing with the big issue: Why did the Erudite attack Abegnation? Not only that, but there’s a big mystery introduced at the very beginning that Tris tries to work out the entire novel, up until the very last page, that ratcheted up the interest.

Exploration of guilt and grief
This might have been my favorite part of the book, and it’s an aspect that’s very different from anything you read in Divergent. Tris is dealing with the death of her parents and guilt over killing Will, one of her best friends. This goes beyond her inability to shoot a gun. Every action she takes is colored by the emptiness she feels over losing her parents, and the serious guilt and self-hate she has over killing Will pulls her into a dark place. Everything about Tris’s actions and the ways in which they related to these two emotions was so well thought-out and real. In the midst of an action-paced book, Roth did a wonderful job examining loss and all-consuming guilt.

The details
If the information at the end of Divergent was a piece of ice in the ocean, the details we learn in Insurgent are the iceberg below. It was satisfying learning how each of the factions worked, what happened during the simulations, and why the Divergent are immune. Roth packed in a lot of information without any info dumps, which I appreciated. (See also: 525 pages.)

Relationship with Tobias*
I loved the relationship that blossomed between Four and Tris in Divergent, but I was worried I’d tired of the pair in this second book since they were already together. What I loved so much about this book is that Roth doesn’t shove another boy into the mix to stir things up. There is no love triangle. Should I say that again so people all the way over there can read it? THERE IS NO LOVE TRIANGLE! It was refreshing. Instead, complications in the relationship arise as Tris and Tobias try to make sense of who they are in regards to each other, the movement that’s happening in their world, and the factions they’ve belonged to. It’s not all rainbows and puppy dogs, and the tension between them never felt forced.

A closer look at the faction system
Always in the back of my mind while I was reading Divergent was, “But would a society really willingly split into these factions like this?” I doubted it. In Insurgent, we see Tris questioning whether humans can really isolate a single virtue. She asks the question in regards to herself, but also about non-Divergent members. Does an Erudite lose his inquisitiveness just because he transfers to Dauntless? (He certainly doesn’t lose his know-it-all-ness…) As she moves from one faction to the next, Tris puzzles this out, and I think it only helps to bolster the premise. These people might be divided into factions, but they’re more complex than that. And Roth does a great job of not only telling us about this through Tris’s musings, but by showing this to us in the really wonderful characters we meet.

The !!! moments
I hate spoilers, so let’s see if I can get across this final point without ruining anything for anyone. When Tris learns something about You Know Who, I was shocked. I hadn’t seen that coming, and I felt the sting right along with Tris. I think I still feel it now.

And the ending. Well, what can I say? It’s a cliffhanger, which I hate, but a really great one. Talk about the ultimate last-minute reveal. I’m curious to hear what you guys have to say about this ending, but as for me, I really liked it and can’t wait to find out where Roth takes this next.

What did you think? If you blogged a review about Insurgent, leave a link to your post by filling out the form below. If you don’t have a blog or haven’t reviewed the book, no worries. Join in the conversation in the comments here, and then hop around to everyone else’s blogs.

* You know, as much as I like Tris calling Four Tobias, I kind of like Four better.

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