This book gets: ♥♥♥♥ out of 5
Insurgent, by Veronica Roth – The latest installment in Roth’s wildly popular Divergent series lives up to its “sequel” title with vigor: it starts exactly where Divergent left off, with the faction of Erudite having effectively declared war, and only a few of the Dauntless to stand in their way.
But Jeanine’s attack on the Dauntless compound may have more levels of complexity than either Tris or Tobias ever expected. The faction leaders of Abnegation and Amity are hiding important information, and Tris’s pursuit of the truth may cost her everything.
Insurgent is a tale of details and mysteries, and unfolds more like an adult action-thriller than a dystopian YA. It treads steadily in the footsteps of Catching Fire and Mockingjay (the second and third books in the Hunger Games trilogy), where a sharp-minded teenage girl puts together the pieces of the puzzle long before any of the adults get around to it, and as a result, she subverts them at every turn.
Insurgent may as well be called “Divergent, act II.” It has no real beginning, but leads into a definite climax that we will undoubtedly see play out in the third volume. Much of the book feels like a middle, except that by now, I’ve forgotten what happened in the beginning, because I read it last Fall. The first few chapters of Insurgent move at a painstakingly slow pace as Roth transitions from the conflict of the first novel into the larger, more complex plot line of the second. It isn’t until about halfway through the book that I really feel Insurgent “takes off” and establishes an identity of its own, separate from its precursor.
While Roth convinced us to love Tris in the first volume, in Insurgent she becomes a little harder to empathize with. At first the shift is jarring, in that you find yourself repeating, “Don’t do it, Tris!” Soon I came to realize that this is intentional, and serves a greater purpose; on top of that, it’s exciting to live inside the mind of a character locked into a careening, downward spiral. We get to know Tris in a way we never did before, and though I found some of her selfless acts a little too Abnegation to be realistic, I couldn’t help but like her more.
One thing I adore about Roth’s writing style is that she rarely pauses for blabber, and Insurgent continues that trend. The land is locked in bitter war and the blood flows freely. As before in Divergent, Roth doesn’t gloss over it. Tris is haunted by each death she witnesses, especially by those for which she feels responsible, and the weight of it contributes to her personal growth (or descent into madness, depending on your viewpoint).
Even better, the romance between Tris and Tobias explodes once Roth finds her stride in the second act of Insurgent (I found it fairly pale and formulaic prior to that moment of realization). Though there is some forced soap opera-like back-and-forth, I think Roth achieves what she set out to do with resounding success. I just wish it hadn’t taken so long to get to the good stuff.