Saturday, May 5, 2012


Veronica Roth, you kept me waiting a might long time for the sequel to Divergent. I've spent months wondering what will happen to Tris and Tobias and Tori and Caleb and Peter. I've even wondered about Marcus, unlikeable though he is. How will Peter hurt Tris? How can Caleb protect her? What about her romance with Tobias? And will Marcus hurt Tobias again?

On the one hand, it was worth the wait.

Insurgent is chock full of action, from start to finish. Whatever you think you will accomplish once you start this book, forget it. All you will accomplish is reading it, and that's as it should be. Dismiss pesky distractions and focus on Tris.

Not that Tris will make it easy on you. She turns out to be positively loathsome in Insurgent. Part of this is due to the facts of Tris' life: she is a sixteen-year-old girl thrown into uncertainty and turbulence. Her parents are dead. She murdered a good friend of hers. Her faction is in a state of flux. Everything she knew to be true was an illusion. All she really has left - the raft to which she must cling - is her brother and her boyfriend.

Insurgent skips no time after Divergent; it picks up immediately after the latter's conclusion. Tris and Tobias join their fellow Dauntless refugees to try and defeat Erudite, the bad guys. Their first thought is to join with the factionless, but Marcus is one of those, and Tobias is reluctant. Obviously. The man beat him senseless.

With war looming, it is imperative that Tobias, Tris and their fellow ex-Dauntless and factionless discover a way to disarm Erudite, while laying claim to whatever it is that Erudite knows about life beyond the fence. We never really find out what's beyond the fence - I assume this comes with the final book in the trilogy (Emergent? Total guess on my part, but it makes sense as a title, no?). Other answers undoubtedly are to come as well. But I won't go into those, because I don't want to spoil anything.

So we waited and waited for Insurgent, and, like I said, it was worth it - for the most part. As much as I dove in and reveled in Tris' story, there were things that frustrated me.

Let's start with how many times I'm told that Tris has a hard time breathing. At first I thought the repetition was part of a drinking game no one told me about, but then I realized that Tris has trouble breathing, and it's as simple as that. Sometimes the blockage is due to the guilt she carries for Will's death, sometimes it's the guilt she carries for her parents' death, sometimes it's the guilt she carries because of all the lies she has to tell. And she sure tells some. When I'm not reading about all of her breath holding, I am fighting the urge to strangle a fictional character. She is downright awful in this book. Mean, terrible, hateful ... awful. I know why she lies and why she manipulates people (even Tobias!), and I appreciate that she does it in a very sixteen-year-old way. She wants to help - that's the Abnegation in her - and she's smart enough to know that to succeed, sacrifices must be made. But she causes as much trouble as she solves.

I know that she and Tobias need to have their ups and downs as a couple, because Tobias himself is a problem. He is secretive, and he manipulates as much as Tris does. At one point in the book, she accuses him of lying to her all along:
"I think that you are the liar! You tell me you love me, you trust me, you think I'm more perceptive than the average person. And the first second that belief in my perceptiveness, that trust, that love is put to the test, it all falls apart."

She has a point. Tobias gives great lip service to trust, but he actually trusts her with great inconsistency. A character emerges whom Tris sees through immediately, but Tobias is slower to come around. His blindness where this person is concerned is baffling, especially given the history between the two. Tobias is supposed to be world weary and a bit cynical, yet he turns out to be as naive as the rest of them.

And then there is the character who betrays Tris. This in itself is not a bad thing; in fact, I think most readers could predict that it would happen. Is it wrong, though, that I'm dreading this person's regret and remorse in the next book? Please, Veronica Roth, do not go there. If the reasons for the character's betrayal are what you convey in Insurgent, please do not capitulate and let this turn out to be a good and decent person. Trust me when I say that it's perfectly okay if that never happens.

But back to the good stuff.

As much as Tris was hateful, she does get more emotional in this book. She is less automatic and, well, dauntless. She is a teenaged girl discovering self-awareness, and what she discovers in herself is not pretty.
I read somewhere, once, that crying defies scientific explanation. Tears are only meant to lubricate the eyes. There is no real reason for tear glands to overproduce tears at the behest of emotion.
I think we cry to release the animal parts of us  without losing our humanity. Because inside me is a beast that snarls, and growls, and strains toward freedom, toward Tobias, and, above all, toward life. And as hard as I try, I cannot kill it.
So I sob into my hands instead. 

She is discovering that all actions cause a reaction; everything we do has a consequence, and sometimes the consequence is worse than what we fought against in the first place.

Insurgent is not perfect. It mirrors its heroine in that it is occasionally frustrating, sometimes takes the easy way out, and can make you want to hurl it across the room. But it is also gripping, with an emotionally layered story that, for all of its dystopian fantasy, rings true.

Yes, Veronica Roth, I want to sit next to you and force you to write the third one (again, I vote for Emergent as your title - just sayin'), because I do not want to wait a year. But I will, because I know you will make it worth it.

Published by Katherine Tegen Books and available on
I bought my own damn copy, and you should, too.

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