Review: Insurgent

Goodreads synopsis: 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

“‘Like a wild animal, the truth is too powerful to remain caged.’ ~From the Candor faction manifesto.” Indeed truth is central to Veronica Roth’s Insurgent, follow up to last year’s Divergent. Tris spends a great deal of the novel struggling with guilt and on an endless search to uncover multiple truths–the truth of who she is, the truth of the Divergent, the truth of the faction system, the truth of people’s motivation. While the pacing is urgent, there is much time in this novel spent on introspection and character development.

The dystopian Chicago landscape Roth created has become increasingly sinister and decayed in the wake of the mayhem that ended the first novel. Gone is the sense of wonder and possibility that existed in (at least parts) of Divergent. Insurgent shows Tris, Four and the rest of the survivors facing the repercussions of their actions. There are no easy answers; the events of Insurgent rest solely in that grey area that occupies so much of our lives and so little of our fiction. This is a gritty novel full of difficult choices.

Four (aka Tobias) is forced to come to terms with his past and must put aside his hatred of Marcus for the sake of moving forward. He learns some shocking secrets about his family that will put an even greater strain on his relationship with Tris. For her part, Tris is broken. No longer fearless, she has become increasingly reckless and unable to follow through when necessary. She has built walls around herself to avoid facing the difficult truth of the choices she made in the past. Those ghosts haunt her through the majority of the story and her inability to trust creates a great deal of tension in the story.

Old characters gain more complexity and depth, new characters help to open reader’s eyes to how deep the secrets of this future world go. Characters you thought you knew will be cast in entirely new light and just when you think you’ve got everyone figured out, something will happen to throw you for a loop.

While the setting is key to the story’s progression, this is a character-driven novel. While there is certainly an abundance of action, the novel’s progression lies in the internal and external struggles of the characters. Readers will be introduced to the world of the factionless, who are themselves an interesting bunch, all with unique stories. We see a more complete picture of what life is like for the people in each faction as well as those who are unaffiliated and we hear murmurs of the world outside of Chicago. Tris learns more about her family, particularly her parents and what she learns will help bring a new understanding to the events of Divergent.

Thankfully, though this the second of a planned trilogy, it also tells its own story. However, if you’ve not read Divergent, you’d definitely be at a disadvantage. Roth writes the story beginning immediately after the events of the first book. Little time is wasted retelling background that would have been learned by reading book one. For this, I am thankful. Series books that waste chapters rehashing the previous tales scream of lazy writing for lazy readers. Also, Roth brings Insurgent to a full end, resolving the conflicts of this story before dropping a bombshell that will have readers clambering for book three.

If you enjoyed Divergent, you’ll love Insurgent. If you’ve not read either book–run to your local bookstore or library to fix this immediately. I found myself carving out time to sneak in chapters, so engrossed was I in the complexity of this tale, definitely put this series on your must read list.

Finally, since I started this review with a quote from the novel, I will end it with one as well. I’ve picked my favorite passage from the book, one I think sums up the heart of the novel nicely.

“People, I have discovered, are layers and layers of secrets. You believe you know them, that you understand them, but their motives are always hidden from you, buried in their own hearts. You will never know them, but sometimes you decide to trust them” (Roth 510).

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