Warning: This review contains some spoilers from the first book in the Divergent trilogy. To read my review of Divergent, click here.
Insurgent picks up where Divergent left off. Beatrice, who was recently inducted into the Dauntless faction at the top of her class, is on the run with Tobias and the survivors from the Abnegation massacre. They managed to stop the “simulation” mind control that the Erudite were using to control most of the Dauntless, but at great cost. Many of Beatrice’s family and friends are dead, and she has seen and done things that haunt her every thought.
If Divergent was all about finding your own path when the world wants you to fit in a particular slot, then Insurgent is about coming to terms with the choices you’ve made, and how to relate to paths chosen by others. Over the course of the book, Beatrice gets further exposure to the other factions in the city, and as a result the other aspects of her divergent personality. She struggles to find a way to reconcile the often extreme attitudes of the factions with the underlying truths about humanity and about herself.
She also has to confront conspiracies, betrayals, and her own guilt all as war begins. Beneath it all, the truth beckons, calling to her as she tries to decide who to trust. My one complaint in the first book was the suddenness of the 3rd act plot, which lacked enough of an explanation to give a convincing motivation for the actions that transpired. In Insurgent, we begin to expect that there is a secret behind the scenes, driving those with knowledge of it in an attempt to control it. At times it feels almost like the film, Serenity, which in this case is a compliment. We will have to wait for the final book of the trilogy to learn the importance of this secret and its impact on events, but the lack of answers thus far have in no way diminished my enthusiasm to read on.
Veronica Roth’s prose speeds along at a brique pace. She has a particular talent for making characters rich, with little moments like Beatrice wiping her hands on her pants giving us a visceral incite into her emotions. She has considerably more on her plate with this book, and she juggles the expanded plot and character roster well, even if at times things could be a little clearer. I found myself occasionally at a loss to understand what was going on, as Beatrice’s narration sometimes jumps scenes without giving us a sense of her intentions, but those moments never lasted for long.
Roth’s messages return again, about the danger of groupthink and the constant struggle against what some would call “human nature.” She does a good job expanding on the ideas in the first book about what it means to be Divergent, but also allows Beatrice to grow to understand how even those who willingly choose to fit themselves in a box rarely have simple reasons for doing so, and even more rarely are as one-dimensional as we think. It’s not hard to see the world she has created as an extension of our own, where those who are different are not only feared but hunted. It’s clear that Roth feels there’s a danger when any group’s point of view is never challenged but is instead perpetually reinforced. As Beatrice learns, it’s not enough to simply be different if you refuse to challenge the way things are.
Insurgent is longer than Divergent, and is considerably more dense. The characters all grow more layers and we really get to dive deep into Beatrice’s mind as she deals with the trauma of the events she experiences. Roth’s characters remain her strengths, and are what kept me engrossed throughout, even as the plot grew more complex. Insurgent is dark, much darker than Divergent, but has moments of brightness and triumph that keep it from being outright depressing. As the violence starts to spread, and everything that we know is challenged, the characters face choices that will define them and the world around them. And with the revelation of some secrets and the promise of more, my anticipation for the final book of the trilogy is high.