Insurgent by Veronica Roth
Insurgent by Veronica Roth is the second in the Divergent trilogy. I have to admit that somewhere between pre-ordering it and it actually being released (in May), I became somewhat jaded about the worldbuilding in Divergent, the first book. That’s why I put off reading Insurgent for so long.
The background from Divergent is that humanity collectively decided it was sick of conflict and split itself up into factions based on which characteristic they thought was most to blame for conflict. Those blaming cowardice formed the Dauntless factions, those blaming selfishness joined Abnegation, those blaming war joined Amity, those blaming lies joined Candour, and those blaming ignorance joined Erudite. At sixteen, in this world, kids have to choose their lifelong faction: either the one they were born into or one for which they have a greater aptitude/affinity for. Those who have an aptitude for multiple factions are called Divergent (hence the title of the first book) and are generally feared and persecuted. The origin of the factions baffled me in book one, especially after the excitement of reading the action had worn off.
The main character, Tris, is Divergent. In Insurgent, she and her fellows are left running for their lives thanks to the events at the end of book 1. As far as dystopian YA goes, the conflict which signals the overthrowing of the society isn’t instigated by the main characters or their allies, but by the bad guys, breaking formula slightly. Of course Tris and friends do end up playing a key role or there wouldn’t be as much story.
Tris’s emotional journey in Insurgent involved a lot of turbulence. Her sense of self-preservation isn’t especially high and this becomes even more important in Insurgent. I think Roth does a good job showing that Tris has multiple aptitudes but her characterisation of the other characters, particularly the non-divergent ones, felt a bit simplistic. In showing how they had one and only one faction aptitude, there were some instances where they felt oversimplified: from the Erudite who only did “logical” things to the Dauntless who were literally incapable of thinking things through, even when prompted to.
MINOR SPOILERS IN THE NEXT PARAGRAPH
My biggest peeve — which shouldn’t come as a surprise to those of you who know me — was the vilification of intellectualism (by the main characters, not by the narrative overall, which is some salvation). Although there were some consequences for the gun-ho destruction of information and facilities (“no, I can’t fix that injury because you burnt down the hospital”), and part of Tris’s mission involved retrieving a particular piece of information before it was destroyed. However, I didn’t really feel that made up for it since the focus was on specific information not being censored, rather than general knowledge being useful. There’s enough general societal distrust of intelligence that books which fuel it even a little bit bother me. (As does the evil scientist trope, but for slightly different reasons.)
Anyway, Insurgent was full of action and kept me interested all the way through. I found Tris a bit annoying at times but that was mostly because I didn’t empathise with her lack of self-preservation. I have to admit I was disappointed with the big reveal at the end because, not only did I guess what it was early on, but my guessed back-story for it turned out to be more complicated than Roth’s. I had hoped it would strengthen the plausibility of the worldbuilding much more than it did. Roth’s writing is strong and much as I might not have agreed with them, I did find Tris’s emotions and choices plausible. I will definitely be reading the sequel, however I don’t think I’ll be pre-ordering this time.
4 / 5 stars