Insurgent by Veronica Roth (Katherine Tegen Books; 544 pages; $17.99).
I flew through Veronica Roth’s Divergent, marveling at how a college student could beautifully imagine and then, more difficult, skillfully render a unique dystopian world. Roth, I was certain, would pick up Suzanne Collins’s torch and run with it.
Set in a future Chicago, Divergent introduced us to Beatrice “Tris” Prior, Roth’s heroine. Factions mean more than family; in fact, your faction is your family. Tris was born into Abnegation. But at age sixteen, though, young adults may choose which their own faction. Typically, one stays with the group she was born into. So when Tris switches to Dauntless, some call her a traitor.
Tris is unique. She has an aptitude for not one, not even two, but three factions. For that reason, she is called “divergent,” hence the title of the first book in Roth’s Divergent trilogy.
Roth employs a technique that most YA authors of dystopian lit do not do: Tris alone tells the story. There is no hero as her co-narrator. Tris is it.
Sparks fly between Tris and a Dauntless leader named Four (No, that is not his real name.) When the two get together near the end of Divergent, I pumped my fist in the air with a cry of “Yes!” I think Divergent is so strong, so readable and compelling that Roth does not need any other narrator besides Tris. Tris is the star and she carries the tale on her slim but capable shoulders.
The same cannot be said for the second book, Insurgent.
Roth begins Insurgent just where Divergent left off–on a train. Her pace, from page one, is hurried, too hurried for my taste. The characters have no time to reflect on anything that has happened. Tris and others make decisions rashly. Then again, perhaps that is Roth’s point. Most of the characters in this story are young adults.
I strongly urge you to re-read Divergent before reading Insurgent. There is no prologue to catch you up.
Insurgent is darker than the first book. The situation is dire. Roth creates many conflicts in her story: faction versus faction; fighting within a faction; Tris versus Four; Tris versus herself; fighting within a family; leader versus leader. Those are all pluses.
The real problem is Tris herself. Tris can no longer carry this story alone. Dare I say it? The story needs another perspective, preferably from the point of view of Four.
For most of the book, Tris is fearful, broken, and unsure of herself, quite unlike the Tris from Divergent. That Tris was fierce, brave, self-confident, and mighty. In Insurgent, Tris cannot even fire a gun. She battles inner demons. While this inner conflict should add to the story, I feel it does not. I miss the old Tris. I do understand what Roth is doing with Tris, though.
In this book, Tris is on the outskirts of her faction. Her peripheral role allows her to see things in a different light. This is how she becomes an insurgent. Yet, for me, it is too little, too late, when Tris wakes from her stupor and emerges as a real threat to her enemies.
Roth does accomplish some things, and she does them well. She introduces us to Four’s mother and puts her in a very intriguing position, making for an interesting family dynamic. Roth reminds us that not everything is as it seems in this story. Not everyone is who he seems either. Her twists and turns are astoundingly clever.
The author drops a bombshell at the end of Insurgent, setting up the next book nicely. Yet, I fear she has set up far more questions than she will be able to answer (Think of Lost). It will be a tall order.