There are few times when the second book in a series or trilogy will surpass the book that started it all. I mean in that first book lies the discovery – a whole new world to immerse yourself in. By the second book, things are not shiny and new anymore and as intriguing as they may be, nothing is like that first time… Well “Insurgent” will just have to be one of the exceptions.
One choice can transform you… or it can destroy you. No matter what… every choice has consequences. While unrest surges through the five factions, Tris Prior must continue trying to save the people she loves – and herself – while grappling with haunting questions of grief, forgiveness, identity, loyalty, politics and love. Tris’s initiation day should have been one of celebration, but all that is remembered are the unspeakable horrors and death the day ended with. Conflict between the factions and their ideologies grow and war seems inevitable, casting a shadow on everyone. In times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge and choices will become even more powerful – and irrevocable. Transformed by her decisions, but also by the burdens of grief and guilt, radical new discoveries and ever-shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence… even if she does not know what she will lose by doing so.
The city is a much different place than it was in the beginning of this trilogy. One of the factions enslaved another’s minds, forcing them to almost entirely wipe out a third faction. The two factions that were uninvolved must make choices as they find that if they don’t, choices will be made for them. And then there is the Factionless who were all but forgotten… until now. This is book was intense because you never know who someone is, even when you were sure that you already did. Enemies become secret allies, loved ones become traitors, comrades… spies, suspected spies… innocent or true to the faction they defected from. Secrets tear apart the fabric of relationships and reality itself as Roth continues to explore human nature in this second installment of her “Divergent” trilogy. The first book touched on human nature, what it could be and what it could turn into… but this book shows what could happen when people are pushed to the breaking point. In times of war and the world falling apart, life and death becomes every day and every decision becomes life and death. What does that do to a person? What kind of person will you turn out to be, when you are pushed to make your choice?
One thing I said I wished “Divergent” included was more about what it means to be Divergent – what it is, etc. Totally taking that back now. While I didn’t count it against the first book (it was still 5 out of 5 after all) and it didn’t make me like it any less, now I understand why Roth held out. Maybe it was too much to cover, but more likely it just wasn’t time, and I am not always the most patient person… but no worries because in this book that time has arrived. The reader is not only thrust into the chaos of a new world, or at least one in frenzied transition, but into all things Divergent. What does it mean to be Divergent? Scientifically? Socially? Why is it something some fear? Why do the divergent hold the key? What is their endgame? As much as “Divergent” introduced us to a new world/society this book does so again, tackling Divergence, the society as it was in the first book and before, what both sides of the war want to shape it into being, and what it could be because of a secret that is going to change everything…
In my “Divergent” post I said Tris sounded younger than she was… well now she sounds older. I love how Roth shapes Tris and her voice so that the reader can feel the weight or Tris’s experiences and feel her growth, rather than just seeing it. In the first book Tris can be boxed into several potential labels: underdog, reckless, selfish, hero – but in this book only one comes to mind: martyr. By joining Dauntless (the brave) she realizes she has become more selfless than she has ever been (her original faction Abnegation). She grows as a person and at times I wanted to throttle her for her acts of martyrdom that were not about being selfless and more about being misguided about how it should end… how she should end. But being forced to kill one of your best friends while they are under simulation, because they are trying to kill you and then losing your parents who sacrificed their lives for you… it is bound to mess you up just a bit. And I applaud Roth for not dismissing any of that. While chaos is all around Tris, the chaos inside herself is at times, much louder and much more dangerous. Yet Roth keeps it true to Tris’s character and true to the events in the story (not always the easiest balance to strike).
One thing I must say is that this is a war story. I don’t say this as a warning, because you still should totally read this book if you haven’t already, but want to prepare you because Roth is true to real life in terms of what war means. People die. A lot of people die. A lot of characters you care about could possibly die – really. I know that I had to put the book down when I was about halfway through it and not pick it up until the next day after one of my favorite characters died. It was senseless – this person was innocent, caught in the crossfire of what was going on around them (trying not to reveal the gender). Before the book was over, characters I had cared about since the first book, characters I had hated from the first book and characters I had come to love or hate, but were not introduced until this book were also gone before they should have been. War sucks.
Of course the ending is tremendous. While the first installment left me wanting more, this is a flat-out cliffhanger and ends with a new beginning and a descent into chaos. Unknown truths are revealed including Erudite’s real motivations that led them to control the other factions and slaughter Abnegation. Some things are worth dying for, and both factions believed this one thing to be true… even if they were on different sides of it. And that thing, that secret… when it is revealed it doesn’t just tip the world on its side… it shatters it.
This book blew me away. In fact that is an understatement. I know I am late on the bandwagon and so many people I know have already read the entire trilogy, but if you’re holding out because you believe that anything that popular must be overrated or for any other reason, forget your reasons and seriously check these books out!