Author: Veronica Roth
Genre: YA,dystopian, science fiction
I really liked Divergent. I thought it was one of the better YA dystopian novels because of the great characters, intriguing technology and social structure, and the way the author wasn't afraid to let bad things happen. I was tired of terrible things almost happening and then getting averted just in the nick of time, and I was so glad that Roth wasn't afraid to take those risks. I can't say the same about Insurgent.
It's been a while since I read Divergent, so I don't remember all the little details. This was a slight problem because Insurgent jumps right where Divergent left off. I was left in the dark about who all these minor characters were and what exactly had happened at the end of the first book. There could have been a bit more explanation to ease into the second book, but I don't think it is too much of a problem.
Insurgent deals with some interesting issues, but none of them are developed as much as they could be. It's all about the factions turning against one another and/or allying together, but we never really get to know the other factions (the factions besides Dauntless, I mean). The Erudite are all evil masterminds that mindlessly follow their evil mastermind leader Jeanine. The Candor are the brutally honest and naive ones. The Amity are peace-loving to a fault. The Abnegation are, well, so selfless that "find it very hard to survive" in life and death situations. Basically, anyone who isn't Dauntless is automatically a part of a stereotype, and we very rarely get to see the people of other factions as individuals or complex characters. Jeanine especially could have been so much more than "evil mastermind that is obviously out to destroy the world for selfish reasons." We get the slightest hint that she has good intentions, but there is never enough consideration or opportunity to really believe that. Jeanine could have been such a complex and interesting "villain" for lack of a better word because she means well. Instead, she's just evil and you hardly get any time to get in her head or understand why she does what she does. Sure her methods aren't exactly ethical -[Show spoiler][Hide]
running simulations that turn people into mindless zombies and ordering the extermination of the Divergent - but maybe she really was concerned about the greater good.
The independent, strong-willed characters that I liked in Divergent were reduced to unlikeable wimps by the end of this book. Tris especially...I feel a rant coming on. Spoilers ahead!
Tris is Divergent. Isn't that enough to make her special enough to be the main character? Of course not. She has to be the Divergent with three aptitudes instead of the usual two. And that isn't enough either. Jeanine has to want her in particular because she's the Divergent with the largest prefrontal cortex she's ever seen. And that's still not enough. Tris has to be descended from the woman on the video about the mysterious outside (gasps!), thus acting as proof of the video's validity and making her that much more valuable. Come on.
Now, this wouldn't bother me so much if Tris was extraordinarily brave or selfless or intelligent or loving or anything really that merited so much importance, but if I ever thought of her that way in Divergent, I sure as hell didn't think so after this book. She spends the majority of it lying to people who care about her and moping. The first half of the book centers around her feeling oh so guilty about killing Will. It's explained a thousand times - Will was under a simulation, so she couldn't reason with him. Common sense would dictate that you shoot him in the leg instead of the head, but it was a panic situation, not a logical one. Of course Tris didn't mean to kill her best friend. And half of those very reasonable explanations come from THE DEAD GUY'S SISTER. At the beginning, I was sympathetic because I could imagine that killing a friend in cold blood has to be scarring. But Roth tried way too hard to justify it and by the end I was just annoyed. Christina had every right to never forgive Tris, and Tris should have told her friend the truth or made an attempt to be forgiven, but instead she does nothing and Christina magically forgives her. Because Tris is so special and no one could possibly hate her, right?
Well, Tris gave me plenty to dislike. She walks into the Amity and demands to see the Erudite refugees. When asked why, she says she's going to shoot them. In the middle of a revolution, where people don't know when the next attack is coming and innocent people are dying, it's probably not the best time to joke about shooting people. And Tris is supposedly part-Erudite...goodness. Once she enlists the help of Cara and the other Erudite refugees, she makes a comment about "trying to forget what [Cara] said about her nose." Really? So Tris doesn't just hold grudges - she's vain and selfish too. Abnegation, where did you go? Now that we've knocked down two of Tris' supposed aptitudes, it's time for the third. Once she gives herself up to Jeanine, she dissolves into a sobbing mess at the sight of Tobias. She needs Tobias and Peter to save her (so helpless, unlike the Tris of Divergent), and instead of thanking Peter for going to so much trouble to save her life, she yells at him for not doing it out of the goodness of his heart. Well, Tris, if you'd rather be dead, that's fine by me. Personally, I'm glad Peter didn't magically turn good. He did what he needed to to "even the score" and then he went about his usual ways. It always drives me insane when bad people magically turn good, so I could appreciate Peter's motivations. Back to Tris. Her constant self-deprecation for "choosing" Marcus over Tobias was ridiculous, especially when that wasn't even important. Tris made the choice because that was what she believed was in the best interest of everyone. She was honoring the deaths of her parents. And that means nothing to her just because it means Tobias will be pissed? She's practically cowering from Tobias. Not Dauntless at all.
Ok, I think I'm done ranting about Tris. But I am definitely not done ranting. Tobias was a mysterious, firm but gentle, caring guy in Divergent. Now he's a jerk. He's constantly picking fights with Tris for no good reason ("you can't hold a gun and you call yourself Dauntless. Get over shooting Will right now. Don't say anything bad about my mother even if she's clearly up to something shady. Say "I love you" twice because I don't believe anything you say anymore"). He has double standards about when it's okay for him to keep secrets and when Tris can do the same, and is generally ridiculously insensitive. And then he'll turn around and say something along the lines of "I love you and I don't want to lose you, so that's why I'm so mean. See? I love you very much." Ummmm...no.
And finally, Caleb. Caleb was my favorite character. He stood up for Tris when Tobias was a jerk, he was a caring brother, his natural curiosity was adorable, and he was just such a nice guy. And then he had to betray his sister and everything his parents stood for by following Jeanine like a puppy-dog just for some shock value. Not okay. And what Tris says to him about how he should have "tried and failed" to save her from Jeanine was pretty ironic, since she was more than happy to oblige when Marcus told her to leave a wounded Christina and others behind so that they could get to the hard drive. She didn't try to save many people. In fact, she mostly let other people save her. (ok, so I wasn't done ranting about Tris. But I promise I'm done now!)
I think this is one of the longest reviews I've ever written. I didn't realize how strongly I felt about this book until I started ranting. It's mostly disappointment that such a good series dissolved into...well, this. I'm hoping the next book brings back the old Tris. We shall see!