“Cruelty does not make a person dishonest, the same way bravery does not make a person kind.”
The second book in Veronica Roth‘s young adult dystopian Divergent series, Insurgent picks up as Tris and Four, now fugitives, are on the run, hunted by the leader of the power-hungry Erudite elite, Jeanine. In a search for allies and answers in the ruins of a futuristic Chicago and racing against time, the fearless duo must find out what Tris’ family sacrificed their lives to protect, and why the Erudite leaders will do anything to stop them. Haunted by her past choices Tris faces one impossible challenge after another as they unlock the truth about the past and ultimately the future of their world.
The following post is a review of the book only. You can read my review of the film adaptation in comparison to the book here.
Insurgent picks up as Tris, Four, Caleb, Peter, and Marcus search for a place to keep safe, finding themselves welcomed into Amity, where several surviving Abnegation have settled. But rest and a hiding place from Jeanine doesn’t last long, as Tris must continue her fight against the powerful alliance which threatens to tear her society apart.
Divergent did well to set the story up, especially with the huge competition that the franchise and their adaptations have had. But it excelled on most levels: it had great characters, a well-crafted future world, a bit of romance, a lot of intrigue, and even more action. Yet Insurgent falls flat on most of these levels.
Throughout the story, we only want the answer to one question: what is the information that Jeanine is trying to hide? But it’s not until the very end that we find out, and until then there’s a lot of build up to, well, nothing. There are a lot more shooting and fighting scenes in this instalment, and more focus on the fear simulations that give the story its dark edge, so you would think that Insurgent would be a gripping read. But what stands out more than these impacting scenes is the amount of times that Tris cries, and her constant worry about Four.
The romance worked really well in Divergent because Four wasn’t a particularly likeable character, which made Tris’ romance with him subtle yet honest. The first book also worked because of how strong Tris’ character was, especially as she realised that she could control her fears. But fear takes over in Insurgent, and both of these qualities come crumbling down. Tris may be a 16-year-old girl who knows nothing but the care of her loving family up until her move to Dauntless, but this is a fantasy book about strength, control, and standing up for what’s right. Insurgent really needed to see Tris step up and deal with her situation full on but, instead, it all gets too much for her and we have to see her constant meltdowns instead of her huge acts of courage.
There is a big reveal at the end of the book, which everything has built up towards but, by this point, it’s easy to have either stopped caring or to have guessed it for yourself. For me, it was both.
From the start of Divergent we’ve been craving to know why the society is the way it is and what’s beyond the walls, but if you’ve read any kind of dystopian story lately, especially among the busy young adult crowd, then it’s all pretty obvious. Unfortunately, this leaves the book falling at a dead-end. Sure, Allegiance is going to be filled with more revelations, shocks and, ultimately, some kind of revolution but at this point, it’s hard to feel excited about it.
Insurgent was adapted onto the big screen in 2015, which you can read my Book vs. Film Review for here, and watch the trailer for below: