Finally, a sequel I’m satisfied with! It’s been tough to find a good follow-up, especially for a debut author, but Veronica Roth’s Insurgent, coming a year after the first book in this trilogy, made me ridiculously happy to read an un-put-down-able book (don’t judge my made-up words). I finished the book in a remarkably short period of time; a quick, easy read, it did not disappoint with the action and suspense.
Opening only hours after Divergent ends, Tris and Four, more frequently referred to as Tobias in this novel, escape the Dauntless headquarters in favor of finding refuge with Amity, the kind faction they are hoping will take them in and protect them from not only the Dauntless traitors but also the Erudite, the faction that created and ignited the rebellion. On top of navigating their crumbling world, Tris also had to cope with (SPOILERS) the death of her parents, her guilt over shooting one of her close friends, and the mounting tension in her relationship with Four. It’s tough being sixteen; it’s even tougher when you’re in the middle of a war, both inside yourself and within your community. When everything you know is torn from you, how do you cope?
I liked the realism in the portrayal of Tris’ psychological damage; she’s angry, guilty, sad, confused, and distraught. She can’t function in a lot of the ways in which she used to, such as getting used to holding a gun again. Not only does her inability to cope nearly get her killed several times but it also strains her relationship with Four, which I thought was more realistically portrayed in this novel. I’ve heard others’ complaints that the romance was much too prominent in Insurgent, but I thought it balanced nicely with the chaos outside of the pair. They fight – a lot – and not everything is sunshine and rainbows. It’s almost like – gasp – a real relationship. I don’t know why it’s so difficult for writers to portray a realistic romance, especially when it involves teenagers, but Roth’s writing is admirable.
The sequel truly is action-packed, even more so than the first novel, in which a majority of the action occurs in the last quarter of the book and prior to that is the world-building and “training” portion, which is tough to make interesting (I would know, my own second novel was a nightmare in this aspect). But there aren’t any dull moments here: the Amity throw them out after an altercation between Tris and Peter, a Dauntless traitor; Candor tortures them for information; the Dauntless faction is constantly under attack; the factionless are untrustworthy; and the Erudite want Tris dead. Not to mention Tris’ brother betrays her and she must undergo a series of anguishing tests as a lab rat for the leader of the Erudite, Jeanine Matthews, the main antagonist.
There’s also the minor subplot of Four’s relationship with his father Marcus, who is not only still alive but also withholds important information from everybody. In order for Tris to discover what he’s hidden, she must ally with Marcus, betraying Four in the process. I thought this portion dragged a bit, and there was some confusion with the timeline of the plot for the Dauntless-factionless allies to attack Erudite, but it still worked. Tris ultimately fails to discover what Marcus has been hiding because Dauntless leader Tori shoots Jeanine Matthews during what was a disappointingly short fight. The outcome? The factionless, a much larger group than any of the other factions, betray everyone and announce their new position as leaders in the city.
Unfortunately, there’s a snag in their plan – Four’s gotten the information, and while it isn’t anything that a mildly intuitive reader couldn’t have guessed, it sets up the third novel neatly and makes me curious to know how Roth is going to finish off this trilogy. Part of me wondered what it mattered how the factions were created and why each particular leader was placed in the city, but I’m still achingly curious to know what’s beyond the city’s borders and what, if anything, that could mean for the city. I’m definitely looking forward to Allegiant so I’ll probably get started on that soon, but in the meantime, I highly recommend both the first novel Divergent and its sequel.