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Once Upon A Bookshelf

Where Fiction and Reality Meet


Author: Veronica Roth
Originally Published: 2012
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
Source: Purchased

The Story


One choice can transform you-or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves-and herself-while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris’s initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable-and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

New York Times bestselling author Veronica Roth’s much-anticipated second book of the dystopian Divergent series is another intoxicating thrill ride of a story, rich with hallmark twists, heartbreaks, romance, and powerful insights about human nature.

The Response

This is the second book in Roth’s Divergent trilogy, and there have been a lot of mixed feelings about this installment. I read this book a lot more objectively and purposely than I normally would another book. I typically read fiction solely for my own pleasure, but this time I wanted to see why there were so many people who loved it and so many who really didn’t like it at all. What I discovered is that while there were some huge flaws with pacing and secondary characters in this book, and while it very much suffers from “second book in a trilogy” syndrome, it was still a great book and was in some ways superior to Divergent.

When I talked with people about this, one of the main issues they seemed to have was that Tris was so different in this book than she was in the first. In Divergent, she was kick-ass. In this, she seemed a lot meeker, afraid of guns, heartbroken and weary of life. What I found was that it would have been unrealistic, considering everything she went through in the last bit of Divergent, for her to have been any other way. The things she saw and did – and I’m talking about 3 things in particular – would have scarred a lot of us for a lot longer. She needed a grieving period, and in all honesty recovered from it a lot faster than I would have anticipated.

As well, there’s the fact that in the first book, Tris is immersing herself into the Dauntless faction, and we see her Dauntless side coming out in her personality. Her Abnegation and Erudite parts take the back seat because she is trying so hard to hide the fact that she is Divergent… so it’s only natural that, when in situations where acting more Abnegation or Erudite would better serve her purpose, that’s the side of her personality that comes out. I actually really liked that we got to see these other sides of her – if we hadn’t, how would she have been any different than any other member of the Dauntless faction?

So while this book gave a lot of opportunity for the development of Tris, it greatly lacked in exploring and developing any secondary characters – even those we met in the previous book. I can understand why we saw a lot less of most of the secondary characters, but Four was with her for almost the full book, and it seems like we knew him less in this book than in the first. I found this extremely frustrating, as I personally fell in love with him in the first book and wanted so much more of him! (That said, there still were some utterly DELICIOUS parts with him, so all is not lost!)

The pacing in Insurgent was also a little frustrating – it started out so slow, while Roth was doing some essential world-building, and didn’t really pick up the pace until about halfway through. This certainly made it difficult to really get into the story, when the first book started off running. It doesn’t mean it wasn’t good – the writing was still enjoyable and the world building was essential to get the big picture, but it was just not what I expected from this book.

On the topic of the world building – I think that this is what Insurgent did best. In the first book, we got to see both the Dauntless and Abnegation factions. We started to get an idea of how the factions interact with each other, just from how other Dauntless initiates relate to each other… but in this one, you see Amity, Erudite, Candor AND the factionless for long enough that you start to get who they really are and the role they play in this society. It makes the story much more complex and reveals so many layers that we didn’t get to experience in the first book. It raises the stakes, because it makes you relate to each of the factions, and makes you see that they are real people.

I don’t know if I would have liked or disliked this book more if I wasn’t looking at it quite as objectively as I did, but again I have to say that it was still a great book. Like any other second book in a trilogy, it does sometimes feel a little bit like Roth is using it to get us from the first book to the third more than using it to tell a vital part of the story itself, and Insurgent wouldn’t be able to stand alone as it’s own story. But what Roth did with this book was still very important to the story that’s being told.

I have a feeling I know where Roth is going with this – especially when it comes to how much she’s put emphasis on Tris’s still extremely present Abnegation nature – her selflessness and her habit of pushing herself aside to protect those she cares about… and I have a feeling that the next book may be a bit of a tear jerker, which I’m really not looking forward to… But I’m still excited to pick it up and continue on with Tris’s journey.

The Bottom Line

I’m going to take a couple weeks break before moving on to the last book in the trilogy, just because I still really want to soak this one up. If what you’ve heard about this book has convinced you not to read the trilogy, I hope you can reconsider, because it really was a good book.

Posted by Courtney Wilson @ 8:14 am April 1, 2014.
Category: Young Adult
Book Author(s):

  • Kelly Rogers

    I do have the first book in this trilogy, but I don’t know if I will read it or not!

  • Bibliomama

    I think you meant to say “selflessness” rather than “selfishness” in the penultimate paragraph?

    This is a very thoughtful and perceptive review. I remember not liking Insurgent nearly as much as Divergent, but it was over a year ago now, so I can’t argue effectively, even if I felt like it. I don’t know if I’ll read it again (I might, since my daughter now has all three books, and I never bothered to read the third, which is extremely rare for me, so I’ll likely reread the first and second if I decide to, but I’ll keep this review in mind if I do.

  • Courtney Wilson

    DO IT. The first one is REALLY good.

  • Courtney Wilson

    I totally proofread this and still missed that. :P Thanks for pointing that out, fixed it!

    Let me know if you reread it, I’d love to know your thoughts!