Amber's Reviews > Insurgent

Insurgent by Veronica Roth
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's review
Jan 02, 2015

really liked it
bookshelves: read-childrens-and-teen
Read from July 19 to 21, 2012

I think it would take me a long time to describe how much I loved this book and why, because there are so many reasons - but suffice to say, this is the second book in the series and even better than the first, which never happens with these teen books so I can only expect it will get better.

Roth's writing style is spare, bigger on dialogue than description, and tooled for a teen audience, but swift paced and handily does the job. But the thing that makes these books so great is more the complex character and world building, the perfect continuity. There are no plot holes or inconsistencies. Roth takes great care to explain everything without bogging us down in overwhelming detail; small things from the first book resurface and are expanded, become interesting twists -- and yet don't feel artificial or deliberate (in that, ahem, "time turner" kind of way). She gives you the continuous sense that you are inhabiting a living, breathing world.

There is a strong emphasis on character complexity. Yes, there are a few simple baddies (like Eric), but the majority of characters ebb and flow, often making morally ambiguous decisions and ultimately very difficult to peg as either "good" or "evil". Marcus, Peter, Caleb, Al (from the first book), Cara -- there are a lot of characters here who are nasty, but noble... or initially kind but cowardly and brutal when circumstances bend a certain way.

That said, everyone's choices are understandable and clear, and you get the feeling that complexity might actually be the point of this series: we start with a society where everyone's personality is pre-defined. It feels safe, but we witness the problems and destruction this kind of single-mindedness can cause. And it is the Divergent, those who embody a myriad of traits and abilities and who are multi-faceted and complex, who are ultimately the best adapted to handle conflict and change. But even the non-Divergent are, underneath it all, also divergent in their own way. This, I think, is part of the point. The system is imposed, not naturally human. And in the end we can only assume that the (view spoiler)

I also like that there is a very kickass female heroine who overcomes physical limitations (ie. she's small and rather wispy) to throttle some serious butt. She stands up for herself, but she isn't just tough - she's smart, and she's constantly questioning the ethics of what is happening. When is violence OK? How can you be selfless AND strong in adversity? How can you be smart and also humble? How can you be kind and also just in the face of cruelty? These are serious questions, especially for teens, and they're explored well.

Finally, there is no love triangle. Tobias loves and doesn't envy Tris's strength - he doesn't treat her like she is helpless, he encourages her to grow. Desire is addressed and explored, but sex is seen as less important than respect. It's the sort of relationship I think all teen girls wouldn't do wrong to aspire to. AND (most important of all), the love story is not the central theme of the book. At one point Tris even puts nobility and duty above her romantic relationship, and her relationship to her parents, her community, her self get equal billing to her relationship with Tobias.

Plus, I couldn't put it down. It's addictive and exciting and the fighting scenes are streets ahead of Hunger Games (although just as violent, so if you're not into that beware). My only criticism of the first book was that most of the conflict in the beginning was manufactured/school-enviro conflict, but this one is all grown up stuff. Probably my favourite teen book of the past five years or so. A rare but well deserved 5 stars.

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07/21/2012 page 252
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