Review: Insurgent by Veronica Roth

So we all know of the hype that surrounded Divergent (review here) this year and last – I’ve seen very, very few negative reviews. Insurgent, the newly released sequel, has received even more attention – it’s been everywhere around the blogosphere for the last few weeks. That said, I wandered into Sheffield on May 1st, the release date… and nothing. WH Smiths had one copy, tucked away on the Teen shelf and Waterstones had three copies on a table with fifteen other titles towards the back of a store. Isn’t it strange how the popular books in our community don’t always translate to real life?
‘I have done bad things. I can’t take them back, and they are part of who I am.’
Tris
has survived a brutal attack on her former home and family. But she has
paid a terrible price. Wracked by grief and guilt, she becomes ever
more reckless as she struggles to accept her new future. Yet
if Tris wants to uncover the truth about her world, she must be
stronger than ever… because more shocking choices and sacrifices lie
ahead.
I can’t see why the Divergent series isn’t as amazingly popular in stores as it is online though – it’s brilliant, mature fantasy for those looking for something a little different. The first book was easily one of the best books I read in 2011 and Insurgent may just reach the same distinction for 2012. I wouldn’t say it’s as good as Divergent, but I imagine the second book of a trilogy is always the hardest to write.
Insurgent started out a little confusing for me – I hadn’t read Divergent since September last year (read my review here) and the sequel jumps straight into the plot without really explaining or reminding you of a great deal. That said, apparently Veronica Roth purposely chose to do this and posted an explanation and a small reminder of what happened in the first book on her blog.
‘I made
an “artistic decision” in Insurgent not to do a lot of recapping (that
device used in sequels to remind readers of what happened in the first
book). Recapping is not a bad thing– it is very useful, and often
necessary–but I felt that it would bog down Tris’s narrative and would
sound unnatural in her voice.’
I can see her point, it would have sounded unnatural. However, I didn’t know about the recap guide at the time and nor will a lot of the non-bloggers who pick up Insurgent from a bookstore. It’s a great idea to post such a guide, but it didn’t help me. Result – I spent the first quarter of the book more than a little confused and it did detract from my enjoyment a little.
Part of the appeal of this series, for me at least, is the complexity. It’s not some simple little YA story that holds your hand and uses literative sock puppets to explain the plot. It’s quite a political story and keeping straight the different factions and their relationships in your head isn’t difficult, but it does take a little getting used to.
What impressed me the most about Insurgent is that it’s the second book in a series that does not lose the feel of the first one. Middle books are difficult because they have to somehow keep a balance between the slow introduction of the first book and the climatic build-up of the third, and they often end up completely losing what made the first book so special. It happens all the time – dystopian society books sometimes distance themselves from the very society that was the point of the first. Not here though. It’s absolutely wonderful – the city and the factions have changed since Divergent, but not unrecognisably. It’s obviously still the same place, the same people and the same tone. Argh. This is what made this book for me.
‘Sometimes I feel like I am collecting the lessons each faction has to teach me, and storing them in my mind like a guidebook for moving through the world. There is always something to learn, always something that is important to understand.’
You know what else? I actually liked the romance aspects, and I hardly ever do that. Tris and Four’s relationship is wonderfully realistic – they love each other, but they don’t always like each other, just like in the real world. They argue, but without feeling the need to make the reader drown in their angst. Four gets angry at Tris when she doesn’t take care of herself properly – an argument I have honest-to-God had with my own boyfriend. Their romance doesn’t take over the story, but it’s a nice sub-plot that fits well. And trust me, I never say this.

 

Speaking of Tris… she’s not amazing in this book. While not unbearable, she’s a little more annoying than I remember her being in Divergent. She’s definitely a strong female role model, but she tends to make stupid decisions that she promised not to make because somebody already told her exactly how stupid it really is.

A large part of the book revolves around some big secret that certain faction leaders know but won’t share. Tris doesn’t know what this is and KNOWS she doesn’t know what this is, yet still makes a drastic decision about that secret without knowing anything about it. She seems to have lost the ability to actually think decisions through instead of making snap judgements based on her grief.

Actually, the grand revelation of that secret is what would have prevented me from giving this book five stars. You know, if I actually did ratings. It just wasn’t… well, grand enough. I was expecting something a little more unique and shocking, and it fell a little flat. For me it didn’t seem to fit with the tone of the book and didn’t really deserve the way in which it was so fiercely protected by the faction leaders.

It was unfortunate that Insurgent ended on kind of a low point for me, because I really did love the rest of the book. It’s fast-paced, continues the story brilliantly from Divergent and I can’t wait for the next book. Like I said, I’m more than a little impressed how it managed to keep exactly the same tone and atmosphere from the previous. If only more YA novels could follow the precedent set by Veronica Roth!  

Read my review of Divergent or visit Veronica Roth’s website here. 

Comments

  1. Great review Hanna. I'm really looking forward to getting my hand on this when my fellow BBLB blogger Lesley has finished with it.
    I agree with what you wrote about the problem of second books.
    Although I haven't read book two, I can't wait for book three!
    caz

  2. Ellie says:

    I'm not reading the review because *shock* I STILL haven't read 'Divergent' – but I totally agree with the blogosphere-bubble thing. When 'Mockingjay' came out our local bookstore was an epic FAIL. In fact, I think it only had one copy of 'Catching Fire' in stock, that was it for Suzanne Collins. And sometimes there has been a huge amount of hype over a particular book across the interwebs, then when I hit Waterstones – nothing. Not even one copy. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, but you can't help but feel that when the blogosphere has been ALIVE with a particular title for WEEKS, the Booksellers Who Doth Provide should probably know about it! Ditto TV Book Club choices at the library – dudes, there's no point ordering twelve copies of each title after the series finishes, where were you three months ago?!

    1. Hanna says:

      EXACTLY. But then again, if 'regular people' don't stalk books online like we do, why would they want that book in the first place if they know nothing about it? I just don't get how publishers can promote a book so heavily online but not in stores. I get that this way is probably cheaper, but even so.

  3. Jo says:

    Oh wow, this is the first review I have read that doesn't say Insurgent is better than Divergent, how wonderful Tris is, and OMG THE ENDING! Including my own, I have to say. I absolutely adored Insurgent! But I guess we can't all fall ing love with every book. Glad you enjoyed it even if you didn't love it! 🙂

    1. Hanna says:

      I did enjoy it, and I NEARLY loved it 😀 It's just that ending! I know a lot of people loved it but it fell flat for me.

  4. ♥Iffath says:

    It's a shame that you didn't love Insurgent as much as you did Divergent, but I'm glad you still liked parts! Thanks for the *honest* review 😀

  5. Alexa says:

    I'm glad that this middle book kept the feel good and didn't let you down. Many people are saying while it wasn't as good as Divergent that it was still a favorite of theirs. I have yet to read Divergent but now I'm happy about that because I can read them together without struggling to remember what happened between books since there is no recap.

    Thanks for the awesome review, so glad you enjoyed this one. 🙂

  6. Sarah says:

    Great review Hanna, I loved Insurgent even more than Divergent but I can see where you're coming from. I'm glad you still enjoyed the book even if it didn't quite live up to your expectations :o)

  7. Finally!! I'm so much of a dork that I've been actually waiting for you to post this! Not in a 'constantly refreshing my Google Reader' kind of way but in a 'teetering on the edge of buying it but not wanting to in case it was going to be horribly disappointing' kind of way.

    I expected it not to be anywhere near as good, to be honest, so I'm very happy that it isn't a terrible sequel. And an accurate representation of a relationship, you say? That I am looking forward to reading!

    So now I can download it without any qualms – yey!

    1. Hanna says:

      Ohh bless you 🙂 Although to be fair I was doing the same with your review of 'Before I Go to Sleep,' so we'll call it even?

      It's not bad at all. I actually liked it, I just didn't LOVE it, if that makes any sense.

      And I know! I LOATHE YA relationships but this one… this one ain't so bad!

  8. M says:

    I didn't enjoy Insurgent as much as Divergent either. A refeshing review. Funnily though, we found and bought Divergent in a big high street bookstore 🙂

  9. Alexa says:

    Interesting review. Though I'm really excited to read it, I haven't picked up Insurgent just yet. Thanks for the honesty!

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