I know I said I read Divergent quickly, but I flew through Insurgent. I think I read 95% of the book in three sittings, the last one being Saturday morning where I didn’t get out of bed for three hours because I wanted to finish it. I considered giving this 4 out of 5 stars as well, but I liked it a lot more than the first book, so it gets a full 5 stars. By the way, there will be massive spoilers in the summary. You have been warned.
Starting off exactly where the first book ended, Tris and Tobias must find a way to defeat the Erudite and the rebel-Dauntless who have murdered half of the Abnegation. They try to find support in Amity to no avail and hide themselves temporarily among the factionless before seeking refuge among the Candor. When they learn they are a bargaining chip the Candor leader will use to save his own pepole, the Dauntless return to their home. Jeanine has had the rebel-Dauntless raid the Candor headquarters before they can escape, shooting a simulation chip into most Candor and some Dauntless. Tris and Tobias fear that with this power, Jeanine will attack again and the Dauntless numbers are not high enough to fight back. The Dauntless align themselves with the factionless in an attempt to eradicate the Erudite and their knowledge.
Meanwhile, Tobias’s father knows that there is some secret information that Tris’s father died to protect. Jeanine is keeping it from the rest of the population because it will change the way society functions so entirely that nothing will never return to the way it was. Without telling Tobias, Tris finds a way to avoid the Dauntless invasion, instead sneaking in with a team of four and trying to uncover the information. While Tris fails, Tobias find the information and is able to broadcast it to the entire population. It would seem that everyone is living in a giant experiment that hopes to find those with the ability to problem solve from different points of view: the Divergent.
I am much more enthusiastic about this series after reading Insurgent. The summary I gave leaves out a bunch of things for the sake of simplicity and still probably doesn’t make much sense. I’m too busy thinking about reading Allegiant to care. The ending reminded me of a book I read way back in middle school, Running out of Time, where the main character discovers she’s living in a time capsule and that outside of her town, it’s not the 1700s but the 1990s. I’m so excited to see where Roth goes with the final book and I’m anticipating finding out what happens beyond the walls.
Insurgent is about power: who has power, who deserves it, who we should trust with power, and what to do once you have it. Evelyn, Tobias’s mother and leader of the factionless, gains power and tries to usurp the factions and impose a faction-less system. Jeanine obviously has power and she keeps it through careful guard of information and limited access to full details. Tris is nominated to be a Dauntless leader but turns it down, knowing that there are others who will use the power better than herself. The question of whom to trust is hard to answer. Johnanna, the leader of Amity, seems to be one of the most trustworthy to me. She defies her own faction in order to stop the fighting, realize that what’s happening is bigger than her and Amity. Even in the end, the most powerful thing is information and it’s only through freedom of information that power can be restored.
Jeanine withholding information is a good reference to censorship and what it can mean for a population. In Insurgent, the population doesn’t know their origins and when Jeanine finds out and knows it will hurt her, she keeps the information hidden. This reminds me of the Freedom of Information Act and how scared politicians seemed that the information revealed would damage them personally. Government censorship is a hot topic in many countries today, North Korea being a prime example. Censorship can oppress a population into submission.
Comparison to The Hunger Games is obvious. An oppressive government that wants to hold off a revolt through withholding information, etc. The change that I like in the Divergent series is that the oppression really comes from within. Whatever exists outside the fence has set up the world that Tris lives in, but Jeanine is keeping them there. I really like this twist and it feeds on fear of the unknown.
Returning to the theory that dystopias are popular now because of our dissatisfaction with the current government and economy, I think that censorship is a great topic for Roth to cover in her books. I’ve heard before that those outside the US think we’re ignorant of world issues. I wonder if Roth is commenting on this and how the information we receive is filtered. On the news, I’m more likely to see a piece about local high school sports than the Ukraine. That’s a form of censorship.
This is probably the least coherent book review I’ve written and I think it’s because of what a whirlwind this book was to me!
Writer’s Takeaway: Talk about action! I almost think there was too much action in this book. In each of the short chapters, there was a massive amount of action packed into the terse prose. The plot kept moving so quickly that I didn’t have time to absorb what was happening some times.
I also thought there were a lot of characters and it was hard for me to keep them straight. I was glad that Roth didn’t re-introduce every character at the beginning of the second book, but even characters I thought had clear relationships in my mind got confused by half way in. I couldn’t remember everyone’s girlfriend, parents’ names, original faction, and loyalties; it was too much.
Despite these complaints, I still think this was an excellent example of a YA book with action and meaning. I think it was a great sequel. A full 5 out of 5 stars.
Until next time, write on.
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