Monday, March 2, 2015

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Insurgent (B&N Exclusive Edition) (Divergent Series #2)  Middle books in a trilogy must maintain a delicate balance.  They have to keep the story in a holding pattern while moving it forward enough to keep readers interested in continuing with the series. The first book in a trilogy can be a complete story.  It almost has to be in order to get readers to trust the author enough to want read the next book.  By the time you get to the third book you're ready for the big climax and for the loose ends to be tied up.  The second book, on the other hand, is inherently incomplete, serving as bridge between the first and second and usually presenting more questions than it answers, perhaps even negating much of what had seemed to be resolved in the first book. For that reason, second books can often be more frustrating than entertaining or informative.

Insurgent is the second book in Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy.  In the world of Divergent society is divided into five factions:  Dauntless, Candor, Abnegation, Amity, and Erudite.  The Dauntless believe in physical bravery.  They are the soldiers of society.  I can’t remember what Candor actually does but they believe in absolute honesty and truth.  Abnegation believe in serving others and selflessness.  They run the government and divide resources among the different factions.  Amity is all about getting along and keeping the peace.  They grow food.  When I picture them in my head I think of hippies on a commune growing vegetables.  Not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing; that’s the just image that comes to mind.  The Erudite believe in knowledge and intelligence.  Their members are doctors, scientists, inventors, and teachers.  Then there are factionless, people who either chose to leave or were forced out of their faction.

A person can only be in one faction.  There is an aptitude test to help people figure out which faction they are best suited for.  The test is only a suggestion.  No matter what faction a person was born into or what the aptitude test indicates is best, at age 16 people get to choose what faction they want to spend the rest of their lives in.  Some people show an aptitude for more than one faction.  They are called Divergents.  Many believe Divergents are inherently dangerous.  As such Divergents are forced to hide their status out of fear for their lives. 

Between the irrational fear of Divergents and the exile of people into factionlessness, it is clear from the beginning that there is going to be a showdown at some point.  That showdown comes in the form of the Erudite tricking the Dauntless (by drugging them) into attacking the Abnegation.  The flaw in the Erudite plan is that the drug doesn't work on Divergents.  Tris is a Divergent.  She was born into Abnegation but chose Dauntless.  Since the drug doesn't work on her Tris, her fellow Divergent/ Dauntless boyfriend Four, also known as Tobias, and others manage to stop the attack.  Insurgent picks up right where Divergent ended, with Tris, Tobias, and others fleeing the city after stopping the attack.

As noted before, the main job of a second book in a trilogy is to keep the story in a holding pattern until the third book arrives, and that is pretty much what Insurgent does.  Tris spends much of the book in a state of depression, after seeing family and friends die during the attack on Abnegation.  Unfortunately the war is only just beginning so there’s no time for her to sit and reflect.  She’s forced to keep going.  This isn’t good.  Filled with guilty and anxiety, Tris makes bad decision after bad decision.

The story inches forward.  It was obvious from page one of Divergent that the faction system couldn’t last.  It was also pretty clear that there was more to the attack on the Abnegation than just the Erudite wanting to take over the government.  It isn't till the very end of this second book that we readers get a hint at what the real motivation for the attack was, and when it comes it isn't a huge surprise.

It’s hard to love a middle book in a trilogy.  I did not love this, but I liked it enough to continue with the series.  I have, well not exactly high, but hopes for the third book in the series.  I hope the third book brings the story home and presents a good reason for the redesign of society without completely dismissing some of the characteristics of the different factions.  Fingers-crossed. 

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