Author: Veronica Roth
Release: May 1, 2012 from Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins
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.
The second book in the “Divergent” series doesn’t slow down, instead the pace picks up from the first as various plots and personalities collide in ever larger showdowns as the stakes continue to rise. Tris and Four keep the action moving as they take their struggle against the Erudite to the other fractions. Roth leaves the politics in the backseat as the focus remains highly focused on the protagonists relationships; Tris and her romance with Four, while a central issue of the book, is secondary to the emotional turmoil Tris is going through as the trauma of her parents death and her killing of Will from the first book seem to haunt her every action, resulting in a large personality shift from “Divergent”.
A lot of heavy news is uncovered or investigated from beginning to end; more of Four's family relationships are revealed the full extent of the Erudite and Jeanine’s plan becomes clear and the biggest secret of the series is revealed at the end of the novel; what is the true nature of the world beyond the fence. The central ideas at work in the book seem to be trust, the nature of adulthood and the balance between the utility and danger of knowledge.
Divergent sports a decent sized cast, with many familiar faces and a few new ones coming into the mix, although be wary as Roth definitely throws enough gut punches throughout the book to make you feel as though you went through a boxing match with Mike Tyson. An issue that is played up and while explained in Universe, does little to mitigate the effect is the singular character traits of each fraction and character. The Dauntless suffer from this the most, since most of the main cast are from that fraction. The blindness to consequences is understandable given the age and temperament of the characters, but the inability to grasp basic logic or empathize with another viewpoint is somewhat dumbfounding. A memorable moment is when Tris is attempting to explain how the Erudite would think and the other characters baffled at the notion of considering that shooting the Erudite messenger would not get the best results.
Tris’s characterization also suffers from a bit of whiplash, going from brooding to angry to focused to hysterical. The emotions are understandable, but as the reader, it is hard to determine if we should view her as a capable and competent woman occasionally overwhelmed by her situation or as a child in over her head with flashes of determination. Tris and several other characters muse on this dichotomy, but it does little to alleviate the confusion and the main point of contention is that rather than go through a process of development of character as compared to Divergent, Tris might manifest any of the mentioned moods in any particular scene and be just as likely to deliver a snarky quip as to break down in tears.
Most of the emotional plot points are solid, although some are predictable; Tris and Four fighting about trust issues mirrors any adolescent story about protecting the ones you love from the perceived flaw in yourself you feel they could not accept. A particularly well done theme was forgiveness against those who have wronged you and the price you pay for both letting go of the anger and indulging in it.
The interactions with the Amity fraction were a nice change of pace, slowing the story down from its previous breakneck charge and revealing more about the group, which was a minor presence in the first book. Johanna comes across as the most complex living character in the setting; she is distinctive, even without her scar and feels like she could have been the protagonist in another story. Her emotions and motivations are multifaceted and come across verywell.The Candor chapters were another cool down period, although the interaction they have with Kang is short and terse and without much major interaction with the Candor themselves outside of the truth serum scene.
There are a few wall bangers that crop up in terms of characters and the plot. Tris and Four’s difficulty communicating makes sense in terms of the story, but goes above and beyond after the first mishap. Hiding the true nature of Will’s death from Christina is definitely relatable, but becomes somewhat arbitrary with regard to Four. Yet after that is resolved she repeatedly lies to him in order to do what she wants rather than rationally explaining things out, which is precisely what he tells her he admires in her. She tries to impart the importance of investigating what Marcus is keeping secret a single time, and each time she uncovers more information, she never bothers to try and show Four, opting instead to pursue her own plan with no outside input.
Jeanine herself seems to be purposefully ignoring Villains 101 as the only thing she seems to be missing is a mustache to twirl, already having the Bond villain speech down pat. Her use of logic and sense seems randomly applied as her decisions regarding some of her prisoners seem dubious later in the novel.
The ending leaves the entire setting of “Divergent” in flux as the balance of power has shifted and the final reveal has placed the abilities of the Divergent themselves in context. It should be very interesting to see where the story evolves from the end of “Insurgent” with several large plots resolved and now even more opening up.