It’s the distant future, and the world we know and love? It’s gone. What’s left of American civilization is centered in the city of Chicago and the people in it are divided into five factions. Each of these groups focuses on a human virtue, a single type of behavior—those in Amity value peace, while those in Dauntless are the brave warriors. Members of Abnegation are selfless, while Candor values brutal honesty, and those in Erudite hold learning and intelligence dear. It’s an interesting setup for a society, but from the beginning of Divergent, the first book in the Divergent trilogy, the reader knows it can’t work. One of the defining characteristics of human beings is that they feel different things at different times. How, then, does this society function?
Roth does a pretty amazing job fleshing out the world in Divergent. In fact, it’s so incredible that you shouldn’t even think about picking up Insurgent, the middle book in the trilogy, before reading Divergent. Not only will you miss out on fascinating background and an exposé of the cracks appearing in the framework of this civilization, you won’t get to know Tris. And Tris, well, she’s the backbone of these books and is what makes them worth reading.
It’s also hard to discuss Insurgent without giving away key points of Divergent, so instead, let’s look at the series as a whole so far. Roth’s made Tris (whose full name is actually Beatrice Prior) a former member of the Abnegation faction and a really kick-a** heroine. That makes what happens to her in Insurgent difficult; circumstances have brought her down. She’s lost a lot of good friends, people close to her, and she’s beginning to realize how many more she could lose. Because of her past in Abnegation, she feels responsible for their deaths, like her Dauntless-warrior self should have protected them more. It's easy to empathize with such a strong character who is almost crippled by self-doubt, yet we never doubt that Tris will find herself again.
And then there’s the love story. In most YA trilogies, whether dystopian or not, there’s a formula: girl meets boy in Book 1. Something happens between girl and boy at the beginning of Book 2, and girl meets other boy (who may have been around in Book 1). Then, in Book 3, girl must choose between boy 1 and boy 2. This is almost always the romantic formula these types of books follow, so it is refreshing/lovely/amazing/incredible that Veronica Roth doesn’t do that. Sure, she throws some roadblocks, and serious ones at that, in the path of Tris and her man, but the focus is always on the bigger picture. It’s definitely frustrating when a girl is in a life or death situation and all she can think about is which boy she wants. THANK YOU Veronica Roth for not subjecting your readers to that, but still having a thoughtful and sweet relationship in your books.
In the end, Insurgent is a pretty amazing follow-up to what was an explosive and creative debut novel. The pace of these books is incredible; Roth doesn’t hesitate to kill off characters, to change the game completely, or to recreate the storyline at every turn, and it pays off. If you haven’t picked up this series yet, you should definitely do it as soon as possible. In the meantime, we’ll be biting our nails in anticipation of the final book in the series.
Have you read Divergent or Insurgent?