Insurgent by Veronica Roth

insurgent

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.

Tris’s initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

My passionate opinions of Divergent notwithstanding, my decision to read Insurgent by Veronica Roth was more out of spontaneity and convenience, and less out of curiosity. Oftentimes it is the latter that compels me to read books, especially sequels of books that I did not particularly enjoy. Nonetheless, although I did not particularly enjoy Divergent, I picked Insurgent hoping that it would be an improvement, however marginal, to its predecessor.

It is noteworthy that Insurgent is the first audiobook I have listened and completed. The crux of my Insurgent audiobook experience: I enjoyed it. More specifically, I enjoyed listening to the audiobook. I’m traditionally a paperback or ebook reader, but, to my surprise, I loved listening to the story. I think I now understand the beauty of aural storytelling. Usually my attention span, especially when the information is conveyed aurally, is short-lived, but Emma Galvin was a fantastic narrator that held my interest effortlessly. However, this experience taught me something about myself: how critical I am of something depends on its medium. I am more critical of books than I am of TV shows and movies. Audiobooks, it seems, fall into the latter. With that said, I believe I would have enjoyed Insurgent much less if I had read it as a paperbook/ebook. But am I complaining that I enjoyed something more than I should have? Absolutely not.

Although the state of the world and conception of factions divided by our personalities is nonsensical and beyond salvaging, I picked up Insurgent for the story alone. After all, I detected potential in the narrative and its development when I was reading Divergent. There were also undertones of revolution (and you and I know that I’m a big sucker for those), and perhaps Insurgent would have provided some insight as to why and how the factions were formed. So, was there a revolution and does Insurgent attempt to save its big worldbuilding flaw? Yes and, well, not at all.

Following the catastrophic aftermath of Divergent, Chicago as Tris knows it is thrown into chaos and the perpetrators remain at large. More importantly, Chicago is prepared for an uprising now that the faction responsible has been ousted. Herein is the potential that I hoped for – perhaps Roth would provide us a lesson on the necessity of revolution, that rebellion is not necessarily a violent thing drenched in blood but can be achieved through collective action. When introducing the ‘underground resistance’, Roth is partway there. The unexpected would-be heroes are poised to strike, ready for action, and are interestingly the group that most of Chicago has overlooked thus far. Though this bears some symbolic connotations (as it should), my optimism for this book quickly began to falter.

Contrary to what people may believe, rebellion is possible without violence, and it is called civil resistance. It is a very simple idea, but it is a complex process, particularly when the oppressors are violent. Understandably, in the context of Insurgent, where traitors are armed to the teeth and are killing people left, right and center (which makes no sense, but let’s let it slide anyway), at face value civil resistance does not seem like a viable option. The important idea, however, is that there is a power in collective action. Rather than ask the hard questions about rebellion and revolution – especially in its challenges – any thematic potential in Insurgent is forsaken. But, my criticisms of Insurgent aren’t its should have‘s and ought to have been’s.

Here is my biggest gripe: Insurgent trivializes revolution, and that is something more harmful than people give credit. ‘Rebellion’, in Insurgent, is a shoot ’em up mission spearheaded by fumbling teenagers who have no idea what they are doing and only succeed out of sheer luck and because it conveniences the plot. What is the purpose of their rebellion? To kill or destroy the leader. But to what end and what of the consequences after? God knows, but if you do, please CC your theories to Roth and I. The very idea that revolution is merely taking down an autocratic leader is more than ludicrous; it is naive.

“But CW, this is just an entertaining book! It doesn’t really matter!” Well actually, it does matter. Other than The Hunger Games (which I wasn’t fond of either, but I will admit that it handled its themes better), the Divergent series is the other most accessible young adult book out there that touches on these themes. Insurgent ignores the social and political implications of an uprising. Actually, there is nothing social or political about it at all. Rather than show that revolution can lead to positive change at a cost and why it is necessary (because, you know, if you are going to write a dystopia you need a degree of social commentary), Insurgent instead presents revolution as something that is ‘action-packed’ that lacks meaning, purpose, and depth. To me, Insurgent has included revolution without any understanding of the term or its social significance.

History is filled with revolution, some absolutely horrific, some peaceful, most necessary. More importantly, even today, revolution is important. Movements like ‘Black Lives Matter’ and the 2014 Hong Kong Protests are inherently tied to ideas of revolution. With the shuddering amount of police brutality occurring in the United States where people are actually being killed, should someone suggest we resolve this Insurgent style? (Note: I am not insinuating Roth’s personal and political values are reflected in her portrayal of revolution.) The tragedy is that the idea of revolution – which is about power of the people and collective action – has been clumsily and thoughtlessly tossed around as a tool to make a book ‘action-packed’.

All of that aside, there is a lot of almost going to happen and not a lot of things that actually happen. It seems that the purpose of Insurgent is to build up to the finale – and with the lack of development of characters and lack of action, it shows. It is possible that Insurgent has fallen victim to second book syndrome. On character development and overall story which have already been discussed ad nauseam – meh. If there was one thing I didn’t mind too much, it was the relationship development between Four and Tris. They certainly argue more in this installment, but isn’t that a part of relationships? Interestingly in Insurgent, most of their arguments stem from a conflict in ideology or belief in how to do things. Therefore, I didn’t see their bickering as a detriment to the book – I’d say that it helped me understand Four and Tris’s characters more.

However, the fault is that Insurgent fails to be an engaging book. When you have readers who are curious about the development of the story but are tentative in their investment, Insurgent would not be the kind of book that would renew interest. If anything, Insurgent has confirmed that this series is something I can give up half-way, and, sad to say, that would not be a loss.

Rating: 1.5/5

Book Information
Book Name: Insurgent
Book Series: Divergent #2
Author: Veronica Roth
Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s Books

Insurgent in:
Goodreads | Book Depository | Amazon

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23 thoughts on “Insurgent by Veronica Roth

  1. Great review, you make some good points! I just want to quickly say that the ‘world building flaw’ is actually a massive part of the third book and is very intentional. Everything makes sense once you find some key information out. There’s a reason people are cool with being in factions, and that they aren’t regarded as ‘complex’ in terms of personality wise with being brave/selfless/etc. I’m not saying read the third book (if you don’t enjoy the series, no point wasting more time on it), but if you’re curious google it cause it does answer a lot of questions haha :)

    • Hiya Fiona! c:
      Well, I think you have successfully piqued my interest. I might just give it a go, since it’s a book away from finishing a trilogy. That’s interesting – I’m very curious as to what it might be. I might just take your advice and read Allegiant – see where it takes me! ^_^

      • Your criticism about the dystopian genre and rebellion and all that is still valid and you’ll probably still have plenty of criticism for Allegient. :) (On that note though, I wonder if the book being i guess a ‘watered down’ semi-dystopian is the reason it’s so popular with the mainstream audience. And whether more people have check out more, less watered down dystopian books in the genre because they enjoyed Divergent. A gateway drug of reading :P)
        But yeah, I see the personality thing criticised a lot but haven’t actually seen any reviews/analysis of the third book, so I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the explaination if you get around to reading/listening to it!

        • Haha, thank you! I think these dystopian books really bring out the critical side of me. I’m not half as critical with books of other genres. D:

          I see what you mean! I cannot fault it for that. I suppose these books are great to help someone begin thinking about these ideas – and they can of course expand to other things to develop their thoughts. c:

          Hmmm, I think I will read it – I may as well! I’d be more than happy (hehhe) to offer some analysis, if I have any! Thanks Fiona! I really appreciate hearing your thoughts on the matter. :D

  2. Wow. I realise now this is certainly something I should have thought about more. I read this book forever ago and never bothered finishing the series, but I didn’t think much about why it wasn’t engaging me beyond being dystopia-weary.

    You’re so right though! I’ve never really considered how it is that some of these books are trivialising the idea of revolution. I suppose it says a lot about the writing that I never really consider them in terms of events that are happening in the real world.

    Wonderful review, as always. Very thought provoking! x

    • Thanks Lydia! C:

      To be fair, I couldn’t help think it. Sociological thinking dies hard (or my attempt at it, anyway).

      Thank you! It didn’t click for me when I was listening to the book, but when I saw promotional posters for the movie and articles about it, tossing revolution around, I think it struck a word. More so, I remember a friend saying to me, ‘it’s so sad revolution has such a negative connotation because it can be so important sometimes’. So I think his quote influenced me a little, particularly in this review.

      Aw, thanks Lydia! ^_^ <3

  3. The problem with Audiobooks is that it’s a new format, different from texts.

    When you listen to an audiobooks, the information is more than the prose. It’s also the way the reader speaks. You can’t review an audiobook and just talk about the story/prose. The speaker has major effect. I’m not saying it’s a bad format, but you should approach it differently.

    As for Roth’s story, I have mixed feelings about Divergent. I reviewed it in my blog. I found the story messy but the factions intriguing. I don’t think it’s so unrealistic. DIfferent countries have different moral systems and this is just that on a smaller scale. I enjoyed how Roth ciritiqued all factions (the manifestos at the end are amusing). Sadly, the bad guys were unconvincing. Roth has the chops to make an understandable and great antagonist, but we’re given boring old ‘world domination’. The only reason Dauntless aren’t the antagonist is because brave guys are sexually attractive.

    • Hi there, thank you for the comment!

      What you say about audiobooks is interesting – I focused on the story because that is where my interest predominantly lies. Indeed, the speaker did have a major effect. However, I wasn’t particularly comfortable critiquing an audiobook because it was my first. Perhaps when I listen to more and become more acquainted with them, I will consider your advice.

      My criticisms of the factions were not because they were unrealistic, per se. It was more concerning the inception of the factions itself. However, I’ve been recently made aware that this is *all* explained in the third book, but because such an important plot point is only unveiled in the third book, my criticism of the first and second regarding this still stands.

      Unfortunately, many villains fall short of being interesting and developed. You are right, Divergent and Insurgent lack a great protagonist, and the story suffers for it.

      • Not that many villains fall short. Look to Digimon Tamers or Se7en. Even basic World Domination antagonists can get some development and be understandable like in Medabots.

        I couldn’t understand why the Bad Guys did what they do. I didn’t even get the basics.

        It’s hard to review something when it’s your first. We all form opinions based on our past experiences. I suggest you’ll try to discuss it anyway when you review audiobooks. A bad reader can wreck even a classic.

  4. I thought Insurgent was meh too, I liked the first book but now that I read the second one I have very little motivation to continue with the last book. Excellent review!

    • Thank you, Ayunda!
      I’m actually interested to read the third book now – Fiona (escapewithwriting) told me that certain plot points are elucidated in Allegiant – so now I’m very curious!

  5. Gosh, CW, you put me to shame. I read books and never think about these larger overarching themes, but you know what, I really should. They’re important to think about and I’m really realizing that as I read your reviews.
    With the Divergent series, I read through the whole thing in an omnibus kindle edition, blazing through it like catnip, and didn’t stop to consider anything you bring up here. But seeing your review and critique of it is very helpful to the writer in me. Thank you for these insightful and in-depth reviews. I turn to you when I want a really “beneath the surface” look at a book. You’re perspective is razor sharp and I love it. I shake in my boots at the thought of ever asking you to beta read my book one day, lol. *hearts and lots of hugs*

    • Aw, thanks Nicolette. ^_^

      To be super honest, I think all of us need stuff that we read without being critical, like for entertainment purposes. :) I don’t fault you at all for enjoying the series.

      Oh gosh, I’d be super SUPER honoured if you ever asked me to be a beta reader!! I’m not mean – I promise!! :’D

      *hearts and cuddles* :D <3

      • OMG! I literally cried right now. For two huge reasons, 1. I don’t think for a second you have a mean bone in your body! You’re so practical and have logical reasoning, there is nothing mean about that. That is honesty and I LOVE you for that! It would be MY honor to pick YOUR brain and have your help if you beta-ed because I know you could help ME! So a million hugs and thank you’s!! Seriously! and 2. OMG, you’d be HONORED?!?! Yes, please! When it’s ready and I don’t cringe at the thought of others reading it I’d LOVE LOVE LOVE for you to read! PLEASE and THANK YOU!

  6. I thoroughly agree with your review! My problem with this book was that nothing actually happened in it. Very disappointing because I enjoyed Divergent. :-)

  7. No, I haven’t read it yet but it’s on my TBR. Like you, I wasn’t very compelled to go on and read it, but I’ve bought it, so I’m definitely going to read it. Well, I suppose it can’t be much worse than ‘Insurgent’! :-)

  8. Ah gosh, well I just revisited your Divergent review and did you know we had a conversation on there too (it was when I recommended Rebel Belle to you)? XD I also mentioned that I haven’t read this trilogy yet and that it was on my TBR… and guess what? I still haven’t read it and it’s still on my TBR. XD Anyway, I remember seeing your “review to come” statement of this book on GR and how you thought this was a teeny more enjoyable because you listened to it as an audiobook. I’ve only tried listening to audio tapes once in the car… and I was literally playing that same disc over and over again before I realized that I needed to replace it with the next disc. Let’s just say I’m too focused on driving that I’m unable to multitask with driving and listening to an audiobook, haha. XD You’ve given these books 1.5 ratings so far, do you plan to read Allegiant anyway?

    • AH YES, I remember! (Though I had to reread our discussion to refresh my memory, hehe!) HAHA well that’s okay – you’ve been busy(/in a book slump?), so that’s understandable! c:

      Haha, I would agree that there is always a time and a place for audiobooks! I mostly listen to them when I’m at work (alone) and it is peaceful, or when I’m in the car as a passenger. I tried listening to it while playing games, but when there was a need for strategy, I’d completely zone out and I would miss 10 minutes. Dx

      I think I will! Fiona from Escape With Writing said some of the plot holes from Divergent and Insurgent are explained in Allegiant. And me being me, I am really really curious so I want to know what happens! Though, I don’t think I’ll be reading it for awhile yet. :)

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