[Book Review] I can’t tell if the dystopian socio-economics here are better or worse than in the first book

Meg’s Review of Insurgent by Veronica Roth

This review will contain spoilers for Insurgent.

The Goodreads Choice Awards 2012 are in, and Insurgent by Veronica Roth was crowned top YA SciFi Fantasy book of the year. I’m sort of baffled by this – by the fact that it beat out this whopper of a list:

  • Cinder by Marissa Meyer
  • City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare
  • Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore
  • The Golden Lily by Richelle Mead
  • Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
  • Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver
  • Insurgent by Veronica Roth
  • The Rise of Nine by Pittacus Lore
  • Onyx by Jennifer L. Armentrout
  • The Selection by Kiera Cass

I mean come on – beat Cassandra Clare and the wonderful new comer Cinder? Mostly I’m surprised because I read Insurgent and started this review post in July and could never get up the gumption to actually write it because I was just that unimpressed by this follow-up to Divergent.

Insurgent opens more or less immediately after the chaos of the previous book. A quick refresher about this whacko world (you can read more about it here): In some sort of post-apocalyptic Chicago, the city’s population is split between five factions: Dauntless (courage), Erudite (knowledge), Candor (honesty), Amity (friendliness), and Abnegation (selflessness). Well, Abnegation is pretty much not there anymore because of a revolt that led to all of them getting offed (long story), and the Candor and the Erudite are now in this epic pissing battle standoff, while the Amity has shut their doors and poopooed on the whole lot of them. Oh, and most of the Dauntless are mind-controlled zombies.

And in the middle of all this nonsense is Tris, an Abnegation-turned-Dauntless, who is, in fact, a Divergent – a person showing tendencies to more than one of the factions – who is just biding her time until she can maybe help the crazy mom of her exceptionally emo boyfriend start an uprising among the homeless-equivalent Factionless revolutionaries.

Confused yet? Yeah. This apocalypse caused all sorts of weird things to happen.

Part of me was really happy that the world had completely gone to crap. After all, I had major suspension of disbelief issues with Divergent. What sort of world could subsist on only five personality traits taken to the extreme? And how in the world were that many members of the population so dull that they actually only exhibit a single trait themselves? Who would buy into this social structure?  It was a ridiculous premise, one that was destined to fall apart. And, at least, it did so in a spectacular fashion, making for lots of adventure and mayhem.

In all honesty, my biggest problem with Insurgent was Tris. Yes, her world was crumbling around her, but did she honestly have to cry so much? I missed the Tris of Divergent, the externally fearless, internally intense-but-freaked girl who chose the most difficult faction that made her jump off buildings and face her deepest terrors. And even though I was a little irked by her relationship with Four, which edged on the emotionally abusive, at least she still had a backbone. And while Roth did manage to salvage some of that, I think Tris cried in just about every chapter. I quickly started to molt empathy – especially as her relationship with Four devolved into something downright unhealthy and unwanted.

And then, there was the ending. I thought about not spoiling it, but it’s been six months since the book came out, so I’m just going to do it.


Okay, so after a lot of pussy-footing around, Tris and her friends invade the Erudite compound to discover the massive secret they are hiding, the one that will shake their culture apart. After some battles and some more crying, it is revealed that people were placed in Chicago as some sort of experiment. That the outside world put them there specifically to develop those with a Divergent mindset. And once there were enough Divergent, they were to open their doors and go back out into the world. Presumably to save it.

So, basically, this was all one giant breeding facility in order to make, you know, what I would consider normal, healthy humans who like to employ more than one personality trait at a time. It begs the question: what the hell is so wrong in the outside world that they had to do this?

And that question alone will see me reading the third book, whenever it comes out. I should probably also note here that I still enjoy Roth’s writing style. It’s fast-paced, engaging and it did carry me through the somewhat muddled plot. So I can see that earning her a high vote in the Goodreads Choice Awards. But damn, I loved Cinder so much more.


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8 thoughts on “[Book Review] I can’t tell if the dystopian socio-economics here are better or worse than in the first book

  1. I still haven’t been able to get over how similar the cover and premise for “Divergent” is to “Hunger Games”… and I didn’t love “Hunger Games” all that much. “Cinder”, though, you say, eh? hmmmm…

    • I am so glad I’m not the only one! When I read that it’d received the Goodreads Voter Choice Awards, I made a very disgruntled sound. I do really hope the third book in the series is stronger. I love her writing style.

  2. I haven’t read either Divergent or Insurgent, yet. I don’t think I would be able to get through a book where the main character is crying all the time. A little bit of crying is ok and believable, but too much crying is just annoying.

    Thank you gor an awesome review!

    • She didn’t cry at all in the first book as far as I can remember. And there were DEFinitely reasons to cry there! Hopefully the third one will return to a less weepy character.

      Thanks for reading!

  3. Pingback: [Small Chirps] Goodreads Choice Awards 2012 – and our favorite genres! « thecanaryreview

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