Well, I finished Insurgent, the second installment in the Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth. Last week, Chebk and I both reviewed Divergent (you can read the rant and the sane review, but we encourage both for you to understand our reluctance going into this endeavor), but this has now become a solo project and it is a TRIAL, friends. Especially since I recently learned there is some kind of prequel, entitled Four, which I really do not want to read. :((((
Nonetheless, I forge onward.
I have few problems with Roth’s writing style overall. Like Suzanne Collins, there aren’t too many stylistic markers to focus on, except the most awkward ones (his “eyes were green like celery,” direct quote, full judgment), so most of my problems still rest on the world-building and character logic or lack thereof.
Diversity in Insurgent is somehow both better and worse. People of color are represented mainly by Christina, Tori, and Uriah, as well as the introduction of two leaders Johanna Reyes of Amity and Jack Kang of Candor — but there is fair mention of “dark-skinned people” which isn’t ambiguous but still rubs me the wrong way because all of these dark-skinned people are 1) nameless and 2) seemingly mentioned by description merely to justify racial diversity while showcasing a very white cast. Similarly, an egregious shoe-in of a queer character coming out at the literal moment of her (SPOILER ALERT) death pretty much negates actual LGBTQ diversity as Roth makes sure her queerness has no point except in vague retrospect.
Disabilities remain the most significant representation in this series, as many people get injured and are shown to grieve and adjust appropriately, such as (SPOILER ALERT) Shauna, who becomes paralyzed from the waist-down. It’s questioned whether she can still be Dauntless without her ability to run or walk, but thankfully Tris makes sure the Dauntless (and readers) understand that you don’t need legs to be brave.
I will say, however, that the representation of Tris’s Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression symptoms is respectfully and appropriately handled throughout Insurgent, maybe even more so than Katniss Everdeen’s PTSD following her stint in the Hunger Games. The loss of Tris’s parents and her murder of a mind-controlled friend, Will, in cold blood in the previous book take a huge psychological toll on Tris and she doesn’t just get over it for plot’s sake. Roth makes sure we see her inability to handle guns, her apathy towards life, and her significant grieving process even within the context of a growing war. Though somewhat reminiscent of Bella Swan’s apathy after Edward leaves in New Moon, Tris’s psychological exhaustion is justified and handled with patience (even by the reader).
That said, I still had my fair share of exasperation with the book:
- Amity’s leader, Johanna Reyes, is a significant PoC, but I can’t help but feel bitter that this important PoC is placed in Amity fields like a migrant worker.
- There is an absurd amount of inappropriate make-out sessions, which I guess is par for the course for Young Adult books, but, by the end of the book, most of these makeout sessions happen a) in the middle of an action scene when other things should probably be happening and b) in front of so many people, enemies and allies alike and it’s weird.
- All the interracial couples get one person killed off so what is the point.
- (SPOILER ALERT) There is an attempted execution of Tris that is not remotely scary because there were still 200 pages left.
- The big Dauntless plan is basically to wipe out the smartest people in their society. That sounds like it won’t have repercussions in a new society.
- People don’t trust Divergents because society thinks the aptitude tests tell them the only place they can possibly be but the whole point of the Choosing Day is that they got to choose which faction to go to!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
- Amity is formally introduced and they are generally seen as blithering idiots, but they also only wear red and yellow and nothing else, and they are still my sweet hippie birthday clown people. Also they drug their own people to keep them peaceful through the BREAD and all I wanted was for Dauntless to drug their people to keep them aggressive through the MUFFINS that kept getting mentioned but we can’t have nice things.
- Pretty much the whole reason people don’t get caught very quickly in this book is because each faction wears specific colors so everyone just disguises themselves in everyone else’s faction-chosen colors AND IT IS RIDICULOUS.
- The Dauntless make fun of a Candor room called the Gathering Place. These are the people who hold their own meetings in a place called The Pit.
- Also the Dauntless take back their compound and it’s supposed to be this big triumph and they’re supposed to disable the cameras Erudite can access by shooting the lens with paintballs. Well, every single one of the Dauntless get distracted shooting each other and forget about the cameras.
- All the Erudite wear (fake) glasses to look smarter even if they do not need them. Do better, Roth.
- I’ve talked about most of the representation, good and bad, but one of the better messages in this book was actually pleasantly surprising. (SPOILER ALERT) By the end, as Tris and Four are torn apart by how they feel about what the factionless want from their new society, Tris calls Four out on how quickly he always mistrusts her despite saying he loves her. It was nice to see a female protagonist stand up for herself against a love interest that often veers into creepy, potentially abusive territory.
I have a lot of problems with the big reveal at the end of Insurgent but I’m tentatively hoping Roth will pull a hail-Mary in Allegiant and make things make sense, but…we’ll see. Chebk will be here on Tuesday in my place, but until then, keep on keeping on, readers.