Reading Is Good For You

Book Reviews, Literary News, and Thoughts on Life

Books that Rock: Insurgent by Veronica Roth (Book Two in the Divergent trilogy)

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.

New York Times bestselling author Veronica Roth’s much-anticipated second book of the dystopian Divergent series is another intoxicating thrill ride of a story, rich with hallmark twists, heartbreaks, romance, and powerful insights about human nature.

I think the best (and most agonizing) part about reading a series as it’s released is the anticipation of whether or not the next book will live up to your expectations, if it will go the way of Empire Strikes Back or if it will fizzle and burn like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (my apologies to those of you who think the latter is fantastic). Once the book is in your hand, all the mystery and hope and wonder is gone. Having read, re-read, and killed at least half a tree worth of Post-Its making a copious amount of notes, I can officially say that the force was with Veronica, because Insurgent is all that I hoped for and more in a follow-up to its predecessor.

Mind you, this is not an easy read. Those of you who were hoping Tris and Four would spend the majority of their time blissfully making out  will be sorely disappointed. While there are plenty of swoon-worthy scenes for the romance-lover residing in most of us, this pair is going through some major ordeals and have much more important issues to worry about than when to schedule their next make-out session. Not only are they in the middle of a war zone, unsure of who can be trusted, but poor Tris is drowning in grief over the death of her parents and guilt over killing one of her closest friends, the latter of which has left her incapacitated with PTSD and under the impression that she is not worthy of life.

Tris frequently broke my heart with her attempts to sacrifice her life in the misguided effort to atone for her past sins and her long time refusal to confide in Four and let him see all of her, warts and all, for fear he would view her differently and she would no longer measure up in his eyes. Four was not without fault, either. Given his history of being hurt by those who should have loved him most, Four found it difficult to forgive and to trust others completely. Combine this with the fact that both Tris and Four are both completely bull-headed and resort to finger-pointing when confronted with their faults and it’s easy to see why the two of them spent a good portion of the novel at odds with each other.

Though their actions put my heart through the wringer, there was never a time that I couldn’t completely understand why they made the choices they did and sympathize with what they were going through. What gave me hope for them, though, is that these pitfalls were contrasted by beautiful moments of true tenderness, bravery, and selflessness from both parties.  If they can continue to live out these strengths and work through the hurdles in their relationship, Tris and Four have such great potential to do good for each other and do amazing things for their broken society. I’m eager to see where Ms. Roth will take these two in the conclusion of this trilogy.

But wait, there’s more!

Not only do we get the pleasure (and pain) of witnessing a highly realistic relationship between two strong and multi-faceted individuals, Ms. Roth offers us a fascinating study of human nature. Though each of the factions attempted to enforce a black and white view of the world, Tris was constantly reminded that the world and the humans who live in it are so much more complex than that. She learned the hard way that there are measures of light and dark in ALL people, regardless of whether they are considered ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ making it difficult to know who can be trusted.

She was also forced to wrestle with the weighty issues of what constitutes as good and evil, whether or not its permissible for an evil act to be committed if done for the overall good of society, and whether the good of society as a whole is more important than the well-being of its individuals, especially when putting society first means betraying those you love most. Needless to say, if I was faced with the same situations as Tris at the age of sixteen, there is no way I would respond with such selflessness and courage. Yet another reminder of how strong a person Tris really is.

And then there is the not-so-small matter of the rather shocking ending (though not entirely unexpected if you keep your eyes peeled for clues). The final book is going to be one heck of a wild ride.


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Now for the rockin’ and/or rollin’ part of this Books that Rock review, where I provide a soundtrack of sorts that describe events occurring in the chosen book. Be warned that spoilers may occur in the song descriptions. If you haven’t yet read the book, don’t let that stop you from enjoying the music.
Song For — Matt Corby

It was a toss-up between this song and My False (also by Matt Corby) to describe the guilt Tris feels over killing Will, not feeling worthy of her parents’ sacrifice, and not being able to save Marlene, but the line ‘so much blood on my hands’ captures this anguish perfectly.

Home Again — Michael Kiwanuka

This song captures the transition Tris makes from hopelessness to the road to recovery after her near-execution. I especially like the line “So I close my eyes / look behind / moving on . . . then the tears will clear / then I feel no fear.”

Rest — Michael Kiwanuka

Four is generally a pull-no-punches, tell-it-like-it-is sort of guy, but we are allowed glimpses of his gentle, compassionate, caring side on the several occasions he comforts and looks after Tris and this is the perfect song to represent this aspect of his nature.. My favorite of these scenes is when Four is washing Tris’s feet after they return from Erudite headquarters and he tells her he’ll be her family now. Such a simple line, yet it conveys the depths of his feelings for her. Gets me all teary-eyed just thinking about it.


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