Insurgent is the second book in Veronica Roth’s Divergent series, the first of which is about to be released as a major film. The sequel to Divergent was first published in 2012, and both books have been reissued with lovely new covers by Harper Collins.
The Divergent series is in the Hunger Games vein of books, and includes many of the same elements. There is a strong female narrator who occasionally becomes a little self-obsessed and irritating; a dystopian society which is divided into different and incompatible factions; ever-present violence and peril; and a love story of sorts between its heroine and another teenage character. It is also fast paced, and full of foreboding and adventure.
Sixteen-year-old Beatrice Prior – or Tris, as she is known throughout – is in the Dauntless faction, due to her bravery, courage and lack of fear. She is also Divergent, which essentially means that she is compatible with more than one of the five different societal groups – Candor, Erudite, Dauntless, Amity and Abnegation – and can align herself with whichever she pleases. This sectioning of society is rather a simple technique, but it works well.
The premise of Insurgent is as follows: Tris, the protagonist of the series, has survived a ‘brutal attack on her former home and family’. This novel deals with her coming to terms with the way her life has been so drastically altered, and fighting against those within authority – hence the book’s title, which points to a group of people who act in opposition to establishment.
The story follows directly on from Divergent, and begins with the guilt which Tris feels over killing one of her peers, Will: ‘I woke with his name in my mouth’. The action starts immediately afterwards, when Tris and her companions immediately jump from a moving train to get to the Amity headquarters. One of the main threads of plot within Insurgent is the way in which those who are ‘factionless’ wish to establish a new society, which does not consist of any factions at all. They claim that they need the help of those who are Dauntless to achieve this.
Tris is an orphan, her parents having both been killed in the struggle, and the only family member whom she is still able to see is her brother, Caleb. She and the Dauntless group are continually under threat from different factions, and much of the action within Insurgent is concerned with the Dauntless trying to overcome those who are trying to suppress them. Tris is not the most likeable of characters, and her behaviour does not always feel consistent. Lots of characters can be found within the novel’s pages, many of whom were introduced in the first book, and some of which are not very well developed at all.
The present tense and first person narration which Roth has made use of throughout suit the story and its action well. All of the senses are used from the very start, and help to build a complete picture of the dystopian world in which Tris lives. Roth’s writing style is quite simple, and is therefore accessible to a relatively wide audience. Some of the details which she weaves in can become a little repetitive, however – I lost count, for example, of the number of times in which Tris smelt or ‘breathed in’ apples or ‘wet pavement’. The pace of the whole works marvellously, and the plot arcs ensure that something is almost always happening. Despite the continuation from the first book to the second feeling rather smooth, the storyline did feel a little drawn out at times. Unsurprisingly, Insurgent ends on a cliffhanger of sorts, and the place in which it finishes is intriguing enough to make most want to read on and see how Tris’ story concludes.