Insurgent, Veronica Roth

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The Premise

Following on from the events from Divergent, Tris and Four and their small band of abnegation survivors head for Amity to hid from Jeannine’s violent attack. They must choose between staying in safety, or heading back into the city and facing their enemy head on. But with Four’s hatred of his father simmering, will they be able to work together to reveal the secret that Abnegation has been hiding? Or will Tris’ guilt regarding the attack and fear of the future stop her?

The Verdict

I thought the film was better.

Phew, confession over and done with. It’s rare, but it does occasionally happen. One of the most fascinating aspects of the film was the fact that Tris had to overcome multiple simulations in order to unlock the message from the outside world. Her suffering was purposeful, and she voluntarily continued it when she was rescued in order to open the lines of communication with the outside world. I found that concept fascinating – that the experiment was growing humans in the hope that one day one of them would be able to unlock the message and reunite the factions with the rest of the world. Unfortunately, this did not happen, and it has to be my biggest complaint. Whilst the torture was purposeful in the novel – so that Jeannine could create a serum that will effect all the Divergent, that motivation was not as multi-faceted as the motivation in the movie. In fact, it took Jeannine from villain to too villainous. Whilst it is hard to stomach, the idea of genocide of the Divergent was relevant and could have continued, but Jeannine’s desire for control was over written and over presented (I must iterate here that I’m not saying I can ever understand why people commit genocide, just that it seemed to be Jeannine’s original goal). It was a shame that she became so fixated on the serum so that she essentially lost any of the character that made her a 3D antagonist with layers of complexity. Mixed with the over writing of the natures of the factions (ALL the erudite being obsessed with knowledge and having nothing else interesting about them) and the book became quite dry and basic.

I’ve gone up and down with Tris’ character too. One of the reasons I love her, which I made clear in my review of Divergent (available here: https://readexerciserepeat.wordpress.com/2018/04/11/divergent-veronica-roth/ ), is that she dictates her own destiny. She continues to react to events, rather than being caught up in them against her will, and takes her fate into her own hands when she hands herself over to Erudite. However, Roth’s writing of Tris was rather disappointing. Focussing on her weaknesses – her inability to hold a gun, her missing her parents, her dependence on Tobias and their often volatile relationship – should have made her a stronger character, but like Jeannine, it took away what it was that made her stand out before because it was constantly referred to and made a key feature of the novel. Perhaps it would have been better if this had been more purposeful, but instead it just felt repetitious and boring.

I also have some issues with the relationship between Tobias and Tris. Roth attempts to give it too much of an adult glaze, requiring the 16 year olds to be committing to each other in emotional ways beyond the abilities of a teenager in the throes of their first romantic love. I’m not saying that relationships developed in teenage years can’t become happy adult relationships, I’m just saying that Roth tries to give their relationship adult depth unsuccessfully. The most real times are when they argue, which is a lot in this novel, but Tris’ idolisation of Tobias is a frightening insight into how relationships can become abusive. He has no reason to keep secrets from her, no reason to be paranoid, no reason to distrust her, but these things almost lead to the destruction of the piece of evidence that will ultimately save her life. He is wrapped up in his own ‘thing’, and their relationship is uncomfortable to read throughout the novel because some of the things he does and says are the starts of a relationship break down that could lead to some harm.

Also an issue is that nothing really happened. Ultimately, they allied with the factionless and broke into Erudite headquarters. There was a lot of reading to get to that core content. I don’t feel like Tris really developed as a character and the first person narration limits the development of her co-stars as well. In fact, I think Roth felt this as well as in conversation with Jeannine Tris points out ‘I’m 16, I change’ – a blatant attempt to pretend that there has been any character development at all.

Perhaps the most successful aspect of the novel was Caleb’s betrayal of Tris. This was unexpected but also understandable – especially when Tris learns that Erudite was split into two parts, those who believe Jeannine unquestioningly and those who don’t. Caleb’s personality and loyalty to faction were clear from Divergent and it is unsurprising that he returns to this belief. In this sense, the first person narration made it even more shocking because Tris truly had no idea, which mean that the reader didn’t either. This was a clever twist, but not enough to rescue the entire novel.

I have Allegiant here to read and look forwards to completing the trilogy, however, my hopes for the final instalment are minimal. I know that Roth has written several novellas regarding characters in the series – at this point it’s fair to say that I won’t be reading them.

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