Monday, May 7, 2012

Insurgent - a spoilerless review

Insurgent (Divergent #2)
Veronica Roth
544 pages

There comes a point in a book or a movie where you know the plot won't recover. That anything that's said or done after that point is complete moot. It could be a single line, scene, description, act, or character that just destroys the entire experience. This happened about thirty pages into Insurgent for me. It happened again at 150, 200, 240, 300, and probably 544.

I know I wasn't a fan of the original as it was mostly setup. That I didn't really enjoy Divergent until the last 20% of the book. I came into Insurgent not wanting to read it but I did anyway in the hopes of not being let down. I like to give every author--especially those of highly successful trilogies--a second chance.

The book picks up where we left off in Divergent: the faction formed government is at war with itself, and everything has hit the ceiling. Tris and Four are trying to escape the city with a few others and things are getting dangerous. There's deceit at every corner, spies, intrigue, romance, violence, cats and dogs living together.

I'm going to cover the good first. Veronica Roth can write great action scenes. Scenes that are tense and unforgivably dark. At certain points in Insurgent I thought characters that were not expendable could be expendable. She really had me going. She doesn't throw in a lot of back story this time. She really knows how to pace a novel and make it tense, I'll give her that.

This is a part where it gets tricky. I'm going to call this point in my post a bus stop. Because I'm going to stop the bus and half of you are going to get off and you'll never come back to this post, the rest of you can stay on. I'm warning you now, I am not kind after this point. I hold back no punches. Are you on the Bus? Leave now if you don't want to be on it. I'll tell you when to get back on.

The characters in this book are generic. Four is an amalgamation of every male YA character that I've ever read. He's Jace from City of Bones, he's Edward from Twilight. I get that some of the girls swoon over Four's character. I really do. He's so violent but sensitive towards Tris and he has tattoos and takes his shirt off. Oh my!

What some girls find to be so romantic about him I find borderline offensive. He's a stereotypical male character placed into a book for the lead character to swoon over. He's not an Augustus Waters, he's not a Cricket Bell; he's not Nate from Lock & Key. But I get it. This isn't a contemporary novel. It's a dystopian future Chicago.

But... but... here we go...

Nate from Lock & Key never had his abuse played up. I don't know why Veronica Roth gave Four a back story of child abuse. To explain his anger? To explain him lashing out at others? Yes. That's such a good image of abuse victims: all violent and cagey and at the point of mental breakdown at any moment. Four is an offensive character that only lashes out, one with cold logic and emotion, one that is generic, one that has no redeemable qualities as a male character because Roth didn't give him any. I know that some of you guys really enjoy him as a character, but from a guys' perspective: he's a douche bag. He's not a good person. He's not someone you need to call hot and swoon over. He's someone that needs a Xanex and a therapist.

We then have Beatrice. She has become extremely violent and reckless. It doesn't bother me. What bothers me is that Veronica Roth gave us rules in Divergent for the divergent that she does not follow in Insurgent. If she did it to turn readers on their heads: it didn't work on me. All it did was give Roth an easy way out for her characters. I can't stand behind that.

There are points in this novel where I wanted to scream at the injustice of what people were doing. There's no logic behind certain actions. There's no motive except to explain "Oh. This person is cruel and that's why they did it." No. That's a cop-out to me.

I could not be on this novel's side. With its wide range of generic characters (I could not tell the different between Christina, Beatrice, Lynn, Edward, etc), its offensive portrayal of abuse victims, its generic lead male character, and its main character that can't figure out the motives of others before the reader can.

You can get back on the bus now.


While I think that Veronica Roth can write a good action novel and has some interesting ideas; it's impossible for me to get over the characters that populate the novel. I can't get over the rules that she so clearly setup in the first that she violates in the second; I can't get over a lot of things.

I think it's safe for me to say that I won't be reading the next in the trilogy, but if Veronica Roth ever has a non-Divergent book I'll check it out. I think that's the best I can do at this point.

Full Disclosure: Read on my Kindle.


If you are leaving a comment please let others know that it may contain spoilers.

29 comments:

  1. I think the abuse storyline was also used to explain why Four joined Dauntless when clearly he is more suited to abnegation - to get away from his father. It also throws up the question of how many others made similar choices although not necessarily for the same tragic reason. I'm curious to know what the "rules" are for Divergents, maybe talk to me about it?

    Four is attractive to me because he is brave, strong, smart and at times sensitive. Ain't nothing wrong with that ;)

    Sorry to hear you had issues with the book, obviously I really enjoyed it :)

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    1. Thank you for not yelling and cursing at me. Not that you would. :)

      Unfortunately I feel like his abuse plot line was thrown onto the 3rd part of the first book, and horribly done. It's since been used as an excuse for every action he takes. Especially when it comes to Tris.

      I'm going to do a follow-up on Wednesday to go further into depth about the "rules" and such. Or let's just call it... "My spoilerific review of Divergent" or something of the sorts.

      Delete
  2. I'm am one of those girls who goes all a little gaga for Four. :) I loved his character in the first book - his honour, loyalty, strength and bravery - and even though I maybe didn't connect with his character so much in this book, I still pretty much love him. I enjoyed reading your take on his character -- it's interesting. You made some very valid points and left me with food for thought, for sure.

    Mostly what I love about this series is it's action-packed pace. Most other YA dystopian fiction I've read to this point has sent me to sleep.

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    1. I don't see him with that much honor or strength. If I were Four I would've shot Peter a long time ago. As a guy I can tell you that I would've done a number of things differently.

      Thank you! I'm glad I could make you think.

      It is very action packed, but if I had to recommend an action packed dystopian series I'd pick Marie Lu's Legend over Divergent.

      Delete
    2. It's good to get a guys view on guys in books.

      I have a copy of Legend, so I'll check it out soon.

      Does that one have a hot guy too??

      Delete
    3. Day is a great character! Idk about him being hot, but I always pictured him as Anton Yelchin (Chekov in the new Star Trek movie).

      Delete
  3. It saddens me that you do not like this series (or Four). But to each their own. :) We can still be friends. And I'm not even going I try and argue my reasons to like it.
    Curious about the rules you mentioned.

    Also looks like I'm going to have to read Lock & Key!

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    1. I'm going to go over the "rules" or just things that I think Vernoica Roth might've messed up on. I'm not sure. I hope someone proves me wrong.

      I'm glad that you enjoyed the book, there were moments where I did too (action sequences, clearly).

      Delete
  4. This is why I like you Adam. It is nice to get a guys perspective. You are honest and don't hold back. I can't wait to read Insurgent to see if I'm in agreement or not. Most likely the latter, but we can discuss that later :)

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    1. Thanks! It's why I do this. It's okay if you disagree with me. Please let me know what you think of it when you finish. Post it back here or email me or Twitter me. You can even say "Mr. Adam, you are wrong, wrong, wrong!"

      Delete
  5. I am so happy to hear a guy's perspective about this. While you and I are at different ends of the opinion spectrum, I totally understand where you thoughts and feelings are coming from. Tris and Four were both erratic and impulsive in this book. They both need a Xanex and a therapist. Hell, the entire book of characters needs that! None of them were given time to heal from the tragedy in Divergent and their instability is definitely at play in Insurgent.

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    1. Thank you for understanding my point-of-view. I don't know if most people are picking up on this, but it's mainly the male character in this book that I don't like. It's because I can't empathize with him.

      They were extremely erratic and impulsive in this one. It kind of got to me when Four yelled at Tris about acting out, but then he goes and does the same thing. Plot hole? Contradiction? Or just bad writing? I'm not sure. Either way I didn't like it.

      Thank you for your comment. :)

      Delete
  6. The abuse storyline gives Four a flaw. I know you think he has lots of other flaws, but to Tris he is perfect until she learns about his abuse. It makes him more human and relatable. Let's agree to disagree on this one because I thought Divergent was great and I'm enjoying Insurgent right now. My hope is that this series will not implode in the 3rd book like the Hunger Games trilogy did.

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    1. Thank you for your comment, Karla!

      I think we can agree to disagree. I'd like to go further into detail about something you said, but I can't because of spoilers. So I won't. Enjoy your read. :)

      Delete
    2. Give me a couple more days to finish the book, then we can discuss this further.

      I also want to add that I met Veronica Roth last week and she really is a very nice person. That makes it difficult for me to get too critical, but I'm trying.

      Delete
  7. Based upon your reviews of both, I need to read this series immediately to find out if I can agree. Your words will ring in my ears the whole way through.

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    1. If you agree with me we can start a revolution and just hammer the point home.

      Delete
  8. There is too much hype for me to read this book right now, or for a long time, with the marketing they used and how it was handled. I'm just NOT excited about it at all. I kinda feel bad about it, actually. So let it be known that I haven't read it.

    But when read Divergent, I did based on the recommendations of basically everyone. And I thought it was okay. I couldn't even put anything on my blog about it because I didn't even know what to say. I read it like I thought it was supposed to be read, not like someone who fell in love with Four. So, there's that. I can't identify with anyone else who has read this book because there is this huge barrier of "What, you didn't loooove Divergent?" and "What, you didn't loooove Four?" and I don't understand it. Perhaps there may be a romance in the book, but I'm not sure that Four was ever meant to be bigger than the book. He's just one character in part of a bigger story that involves tons of other characters.

    Yes, he's pretty darn flawed and so is Tris, but I can't get past the OMG FOUR!!! factor of this series to really see the series. It's disappointing to me, honestly, because how do I even know if there is potential there or not when I can't even discuss the book with anyone without everyone going all keyboard smash and capslock? AND I'm super sad about ALL OF THIS because I've heard and read such wonderful things about this author, about her being so nice and stuff. This series as a whole has just made some drastic errors in my opinion and I am having such a hard time seeing past them at this point - I'm not saying they're author errors; they may be publicity errors with both books. I absolutely see YOUR point and know enough about what you value in a main character, male particularly, to know your opinion of this guy and I think you articulated yourself very very well.

    Brilliant, with your bus stop and all that. Good Job. :)

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    1. See, that's why I read Divergent: popularity. I didn't know what I was expecting, but what I got wasn't a love story at all. What I got was a clueless main character and the generic male character that occasionally pops up. In the first book he really is just a few paragraphs here and there, in the second he's more pronounced but it's about the abuse he suffered. I can agree that it's hard to talk about this book with all the Four Love going around, unfortunately that's the part of the book that most people are taking away. I don't understand why as I do not find him to be a well-written character.

      I have heard that Veronica Roth is a wonderful person, but that does not change my opinion of the book or the characters within it.

      Thank you for your comments. They're appreciated and much better than just a "Good job".

      Delete
  9. I thought the first book was good despite some plot holes and issues. The second book was insufferable. It was so uncomfortable that (spoilers!!!!) Tris teamed up with Marcus. I feel like Roth had a perfectly good team to work with: Tris, Tobias, Christina, Uriah, and Peter. This group should have been the main focus of the plot. Not Marcus, or people who come in and out of the story for reasons unknown (Marlene? Lynn? Shauna? Edward? FERNANDO???). Roth: you already have an awesome team. instead, you let them fade into the background (especially Peter who had the potential to be the most interesting character. The "Edmund" from "Narnia" of the group , one could say.) and you blew it. Why did you make Tris join up with the creepy, child abuser father? How was this supposed to make me care about the story, or Tris, or Tris's skills.

    And I never thought I'd say this, but where are the strong male leads? Tobias, in Insurgent, fades into the background. The leader of Candor just does nothing useful, even though he could have been a cool ally, and Uriah, who is a cool guy and a Divergent, doesn't do anything good or interesting! Why?

    ReplyDelete
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