Review written by Jonathan Lavallee.
If you haven’t read the Divergent review, I suggest you read that first because I’m not going to go over the descriptions of the various factions and the setup. If you need a reminder, it’s probably a good place to start.
Insurgent starts off immediately where the last one left off. Not in that the next day/week/month/year kind of way but in the next five minutes kind of way. Both Tris and Four are in a moving train full of the Factionless trying to figure out what they can do to win the newly sparked civil war. They’ve taken the Abnegation survivors to the Amity compound and have to deal with the Erudite and their demands.
This whole book covers the conflict between Erudite and the Dauntless. It’s a lot darker than Divergent in scope and in tone. There’s a lot of fighting and a lot of death in the book as the civil war rages on between the Erudite and the Dauntless and Factionless forces. The conflict that takes center stage in the book, however, is Tris’ own angst about having killed Will while he was under the influence of Erudite mind control while being able to help Four break through his mind control. She has to deal with trying to lead a group of people bent on fighting a civil war when she refuses to take up anything resembling a weapon.
Stylistically the book is the same as Divergent, but the ending is one of those headscratchers that might leave you wondering where they go from there. Not in a physical sense, because the next book is going to deal with what happens outside the fences beyond the Amity farms, but it feels a little out of left field. The series could have ended with this book, and I know I was left trying to make sense of the ending.
Your tween might not catch that (my older one who read it too didn’t seem to be too bothered by the not-ending of the book), but this book might just be something you have to read on the way to the final book, which is all you can ask for a second book to do.
SPOILER ALERT: Things you might want to know before suggesting this to your kid
There is a lot more violence in this book. There’s a lot more war, fighting, and shooting type combat—considering that this is where most of the action of the civil war takes place, that makes sense. You’re going to have more combat inside a war zone than just at the beginning. However, there are a lot of torture scenes in this book. The leader of the Erudites captures Tris and tries to get her technology to work on her, and it leads to some pretty awful situations up to the point where they attempt to execute Tris. If your tween isn’t one that enjoys painful situations, then they’re going to have a hard time with the whole section of the book, because this process doesn’t happen quickly.
A lot of family problems come out to play more in this book. You get the situation between Four and his abusive father who managed to survive the Abnegation massacre in the first book. They run into each other in the Amity farm, and there’s a scene where Four hits his father back, publically, to deal with the bullying he’s getting from the Dauntless who are calling him a coward.
Tris’ brother betrays her to the Erudite, and helps out with the “studies” performed on his sister.
Sex and Relationships
While there isn’t as much focus on the relationship between Four and Tris, it does get a little bit more into the sexy side of the relationship. It’s still in the PG-13 range, but it’s pushing those levels, too.
The religion vs. science metaphor continues here, but it gets extended to how they deal with the other groups. Abnegation calmly asks for help from Amity and Candor while Erudite intimidates Amity and mind controls all of Candor because they serve no use to them. It really takes the C.S. Lewis blueprint and tries its best to follow it to the letter.
As a second book, it behooves you to read the first one, but there’s nothing here that will make you wish your tween hadn’t started reading the first one. If they liked Divergent, they’ll like Insurgent just to see where the story goes. Tris is still a compelling character who is wracked with her own personal guilt, and, while it seems a little too much at times, it is broken up by some pretty cool action scenes.
Insurgent by Veronica Roth
Published in 2011 by Harper Collins
Book two of three
Read the hardcover