Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Insurgent ~ Veronica Roth

"Insurgent," he says.  "Noun.  A person who acts in opposition to the established authority, who is not necessarily regarded as belligerent."

For my review of Divergent, I was all scholarly, talking about Erik Erikson and whatnot, probably because I hadn't wholeheartedly committed to the series yet, so I was able to maintain that kind of distance.  Not so with Insurgent.  For the vast majority of this book I was all "OMG Tris and Tobias are perfect for each other, why can't they just realize that and have some cuddles?!"  I pretty much went fangirl all over it and it was great.  One Friday night when my husband was working and my apartment was clean (i.e., no excuse to listen to the audiobook), I went out and bought the book so that I could spend the night in an Insurgent-fest.  I may have issues.  Also, I LOVE the tree on the cover.

FYI, this is the second book in a series, so there are spoilers of Divergent.  Read at your own risk.

When we left off in Divergent, Tris had killed her friend Will to protect herself, her parents had died for her, and she, Tobias, her brother Caleb, Tobia's father Marcus, Peter the EVIL, and a handful of Abnegation had escaped the city and are heading to Amity headquarters in search of asylum.  When Insurgent opens, the group of misfits gains asylum under various conditions, like not being allowed to lose their tempers (cough, TRIS).  It quickly becomes apparent that Tris is suffering PTSD due to the events of the attack, though she tries to deny that anything's wrong, which begins causing problems between her and Tobias.  The group returns to the city, where they (and we) learn more about the Factionless (they're people too, who knew?) and the Candor, whose headquarters the loyal Dauntless are hiding out in.  The Dauntless retake their headquarters, Tris makes a dangerous and possibly very stupid sacrifice, and then the war resumes.  But there is something more, something beyond the wall that could change everything and only Tris can find out what it is...

In writing the summary above (which was really difficult to do, by the way) it struck me that Roth may have spent a little too much time reading Harry Potter and Game of Thrones (see Veritaserum and the Wall).  BUT THAT'S OKAY.  Those authors also spent a lot of time reading other authors, who also shine through their works.  It's the way of things.

I really, really appreciated the representation of PTSD in this book.  So many writers put their characters through so much without any resulting psychological trauma, and it's just unrealistic.  Not that experiencing something traumatic guarantees PTSD, because it doesn't, but it happens and it's good to see that violence and loss come at a price.  And that price isn't just the flashbacks and inability to hold a gun and waves of uncontrollable emotion - it also hurts Tris's relationship with Tobias.  Whereas in Divergent their relationship was all butterflies in the stomach and tentative kisses, in Insurgent it becomes something much more difficult and often painful.  Tobias knows something is wrong and is hurt that Tris won't tell him; Tris desperately wants to tell  him but can't muster up enough trust.  It gets a little annoying, because they replay this over and over throughout the novel, despite the fact that Tobias also proves himself and Tris obviously has some real issues going on, but it's still understandable.  They're 16 and 18 and totally inexperienced - communication is not easy.  They haven't mastered it and they don't have good role models for it.

Of course, despite their problems, Tris and Tobias are perfect for each other.  Part of that is because this is a YA novel and that's what I'm supposed to think and part of that is because they really are.  They understand each other in a way that nobody else does and are, in effect, the only family they have left.  Both were raised Abnegation and chose Dauntless.  Both lost their parents, though under very different circumstances (Tobias's are still very much alive).  Tris still has her brother, who chose Erudite, but it turns out that they never really knew each other anyway.  Because of their Abnegation upbringings, Tris and Tobias have trouble relating to people, including each other, but, at a certain level, understand that as well.  They are broken and hurting but still, when it comes down to it, are able to be there for each other.  Their relationship isn't perfect, but who's is?  They're doing their best.  I was really happy that Roth didn't include some stupid love triangle (I was SURE that Uriah would be triangled in) because they have enough to be getting on with as it is.
We both have war inside us.  Sometime it keeps us alive.  Sometimes it threatens to destroy us.
LOVE THIS. (Source)
And Tris and Tobias are both Divergent.  That kind of helps with the "perfect for each other thing" because both are capable of a flexibility and strength that the majority of the population cannot even conceive of.  One of their shared skills is the ability to fight and overcome the various serums that have been developed to control and influence people's minds.  This is quite possibly one of the most disturbing aspects of this dystopia.  In The Handmaid's Tale, people are controlled by oppressive social policy and the threat of death, in 1984 they're victims of mind control, in The Hunger Games they're controlled by poverty - but I think scariest of all is the chemical control imagined by Roth, in which people are shot up by serums and lose conscious control of themselves and become physically unable to control what they see or do, or are forced to imagine their worst fears or whatever horrific situation has been thought up.  I mean, think about it - how hard would it be for somebody to come up behind you and stab you in the neck with a syringe that contains transmitters that will control your mind and body for however long.  Scariest of all, it seems possible.

AND THEN THE ENDING.  I won't spoil it here, but I have to say, that's probably one of the most disturbing plot twists for me personally.  It's not exactly original, but every time I read a book/see a movie that goes that way, it completely freaks me out.  It doesn't even necessarily make sense (Right?  That could never happen, RIGHT?!) but the idea of it has scared me ever since I first read a version of it in a certain Goosebumps book.  Way to freak me out, Roth.

To end, we need to have the requisite discussion about the title of the third book (due out it October, I can't wait!).  I think the two main contenders are Emergent and Convergent.  I'm going with the first one, if only because it implies a slightly happier ending.


  1. Okay I have still not read Divergent but just your mention of the handling of PTSD is enough to make me read this series. (Let alone the other stuff.) It drives me crazy in all these dystopian/supernatural stories when the people are constantly experiencing horrific circumstances without appearing to be any the worse for it.

    1. Yup, it makes the story much more believable. Not that everybody experiences trauma, but the sheer absence of it in so many series is just ridiculous. That is one aspect of Harry Potter that bothers me actually - yeah, Harry is grumpy and having unpleasant dreams after Cedric's death but he just bounces back from that and many other deaths, as does everyone around him. At least he is emotionally developed though.