Veronica Roth created a futuristic dystopian society set in various areas of the Chicago city limits. The city and society is organized into five different factions–each one representing a different value and role in society. Abnegation values selflessness and are the city’s political officials. Candor values honesty, which makes their faction the leaders of the justice system. Amity are committed to peace and neutrality, and they are made up of nature-loving farmers and artists. Dauntless value bravery and are are trained in combat to act as protectors of the city. Erudite values knowledge and provides all technological advancement and education for all the children of the city.
Roth’s sophomore novel Insurgent picks up only hours after the previous novel’s ending as the protagonist Tris wakes in the aftermath of the Erudite/Dauntless attack–a display of technological and bureaucratic dominance. While the fear of death has been overcome by the Dauntless characters in Divergent, this book challenges them to battle fear that is produced by oppressive forces.
The question of how a government should function is constant throughout the whole book and, naturally, various options are presented. The ideologies presented in the book display a different range in human value. Some of the Chicago population believe the government should be an oligarchy while others believe in communal democracy. Early in the book Tris is exposed to the manner in which the faction Amity chooses to conduct their government decisions:
“We have before us today an urgent question,” she says, “which is: How will we conduct ourselves in this time of conflict as people who pursue peace?”
Every Amity in the room turns to the person next to him or her and starts talking.
“How do they get anything done?” I say, as the minutes of chatter wear on.
“They don’t care about efficiency,” Tobias says. “They care about agreement. Watch.”
Two women in yellow dresses a few feet away rise and join a trio of men. A young man shifts so that his small circle becomes a large one with the group next to him. All around the room, the smaller crowds grow and expand, and fewer and fewer voices fill the room, until there are only three or four. […]
“This is bizarre,” I say.
“I think it’s beautiful,” he says.
Political ideology, while constant, is made less prevalent as the story gets wrapped up in the take-down of the evil dictator. The events of the rising action err on the side of rushed as Tris bounces between capture and freedom in a short amount of time. It is, however, understandable that unpredictable and unlikely events occur in a politically volatile environment where the possibilities for the extraordinary are widened.
Tris is faced with increasingly heavy life questions that continually build her character in the midst of a crumbling society. The first person point of view immerses the reader into Tris’s whirlwind of trust issues as she guards herself against every other character in the story. Readers swim though her insecurities about the boy she loves while frustration builds at her inability to confess what’s on her mind. Just like in the first book, Tris struggles to understand what constitutes bravery and weakness when it comes to showing emotional vulnerability. Unlike the first book, Tris is confident in what she fights for: her beliefs and those she loves. These convictions are not new to story lines with heroic protagonists, but readers of the series have seen the unique adversity Tris has faced to reach this point of confidence.
The conflict of identity presented in Divergent is expanded as the story explores the underground world of the factionless–those who failed initiation or were banned from their faction. To see citizens of Chicago living free of the societal restrictions that are so ingrained in the characters introduces to them the possibility of a different way of life and forces Tris to question the value of the factions. The revelation of the factionless population and their eventual involvement in the political upheaval is predictable from the first book because they have already broken the rules of the strictly-organized society. Thankfully there are enough surprises in the factionless storyline to keep it fresh.
Insurgent succeeds at being more than an overtly transitional book between the set up of the first and the climax of the third. This installment seamlessly upholds the personal struggles of Tris as the scope of the story continues to grow and test the boundaries of the surreal society. If this complex, high-risk novel appeals to you, now is the time to dive into this series with the recent release of the third book, Allegiant, and the first movie coming out in March 2014.
Want to read more about the upcoming movie? Check out the commentary YA Fascination with the Extreme to see the actors involved in the Divergent conversation.