Saturday, September 1, 2012

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

I've decided to do a detailed synopsis of this book, because the storyline is so complex that I will never remember it when I go to read the final book in the trilogy. In order to read Insurgent, I had to go back and reread almost half of Divergent.

Previously, Tris, her brother Caleb, Tobias and his father Marcus, and Peter escape a mass simulation that has the Dauntless faction killing the Abnegation faction. The simulations make the Dauntless unaware of what they are doing and in a kind of mind control in which they are ordered to kill anyone who looks like Abnegation. The above mentioned five people however are all Divergent, meaning they are able to resist the simulations.

Tobias and Tris learned that the simulations are being created by Jeanine Matthews, a scientist and representative of the Erudite faction who wants to create a new government, one without the Abnegation. However, the Divergent, most of whom come from Abnegation do not respond to the simulations, so she needs a way to either remove them or control them. She wants Abnegation to be absorbed into Dauntless. Tris and her parents, along with others thwart Jeanine's attempt by destroying the simulation and stealing the data from the simulations.

Insurgent picks up exactly where Divergent left off. The five fugitives are on a train that takes them to the Amity headquarters outside the city. There, they hope to secure the Amity faction's help. However, the Amity, under the direction of Johanna Reyes, decide to remain impartial and to establish their faction headquarters as a safe house for all factions provided that there are no weapons and no fighting or discussion of the current conflict. This is mainly because the Erudite and Amity factions work closely together.

Tris discovers that there is some kind of secret information that the Abnegation were entrusted with. Jeanine attacked the Abnegation faction to steal this information, in order to destroy it. Tris also learns that Marcus is determined to obtain this information and so he decides to return to the city to achieve this goal. But before he and the rest of the Divergent can leave, the Amity compound is raided by members of the Erudite faction with the help of Dauntless traitors. Only Tris, Tobias, Caleb and an Amity woman named Susan manage to escape.

When these four take a train into the city, they find themselves confronted by the factionless (those who failed their initiation into a faction) who are led by Tobias' mother, Evelyn. Tris learns that most of the factionless are Dauntless, Erudite, then Candor, with a few Amity. The Dauntless faction is now fractured with half of the faithful going to Erudite and half with Candor. Evelyn has been tracking the location of the Divergent in the city, in the factionless safe houses. She is concerned that the Erudite who are now looking for more bodies to control, will look to the factionless next, both for bodies to fight with and also to eliminate the Divergent. Evelyn has her own goals however; she wants a new government and a new society, one without factions. And to achieve that she is willing to destroy whatever is necessary to achieve this goal.

Tobias and Tris decide to go to the Candor faction at the "Merciless Mart" where they are arrested and meet the faction's leader Jack Kang. However, while there, the Dauntless traitors raid Candor headquarters, searching for Divergent with the intent of bringing two back to study and killing all other Divergent they can find. This assault is unsuccessful mainly due to Tris and Tobias's intervention. Despite this, Kang wishes to negotiate a peace treaty with the Dauntless and Erudite factions. Tris and Tobias realize they cannot attack the Dauntless traitors and the Erudite factions without Candor's help, so they decide to try to enlist the factionless.

When Kang meets with Matthew's representative, he is told that Candor is disposable since they provide nothing useful to the Erudites. Instead he is ordered to turn over the Divergent and all those who have not been injected with simulation serum. Realizing that they are no longer safe at the Candor headquarters, Tris and Tobias leave and return to Dauntless headquarters.

Tobias who is now leader of the Dauntless meets with his mother Evelyn. Evelyn agrees to form an alliance with Dauntless provided they are given a place in the new government after the Erudite are destroyed.

When Jeanine Matthews threatens to kill a Dauntless every two days unless one of the Divergent surrenders to Erudite headquarters, Tris decides to turn herself in. Jeanine Matthews is desperate to learn why the Divergent do not respond to the simulation serum and therefore cannot be controlled. She never dreamed of getting the strongest Divergent but with Tris she hopes she can learn how to control them. Despite the experiments, Tris  cannot be controlled by Jeanine and she is eventually helped to escape.

Marcus finally decides to talk to Tris about the information that Jeanine Matthews stole from Abnegation. He tells her that a week before the simulation attack, the Abnegation leaders decided to reveal the information they had, to everyone. Marcus tells her that they were placed here for a specific purpose. Marcus says he cannot tell Tris what the information is because she will not believe him. Tris also learns that her mother was trying to retrieve that information from Matthews but chose instead to save her. Marcus asks her to help him, but helping Marcus means betraying Tobias who along with his mother Evelyn, are planning to attack the Erudite and destroy them. For Marcus however, retrieving this information is more important than any attack to destroy the Erudite.

Can Tris retrieve this important information before it is destroyed forever by the attack on the Erudite headquarters? And just what is the information that is so important that Tris' mother and father died trying to retrieve it.

My main complaint is that I found Insurgent to be a terribly long read (over 500 pages), at times confusing because there were so many characters and so many twists in the storyline. To this end, a list of characters would have helped immensely and as would a map of the city. Because the storyline is so complex, it was hard to remember what happened in the first novel and who some of the characters were. For example, I couldn't remember who Will was and had to go back and reread part of Divergent. Obviously Roth has realized that this was problematic and so she created a webpage for readers prior to beginning Insurgent. As part of Roth's blog, the webpage lists all the characters in Divergent and gives a summary of the end of the book. I highly recommend reading this page, otherwise you will be lost, like I was.

There were several week points in the the plot of Insurgent. I did not understand why Tris decided to surrender to Jeanine Matthews. She knew that Matthews wanted to study the Divergent so that she could perfect her simulation serum and make it effective on the Divergent. Helping Matthews do this would mean many more Divergent would be killed and that she might actually succeed in destroying the factions. Was this simply a case of Tris' Abnegation characteristics getting the better of her judgement?

It also didn't make sense that Jeanine Matthews would not have destroyed the information she had on her computer from the very beginning, especially if it would prevent her from achieving her goal of a new government. The book ends with the revelation of what that information was; it turns out these people were put in this place which is fenced off and completely isolated from the rest of the world. This new society was formed based on attributes such as sacrifice, candor, intelligence and divided into factions. They were to stay isolated until those who were flexible and open minded became numerous then they were to come back to the parent society and help save that society which was riddled by war. Given the conditions in this factioned society, it seems unrealistic that they have anything new to offer, since they too are now at war.

Tris' sudden siding with Marcus also didn't feel like a reasonable thing to do either. She had no reason to trust Marcus, whom she knew was a cruel man. And when she confronts him about the sort of information they are seeking to recover, he tells her that he can't tell her because he has "no idea how to describe it" to her. In the end Tris sides with Marcus because she knows that her mother died trying to do the same thing.

Insurgent is filled with themes of abandonment, conflict, betrayal, love, and loyalty. There is conflict between Tobias and both his parents; Marcus for his cruelty and Evelyn for her abandonment. Tris also experiences conflict both on a personal level and also with regard to the war as she must decide where her allegiance lies.

Tris is strong female protagonist. She is a complex mixture of strength and weakness. Physically she is very strong, but emotionally Tris is vulnerable. Tris suffers from post-traumatic stress as she tries to deal with killing her friend Will while he was under the simulation, the death of her parents, and the fact that many of her new faction, Dauntless have murdered innocent Abnegation while under the simulation.

The blossoming love between Tris and Tobias, is tested because of Tris' indecision and confusion over the faction conflict. Tris loves Tobias and wants to be with him but she needs to do what she thinks is right and that might mean choosing a path different from that chosen by Tobias.

Overall, Insurgent was a good read but far too long. Two hundred pages could have easily been edited from this book without much loss to the plot and this would have created a better flow to the storyline. I will be interested to see just where Roth takes the storyline in the third book. I am assuming Tris and Tobias will want to see what is outside the fence?

The third and final book in this series will be released in the Fall of 2013.

Book Details:
Insurgent by Veronica Roth
Katherine Tegen Books   2012
525 pp.

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