Monday, August 29, 2016

INSURGENT // Discussion

Note: Please be advised, there will be DIVERGENT and INSURGENT spoilers. SPOILERS, I TELL YOU. If you missed my spoilery DIVERGENT discussion two weeks ago, you can find that here. Also, if you haven’t entered my blogversary giveaway, you should probably do that. (Or you could procrastinate like I do, since you have until the end of September. Don’t worry, I’ll keep reminding you—unless I forget.) 

Rating: Four Stars—Great 

Here’s the thing. I’ve read and watched a lot of reviews claiming INSURGENT is better than DIVERGENT, and I’ve always felt vaguely confused by this. Perhaps it’s just a matter of personal taste. I’m not sure. What I do know is that giving INSURGENT four stars feels generous, since I don’t feel the story warrants more than three. However, I get super nostalgic about the whole trilogy, which is why I'm giving it an additional star. Because that's how I roll. 

Let’s start out by talking about a few of the things I liked. 

—In INSURGENT we get to learn more about the different factions. We get to see a few more sides to Erudite, for instance, in the way Cara and her friends develop technology for the Amity to be able to defend themselves without killing anyone. I like that we get to see how Amity favors peace over justice, to its detriment, while those in Candor settle for being honest instead of making sure they are also doing the right thing. 

—In DIVERGENT, we were introduced to the idea of the factionless, which was cool, and in INSURGENT we get to know this large people group a lot better. We get to see how the faction system has effected them and how they feel about that system. All good stuff. 

—We get to learn more about Four’s backstory. In DIVERGENT we had the intriguing, mysterious Four, and in INSURGENT we get to see some of the environmental aspects that shaped him into the person he is now. I wasn’t as huge a fan of Four in this book as I was in DIVERGENT, but what we do learn about his past compliments DIVERGENT Four quite nicely. 

—I found the various reactions to the concept of Divergence satisfying, especially Lynn’s theory that the whole thing is a hoax. People don’t always like stuff they don’t understand, so it makes sense that some, like Lynn, would tailor their views of the world to make themselves feel safe. 

—Peter. I love Peter. Not in an I-would-like-to-snog-him way. More like an well-isn’t-that-an-interesting-bug sort of way. (It’s still love though—don’t laugh.) I like that we get to explore more of his driving motivations and the way his psyche is structured. I also like that even when he does something good (like saving Tris), it’s for selfish reasons. 

—I like that there’s no Tris-centered love triangle. 

—I love that Tris gets a chance to tell Will she’s sorry for killing him, even though it’s just in a simulation. 

—I like that Caleb betrays Tris and that this allows us to understand him better. 

—Although there are some definite weaknesses in the world building, I even like some of the ideas behind the formation of the faction system. But I’ll discuss that more in my ALLEGIANT discussion. 

Unfortunately, I have some issues with INSURGENT. 

—There are several internal consistency errors (which Veronica talks about in this post). For instance, on page 77 of the hardcover edition, Tris is unarmed, although she is carrying a gun in the previous and ensuing scenes. On page 134 Tris says the Dauntless don’t bother with antiseptic wipes before shots, which contradicts the time in DIVERGENT when Eric uses one on Tris. There are a few others, but I don’t think I need to list them all to make my point, which is: 

—I don’t think Veronica was given enough time to edit this book thoroughly. I think she would have benefited from setting the story down between drafts and taking large enough breaks (I'm thinking in terms of a month or two) to be able to see the writing with fresh eyes the next time she picked it up. This would potentially have helped with the internal inconsistency. Also, there were ways in which the writing overall could have been smoothed out and tightened a bit more. 

—Too. Much. Passive. Tense. I understand that passive tense can be useful at times. But there were so many sentences that could have been phrased differently to make the story feel more active. Honestly, I don't know if this is a purposeful stylistic thing or if it's just one of Veronica's weak spots. Either way, it bugs me. 

—Overall, the story has less meat. In DIVERGENT, we have a lot of layers. We have Tris struggling with her decision to choose Dauntless. We have Tris making friends and enemies. We have Tris learning how to fight and defend herself. We have Tris’ whole friendship-turned-enemyship (totally a word) with Al and her regret when he kills himself. We have the mystery of what it means to be Divergent, and we have the fear that someone in Dauntless will find her out and kill her. We have the whole issue with the simulation serums. We have Four and Eric's rivalry going on. We have Tris finding out more about her parents. And we have Tris' budding relationship with Four, among other things. 

But in INSURGENT, we have fewer layers. We have Tris’ continued relationship with Tobias/Four. We have Tris’ desire to figure out what caused the Abnegation slaughter. We have continued hostilities among the factions. We have Jeanine being Jeanine. We have Tris finding out a bit more about herself, her parents, and Four. We have the side love triangle. And that’s about it. Though the story takes a bit longer to tell, it feels watered down, more filled with repetitive introspection and less with fresh, new story. Yes, I understand that this is a sequel, so there are going to be ways in which the story doesn’t feel new in the same way that DIVERGENT felt new. But, in my opinion, it ended up more like a mush middle and less like it’s own entity. 

—Tris and Four’s relationship isn't nearly as much fun to read about in INSURGENT as it is in DIVERGENT. In many ways, it seems toxic. They’re too touchy-feely yet simultaneously hostile to each other. And if you think about it, they’re still essentially strangers. While they have been through a lot together, and while they know each other’s fears and such, this has all happened in a relatively short period of time, and they haven’t had much of a chance to get to know each other beyond the trainer/trainee relationship. In the end, I felt uncomfortable with their romance on several levels. 

—Okay, first of all, I have PTSD, so I know what it’s like. I’m not saying that it’s the same for everyone, or that my experiences are the end-all-be-all of what it means to have PTSD. So please, take what I say with a grain of salt. That being said, I think the portrayal of Tris’ PTSD falls flat. Her inability to hold a gun after killing Will feels overdone and not fully explained. Maybe if it were fleshed out a little more I would be able to understand but, even so, that’s not how PTSD works. 

After all that she’s been through, as callous as it sounds, killing her best friend is going to be small potatoes in comparison with the others stuff her brain is processing. She was almost drowned—why isn’t she nervous when washing herself? She was in an all out slaughter—why doesn’t she have to struggle every single time she goes into a crowd? She was beaten up by her simulation-controlled boyfriend—why doesn’t she experience a couple moments of fear in relation to him? I know that she does have some flashbacks, and I appreciate that. I understand her guilt at killing Will, I do. But I don’t like that that’s the reason given for why she gets anxiety every time she tries to pick up a gun, and I don’t like that her inability to pick up guns is the strongest sign of her PTSD. It would make more sense if this were stemming from all the bad memories of all the people shooting at her and getting shot around her, not just the one case that has more to do with regret than fear. 

(And yes, I realize that sometimes the mind goes for the smallest, most quantifiable element in situations like this, but I’m not sure it does to this degree.) 

—I also think her experience with grief is not as realistic as it could have been. To help you understand what I’m saying, think about grief as similar to getting hit by a truck. You feel the initial strike, and you get knocked off your feet. You know that something horrible has happened, even if you haven’t quite pieced together what that is. This is why people often cry when bad news is broken to them. It’s stressful and confusing, and the brain just doesn’t know how to compute. It realizes it’s going to be in a lot of pain, and it gets upset. Crying is a way of dealing with this. 

Then, after getting hit by said truck, and after skidding down the road a ways, or whatever, there’s a brief window in which you don’t really feel anything. This is denial. You’re like, “Oh wait, no, this is fine. I’m good. I can walk this off, because I was not just hit by a truck. Surely you jest.” Then the anger hits. “Dang, that driver should have been watching where he was going. I feel really upset right now. If I could move, I would punch that idiot in the face.” (But you shouldn't do that, because an open hand strike to the nose or a backhand to the temple are both more effective and less needlessly hard on your knuckles.)

Then you think, "Please don't let this be as bad as I think it's going to be. It feels like there are pieces of me all over the place, but maybe if I promise to stop cheating on my taxes, whatever higher power there is will let me get away with a few bruises." After that, the pain hits, and it hits hard, like you’ve just been hit by a truck all over again, only significantly worse. Naturally, this is depressing, and it also happens to be the longest stage (usually). It takes quite a while to recover, both from grief and from getting hit by a truck. But generally, after time has passed, you begin to realize you are going to be okay. This is acceptance. You got hit by a truck, but these things happen, and you are ready to move on. 

I realize this is a somewhat flawed comparison, because some of these reactions happen in a matter of seconds after getting hit by a truck. So maybe it’s more accurate to say that grief is like getting hit by a truck in super, duper, uber slow motion. That’s why I think Tris’ experience doesn’t feel organic. She skips right to the stage where the pain hits, and that doesn’t feel true to her character. I’m not saying people don’t skip stages. But Tris seems like the type to respond to distressing situations with anger, as she does when Molly and Peter and Drew shame her by stealing her towel. And I think it would have made more sense to see Tris raging through the first two thirds of INSURGENT before having a meltdown in the last third. 


In conclusion, my relationship with INSURGENT is weird. When I first read it, I loved it, but then I reread it and found it wasn’t as good as I had remembered. (This would be my second reread.) I don’t hate it, and I will probably reread it every now and then over the next forty-or-so-years, or however long I live. Even with its flaws, I appreciate its potential, and I like seeing Veronica’s fingerprints on the story, because I really like Veronica as a person. If you haven’t read her old blog (which she doesn’t update anymore), you really should. Soon I plan to write a post highlighting how great a blogger she is/was (she does still use Tumblr, but it’s not the same). 

Anyway, I don’t want to keep rambling on and on. This post is already long enough as it is, so I will just leave you with my review schedule for the next two weeks, and I will see you Wednesday: 

Monday, September 5th: ZENITH review

Monday, September 12th: ALLEGIANT discussion

Oh, and before I forget: You may recall how I complained a while back about how ugly the DELIRIUM trilogy covers are. Well, wait for it...

They were redesigned! So now I can buy them without feeling the need to claw out my eyes. 

That’s it for today, my little coffee beans? What are your thoughts on INSURGENT? Did you think it was better, worse than, or equal to DIVERGENT? Do you like the new DELIRIUM covers? 


  1. OMG YES TO THE NEW DELIRIUM COVERS - I'm all for them! No more weird expressionless girl!! *cha-ching*

    I way preferred Divergent to Insurgent in all honesty. While I loved the insights Insurgent gave of the setting (as you mentioned), I just didn't feel the same way about the book as I did in Divergent. You know when you read something so incredible, you go all tingly and can't put it down? That feeling was lost in the sequel for me.

    The films are another issue entirely though - I far preferred Insurgent on the big screen, because I really didn't like Divergent's transformation.

    Great post!

    1. THEY ARE SO GOOD! I was finally able to justify reading them, which means I will finally be able to finish reading the trilogy. I didn't want to even stare at those other covers before, even if I just got them from the library.

      Same. It didn't have the same great feel to it, which was depressing.

      Interesting. I actually preferred the book over the movie when it came to Insurgent, even though I wasn't a huge fan of the book. But I'm glad you enjoyed it! :) I really liked the Divergent movie though. :)

      Thank you, and thank you for commenting! :)

  2. Totally agree with you about this. I loved Divergent, but I honestly hated Insurgent. XD Tris got super annoying to me and I didn't think it had enough depth just like you said.

    1. Yeah, Insurgent was a bit of a let down. Tris was quite weak and whiney, and it really annoyed me. :P

      Thank you for commenting! :)

  3. Snog? I never knew Americans used that word. Hm...

    Honestly. I hated Tris and Four's relationship in the second novel. Always kissing all the time and barely knowing anything about each other. Rather tedious, if you ask me. :/

    1. They don't usually, actually. I picked that up from British stuff, because it's such a descriptive word.

      Me too. It was just super uncomfortable, and it made me angry. And slightly unsettled. :P

      Thank you for commenting! :)

  4. Peter is an interesting small bug... that should be squashed at the first opportunity.

    Very thorough discussion post. It's been a few years since I read Insurgent, so my opinions would be a few years old, lol: honestly, I cannot remember if I liked Divergent or Insurgent better. One second I'm sure it was Divergent, the next, I think it might've been Insurgent... I don't know. I just know there were things I liked and disliked about both of them.

    I do remember loving the no-Tris-centered love triangle though, lol. That's still one of my favorite things about the entire series.

    ALSO I TAGGED YOU FOR A ZOMBIE THING (psst, use Divergent as one of the books please)


    1. Peter is indeed. But yes, I agree on the squashing. Or maybe he should be killed nicely so you can stick him to a board with all your other bugs and maybe I should stop talking.

      It is quite a nice change to not have a main-character-centered love triangle. I don't necessarily hate love triangles, but it does bother me that they're so prevalent.

      Thank you! I really enjoyed doing the tag! (And I did Divergent. :D)

      Thank you for commenting! :)

  5. I love your discussions! I've only read Insurgent once, and it was about 5 years ago - basically the only thing I remember was freaking out about the ending - so it's really fascinating to read through all of your analysis and see what I remember and what I didn't even catch the first time. And I don't think I ever really appreciated how great it is that Tris wasn't in a love triangle. That would have annoyed me so much.

    And I love the new Delirium covers! I never got past book one, but those covers make me want to buy them all and give the series another shot.

    1. Thank you! I'm glad you like them! The ending was so great, oh my goodness. *hugs self*

      They are great. I didn't finish reading the trilogy before because I didn't want to even look at the covers for the second two books, but I'm currently midway through book two with the new covers, so that's fun. :P

      Thank you for commenting! :)