Insurgent by Veronica RothI finished Divergent several months ago, and Insurgent picks up right where it left off, so it took me a little while to get back in the groove.

One choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris’s initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful.

Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

From the publisher, HarperCollins Canada

Wow, what a vague description from the jacket copy. I guess that’s to avoid spoilers….so I should probably announce: SPOILER ALERT!

Spoilers: From here on out, if you haven’t read Divergent, I will ruin it completely. If you haven’t read Insurgent, I will probably spoil a lot.

To recap, Divergent ended with mass murder of countless people (mostly Abnegation) by a simulation-possessed Dauntless army. As a Divergent, Tris and Four escaped the carnage, and managed to halt the process. Thus, the five factions have plunged into war-like conflict as Jeanine prepares Erudite to rule.

I appreciated that the characters (particularly Tris and Four) had been changed by their experiences in the first novel, and their hesitancy toward closeness with each other as well as trusting others felt authentic. The plot moves along at a quick pace with a good amount of detail, but I felt that some of the incidents and discoveries were too convenient. For example, Four’s long-dead mother is actually ‘head’ of the Factionless and Tris is able to figure out what Jeanine’s new serum does with very little trouble.

The strength of the novel, I felt, was in Tris’s emotional struggles—her guilt over killing Will, her dislike of Marcus while believing he is telling the truth, and the growing distance between her and Four. As a first person narrator, Tris is unreliable and that feels authentic. It is unlikely that you have a character say, “This is how I feel” and then, “This is logically why I feel this way”. Logic and emotion are rarely bedfellows. Roth handles Tris’s emotional plight with care, and doesn’t delve into didactic problem-solving. She realizes that many of the characters’ quandaries are not easily remedied, which is a strong literary bonus mark for Roth.

As a middle novel in a trilogy, Insurgent is incredibly strong: it ‘solves’ the problem created in the first book’s cliffhanger, and introduces and even bigger issue for the third book. In a number of series (especially trilogies) the second book is weak on independent plot and development. Despite some entirely-too-convenient occurrences, Insurgent is a strong second book. It ends with a cliffhanger (obviously) but it is cleverly a point that critics of Divergent raised: why is the book set only within the city limits of Chicago?