Wednesday, March 26, 2014


Allegiant – Veronica Roth

After overthrowing the Erudite leadership, the factionless implement a new leadership system that strongly resembles the previous system in that it denies freedom of choice to the people in the city. Influenced by the video urging the people in the city to find a way to get outside of the fence, Tris and Tobias join a group of rebels determined to push the outer boundaries of their knowledge and existence. What they find beyond the fence is shocking, confusing, and just as concerning as what is happening within the limits of the city. A bureau of experts has been monitoring not only Tris and Toabias’ city, but many other cities as well. When the rebellion in the city threatens the stability of the bureau, the bureau threatens to take drastic action to maintain the status quo to the detriment of all the residents in the city. To avoid the destruction of their home, Tris, Tobias, and their group of supposedly loyal friends, make hurried plans and spontaneous decisions to subvert the actions of the bureau. With so many variables, establishing a plan with any kind of certainty is impossible, so Tris and Tobias must move forward based on assumptions, hope, and a dream of what the future might be.

“Allegiant” continues the pattern that Veronica Roth laid out in the first two novels of the series. The book moves unbelievably fast, each chapter is filled with unexpected plot twists, and the story has so many complex layers of uncertainty and half-truths that it is difficult to keep track of what is happening. In addition to adding new characters, relationships, and challenges, Roth also continuously broadens the perspective of the story. In the first novel, Tris moved outside her own faction. In the second novel, the city becomes the main level of interaction. In the third novel, the story moves outside the boundaries of everything that has been known up to this point. Tris moves through all these levels of relationships while maintaining integrity in her actions and singularity in her vision despite the changing landscape. By continuing to change the setting and level of interaction between characters, Roth emphasizes the importance of the big picture.

As interesting as the third book was, I also found it a little difficult to keep track and make sense of what was happening. Roth introduces so many new characters and plot twists that not only are the characters in the story unable to have any sense of certainty, but I also felt that as the reader, I was unable to wholly connect to any one piece of the story. Additionally, she changes the narration of the third novel and alternates between the perspectives of Tris and Tobias for different chapters, which was very confusing to me for probably the first half of the novel. Uncertainties aside, I did find “Allegiant” to be a compelling novel because it serves as a reminder not to get too comfortable with what you think you know. Very interesting, very fast, and very exciting.

Saturday, March 8, 2014


Insurgent – Veronica Roth

In the second installment of the “Divergent” series, Tris finds herself in the midst of an uncertain revolution in which all sides clamor to take the lead. Tris and her companions wander around between factions, trying to seek shelter and build alliances for overcoming the threat of the Erudite. They rest and recover with Amity, network with the factionless and Abnegation, and seek information from Candor. Tris also learns about the Erudite when she turns herself over in an attempt to save others. As a result, Tris becomes familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of each faction, but she feels less and less certain about who to trust and what the end goals of the revolution really are or should be. In the end, she follows the example of her parents, who fought for freedom of information, and Tris sets out with the most unlikely allies to recover and release the information that will change the lives of everyone, regardless of their faction loyalties.

“Insurgent” is a perfect continuation of “Divergent” because every chapter is quick to read and ends with some kind of cliffhanger, making it ridiculously hard to put this book down. Roth moves the story along swiftly by writing completely unexpected plot twists, which are usually the cliffhangers at the end of each chapter, though some show up in the middle of chapters as well. Sometimes the cliffhangers effectively prompt continued reading, sometimes they are heavily foreshadowed (and therefore somewhat less unexpected), and sometimes they lack the full enthusiasm of a cliffhanger. Despite the variation in quality, the cliffhangers and pace of reading make “Insurgent” an exciting book. Roth also spends more time focusing on the differences between each faction, which develops the individual characters, the whole society constructed by the factions, and the storyline of the series. Through Tris, Roth shows how the traits of each faction can be both a strength and a weakness, and how the differences combine (or not) to (de)construct a society. She evaluates these traits without passing judgment, showing that good and evil are part of human nature and the social condition. “Insurgent” offers a bit more depth, a bit more development, and just as much compulsion for reading.

Overall, I enjoyed “Insurgent” a bit more than “Divergent.” “Divergent” is the beginning of the series, and requires introductions to characters and storylines. “Insurgent” offers more depth and development, adding complexity to the story. It also has slightly less violence and slightly more cooperation, which I appreciate greatly. I also felt that “Insurgent” provided more moments for critical thought and reflection by pointing out all the ways the characters and factions are both good and bad, as well as the plot twists of the overarching goals of revolution, and who to trust and why. Excellent considerations for how to relate to people, how to build alliances, and how to establish trust and integrity. Again, I find myself pleasantly surprised by Roth’s ability to do something different with young adult dystopian novels, and I also find myself eager to read the last book of the series.