Author: Veronica Roth
Publisher: Harper Teen
Genre: Dystopian Science Fiction
Themes: Family, Survival, Oppression, Identity
Age Range: 8th Grade and Above
Roth has created a fictional Chicago in ruins, cut off from the rest of the world by a high fence. The lake and river have dried up, and the people who live within the city must get their food from farms on the outskirts of town. Society has been divided into five factions: Amity, the peaceful food growers; Erudite, the ultra-intelligent innovators; Candor, whose purpose is to always find and tell the truth; Abnegation, the self-less leaders of the community; and Dauntless, the fearless peace-keepers and informal police force.
Insurgent is the second book in the Divergent series. It follows Tris Prior, former Abengation, and her love interest and fellow Dauntless fighter, Tobias, in the aftermath of the battle between Erudite and Abnegation for control of the city. Tris and her friends are on the run from the Erudite leaders and the Dauntless traitors who have joined them. As the old order breaks down, Tris and her fellow divergent are targeted by the Erudite. They find temporary safety with Candor, but everyone knows that the current situation can't stand. When Tris find out that the Erudite attack was a cover for the theft of valuable information from Abnegation, she sets her sights on discovering the information and bringing down Erudite.
As I wrote when I reviewed Divergent last year, this series is an anomaly for me, in that I am completely engrossed in the fictional world Roth has created, even though I don't really like the protagonist that much. Tris is a complicated character, for sure, but her aggressive nature and her instincts to fight first and ask questions later is pretty antithetical to my worldview. This book actually helped me like her a bit better, though. She becomes a much more sympathetic character once she is loaded down by guilt over the acts of violence she committed in the first book. Sad, but true...I liked her better when she was suffering.
Roth's fictional society and the rules under which they live provide rich fodder for discussion about how society is organized, and about governmental power. Each of the factions provides the basis for a discussion about the relative merit of each aspect of humanity in society. And Tris's journey through grief and guilt can lead to discussions of friendship, family, and being true to yourself within a crazy world. Or you can just read it for the pleasure of reading a fast-paced story filled with action and adventure. Either way, I recommend this series to anyone who loves science fiction generally, and dystopian fiction specifically.