Review #45 Insurgent by Veronica Roth

I’ve always found second novels in a trilogy hard.

I blame this almost entirely on George Lucas since I was part of the generation that saw the “first” Star Wars movies on the big screen (Don’t even get me started on that numbering system!)  I can still remember emerging into daylight from “The Empire Strikes Back” is a depressed, numb haze.  Han Solo was frozen in carbonite, Luke has not only lost a hand, he’d just discovered that Darth Vader was his FATHER and nothing felt quite right with the world.  The incredible joy and optimism I’d felt watching Star Wars had been replaced by a dark cloud and a little voice inside yelling “I have to wait HOW long until I find out what happens?”

There are plenty of first novels, most notably Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater, that I wish had stood alone as books instead of being mucked with.  This is the single biggest change that I have noticed in the past two decades… the pressure to create stories, characters and worlds that can be broken up into installments, marketed and merchandised.  Whatever happened to simply telling a great story?

Given my apparent “secondbookaphobia”, I approached Insurgent with trepidation, especially since the first novel had impressed me so greatly. Veronica Roth’s amazing sequel to Divergent not only healed some of those scars… it may have healed some entirely. For the first time, I discovered a second book in a trilogy that I actually liked better than the first!

Since so much of this incredible tale depends on plot twists that blind side you, action that takes your breath away and the deepening of characters introduced in the first novel, I am not going to ruin anyone’s fun by giving away details that any website could provide.  Instead, I will commend Roth for her astounding ability to create such a unique, captivating and vivid dystopian fantasy.  I was so thoroughly engrossed in reading one section that my teenagers actually searched the house to see where Mom had disappeared to!

The strength of the main character, Tris, was also one of the reasons that I love these books. As John Wayne so aptly said “Courage is being scared to death – but saddling up anyway.”  Despite the traumas endured in the first novel and the shifting layers of her entire world in the second novel, Tris emerges as an empowering example for young women of pushing through fears and challenges while staying true to yourself.

The end of Insurgent took my breath away with its stunning revelations.  It also recaptured some of the joy and wonder of being able to imagine your own ending that is so sadly lacking in modern storytelling.  Like the ending of the movie Inception, there was the possibility to imagine what might happen beyond the story you’d just enjoyed.  Imaginative readers will have the chance mull over some intriguing options as they wait (I cannot promise that it will be patiently) for this accomplished writer to release the third book, so far untitled, in this innovative series.

Hardcover format, 525 pages, published in May 2012 by Harper Collins

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