Veronica Roth's début novel Divergent was among my favorite reads of 2011. After it's electrifying finish, I was eager for the sequel. So, does Insurgent deliver? Yes and no.
The book opens in the aftermath of the slaughter by the members of the Dauntless faction. Beatrice 'Tris' Prior, shocked by the deaths of her friend and parents and the betrayal of her faction is struggling with her identity. Since the book is written completely from her POV, her development and actions throughout the story are a lot more believable than they would be otherwise. Tris' suicidal decisions, heroic choices and annoying arguments - all are acceptable but only because we experience the book through her perspective and the readability of Roth's writing. The relationship between Tobias and Tris, which I praised for being refreshingly realistic in Divergent, took a turn for the worse this time. Their conversations had me cringing half the time and became nearly Twilight bad. Romantic rubbish aside, Beatrice's character arc is a great one.
One of the things a lot of people complained about in Divergent was the lack of action even after all the training the characters go through. Roth has done a lot to address that and done it well. Her work has been compared to Suzanne Collin's Hunger Games trilogy but unlike Catching Fire, Insurgent avoided the middle-book syndrome by moving the story forward. The protagonist's rise and fall are also a lot more digestible than Mockingjay, so even the harshest critics should be satisfied. The fights have the urgency and adrenaline rush unique to a first person viewpoint. They occur frequently and keep the pace from flagging.
We finally get to visit the headquarters of all die factions and kudos to Roth for giving each one a distinctive feel. The geography is described well-enough that I didn't feel lost or needed a map which is rare for me. Plus the changing environment works well to highlight the political and societal undercurrents which are driving Beatrice's whole world to war. Still, Insurgent didn't draw me in the way Divergent did. It took me over a week to finish compared to six hours for Divergent. The last quarter of the book is its best though, with a brilliant if expected reveal in the lat chapter.
Final words? Insurgent was a mixed bag for me. Most of my annoyances from the previous book have been fixed but a couple of the positives have been ruined. I am going to read the final book in the trilogy but the final cliffhanger is the reason for that, not the book as a whole. A good sequel which could have been a lot better.