Audiobook Review: Insurgent

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Audiobook Review: InsurgentInsurgent by Veronica Roth
Length: 11 hrs, 22 mins
Series: Divergent #2
Published by Katherine Tegen on May 1, 2012
Genres: Dystopian, Romance
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher

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.

New York Times bestselling author Veronica Roth's much-anticipated second book of the dystopian Divergent series is another intoxicating thrill ride of a story, rich with hallmark twists, heartbreaks, romance, and powerful insights about human nature.

Before I really launch into this rant-fest, there are some things you should know. Yes, I hated Divergent, and I suspected that Insurgent probably wouldn’t go well. Yes, I knew within the first disc that I wouldn’t like Insurgent. Yes, I kept going. To be fair, I wouldn’t have read it if I hadn’t been sent a review copy, but I was a little curious to see if Roth’s story had improved and if I could understand the hype (spoiler: I can’t). If all of this bothers you, you’re going to want to leave right now, because I don’t want to hear it.

World Building
OH HA. Who needs world building when you have a cool idea, amirite? The faction system and the divergent continue to be just as ridiculous as they ever were. Everyone’s shocked that the system is crumbling when the system is obviously fucking ridiculous and would never ever work. For the most part, I don’t have much to add to the rant about this in the first book, though I do have some more words to say about the concept of divergence.

I talk a lot about static or flat characters, and it is around this that this joke of a society has been formed: the premise that human beings are flat and composed of a singular trait. Now, to say that one person is a bit more of one thing than another and sort them accordingly, I’m okay with (see: Harry Potter), but that’s not what’s happening here. We know this differs because everyone is shocked and appalled to learn that some people have an aptitude for multiple factions. WHAT DO YOU MEAN SOMEONE CAN BE BOTH SMART AND NICE? Accepting this is a necessary part of enjoying the series, and I cannot and will not suspend my disbelief to this degree. I may not have much faith in humanity, but I do believe that 99.9% of people would be divergent.

In the last chapter, though, there is a twist, one that I predicted, since it was literally the only way that such an incredibly stupid society could ever be explained. Unsurprisingly, I still take issues with it, though I will resist the urge to spoiler, tempting though it may be. My prediction was a little off in the reasoning, though not the basic premise, and, frankly, I thought my reasoning made more sense, because I don’t see how the factions were really necessary, how this changed anything about people (see my comments on divergence above), or how this will help one bit. But, Roth did at least try to improve the world building, so there’s that.

On Tris
Zeus help me, I still loathe this girl. Tris is whiny like you would not believe. With how much people complain about this or that heroine being whiny, I do not know why Tris is one of the most popular YA heroines. She whines about everything. Someone compliments her? She whines. Someone’s prettier than her? More whining. She can’t kill herself because she’s too damn popular? Whine city.

Being in Tris’ head is awful, because she’s so completely shallow. She judges everyone by their appearance. A character enters and you immediately know whether they’re hot or not, because, really, that’s all we need to know, right? We also know if they’re more attractive than her, and inevitably she doesn’t like those girls, though, mostly, she just seems to not like women. Or men, really. One of the actually enjoyable parts was when Tris was doped with some niceness drugs and ran around being happy and friendly. That was hilarious, because it was the only time she had any real insight: she and Tobias AREN’T very nice.

Then there’s that whole thing where Tris wants to kill herself. This upsets me for two reasons. First, I don’t think it was a particularly thoughtful approach towards the subject of suicide. It feels like a light construct, meant to show how tough this situation is that Tris, badass Tris, would consider offing herself. Second, there’s no way in hell that Tris would ever commit suicide, so it’s a waste of my damn time. She was “to be or not to be”ing through the entirety of the book, but, since it’s from her perspective and Veronica Roth is not the type of author to kill off her heroine and narrator switch, there’s no way that Tris will die.

As I mentioned, Tris is meant to be a strong, badass heroine, but I’m not buying into that whole concept either. She’s also meant to have aptitude for erudite, but there’s a reason everyone’s surprised the one time she comes up with a remotely clever thought. Tris doesn’t really do a whole lot for most of the action scenes, and is more likely to cause trouble than anything, because she doesn’t think before she acts and is terrified of guns. Most of what makes her a useful character is biological and nothing to do with her skill. Also, for someone who thinks crying is weak and who thought “Someone who looks so strong shouldn’t act so weak.” about Al’s crying, Tris cries a lot. But I case that’s just fine, since she’s petite and female. JUST MAKE SURE YOU CONFORM TO THOSE GENDER ROLES.

Perhaps even more frustrating is the fact that everyone wants to keep Tris happy. For some reason, she’s really important to everyone. The bad guys fear that she will foil their dastardly plans. The good guys look up to her. The pretty girls dislike her for being prettier. Tobias thinks she’s hot. Perhaps the biggest example of how Tris can do no wrong (and of how Tris is a douchebag) is her relationship with Christina (no, not me, the character). At the end of Divergent, Tris shot Christina’s boyfriend, Will, when he was under a simulation. When she tells Christina, the latter is mad, rightly so. Sure, Tris in some sense had to, but that sort of news is going to take time to digest. Still, Christina deals with it pretty quickly and says she believes Tris about the necessity but that coming to terms will take a while, at which Tris makes a big speech about how Christina doesn’t trust her and whines about how guilty she feels and everyone hates her. So, of course, Christina forgives her immediately. Fuck off, Tris.

The Romance 
Oh, Four and Tris, y’all are riding the hot mess express straight into bad breakup city. Okay, that’s a lie. They’re heading for an HEA, but if novels were honest, they would not last. The problem with them is not only are they both assholes, but that they’re both THE EXACT SAME KIND OF ASSHOLE. Their personalities are pretty much indiscriminate to me, except that Tris thinks less before diving into a conflict than Tobias does.

Their relationship is incredibly unhealthy because they’re both liars and hypocrites. Several times throughout Insurgent, they get into big fights because one has not been honest with the other. The one lied gets huffy. The liar yells back something the other one lied about. They both resolve to be more honest in the future. Within minutes, they’re both resolving to keep something else secret. These two do not trust each other one bit. Plus, I’m really not feeling all that much chemistry from the two of them. In the long run, they both really need to have their way all the time, even though they’re both supposedly SO self-sacrificing, so they would fight ALL THE TIME.

The Writing
Veronica Roth’s writing hasn’t gotten anymore to my tastes, and the audio really didn’t conceal how incredibly simplistic the writing is. Now, Veronica Roth may be a genius at sentence composition and simply be writing this way because Tris herself isn’t very bright (despite being erudite in spirit), but I can only judge what I’ve read. Personally, I almost never like books with simple sentences, though, occasionally, they can be made to work with a nice tone or flow to them. This is not one of those times, but, hey, this is a personal preference.

Aside from the simplicity, there are some objectively bad elements to the writing. For one thing, Tris feels the need to explain common concepts to the reader, like when she says that everyone was armed except for herself and one other person who had no weapons. I’m not quoting directly because I was listening, but that’s pretty close. Anyway, the last bit of that sentence isn’t needed. Anyone of age to be reading this series is probably going to know what this term means. It’s like Lemony Snicket, only those books explain complex words and are intended for children. Many instances of Tris’ need to dumb things down for her audience occur within Insurgent. There are also sentences like “His breath tickles my hair,” which make no sense whatsoever. Hair is not ticklish, though his breath might move the hair, tickling the back of the neck.

Most irritating however are the dialogue tags, or should I say dialogue tag. Most every line of dialogue comes with a dialogue tag, since there are often groups of more than two people, and almost all of the dialogue tags are a form of the verb “to say.” I say, Christina says, Four says, etc says…. Using the same word over and over shows a lack of originality and is just generally lazy. Yet again, this could be blamed on Tris, since the novel’s in first person, but, whether stylistic or just bad, I do not approve.

The Narration
The half star I rated this up is solely for the audiobook. Veronica Galvin is a pretty good narrator. I didn’t have any issues with her performance. If the book didn’t piss me off so much, I would have rated up higher for her work and the quality of the audio, but it did.

22 responses to “Audiobook Review: Insurgent”

  1. Poor, nonsensical world building aside, I didn’t have as much of a problem with Divergent as you did, although I was disappointed in Insurgent. For me the bulk of my enjoyment stems from the characters and the relationship between Tris and Four, which I actually quite liked. And while I do enjoy the series, you certainly bring up some excellent points about the writing and character construction that I’ve struggled with as well, but thankfully have been able to overlook. There’s just something I enjoy about this series on a simplistic, action-based level that I don’t think I could ever coherently explain (Frankly, because *I’m* not sure why it works for me so well)

    I assume you’ll be passing on Allegiant when it comes out in October? 😉

    • Christina says:

      Blerghhhhhh, their relationship makes me want to defenestrate them both. I just hate Tris and Four’s almost as bad. Sigh. I can see where the mindless action sequences could be fun, and if you just take them as they are, rather than paying attention to how little they advance the plot, then they’re fun.

      Unless it shows up, which hopefully it won’t. :-p

  2. Heather says:

    After reading this, I am now re-thinking my two star rating and considering downgrading it to one star. I really didn’t like this book either, and your review reminded me of all the reasons why I felt the way I did. I want to punch Tris in the face so hard, and I’m so with you on the world building thing, too!

    People around me have been raving about these books lately, so it’s nice to see something that mirrors my feelings 🙂 Thanks, buddy1!

    • Christina says:

      Victory! Yeah, I totally get why you might rate it a two. I mean, it was entertaining in a vacuous way, but I really didn’t like it, even if it wasn’t painful to read. Learning to distinguish the two has been tricky. OMG, I hate Tris. She’s one of my most-hated characters.


    • Heather says:

      I did end up downgrading my rating. I really only liked one part of the book, which was towards the end, I think, so it kind of explains why I originally went with two. It really is tricky sometimes!

      ME NEITHER! WHY CAN’T THEY FLAIL OVER THE BRONTES OR SOMETHING? They also like the Hunger Games and Harry Potter, though, so we all decided we could still be friends 🙂 haha

    • Christina says:

      Which part? Do you remember?

      FOR REALS. Well, I think there was a bit more flailing over the Brontes and Austen after Twilight, but I’m not really proud of that connection. LOL.

    • Heather says:

      haha, I can’t even remember! Were they preparing for a war or something? I don’t even know.

      Ahhh, that is very true. ::shakes head::

  3. Riv says:

    Every now and then I consider giving a go to one of those highly hyped YA-series (such as this) and then, if lucky, read a very sobering and critical review (such as this) and then I realise that great success, I’ll have time to read other (hopefully better) books instead.

    • Christina says:

      One hopes. Obviously Insurgent and Divergent have pleased innumerable readers, but I would certainly recommend other dystopian novels over these. If you’re the sort of person who tends not to like the bulk of bestsellers, then, yes, I would pass it by were I you.

  4. Everyone thinks she’s important because she’s the heroine – DUH! 😉 Seriously though, I hate it when a book is telling you to think something when it’s not showing me the same thing, and it sounds like it’s never shown why Tris is so great or important. Which is annoying.

    I read the first 20 pages of DIVERGENT before I have up. The writing wasn’t to my taste, and I couldn’t stomach the idea if being in that character’s head for that many pages when the book is a dystopian for goodness’ sake and therefore has no redeemable qualities. Buttttttt I’m going to try to read it before the movie comes out, just because I feel that’s necessary, so you can look forward to me suffering through it lol

    • Christina says:

      Oh, right. I forgot that the characters have metacognition and know that she’s important because V Roth said so. Makes so much more sense now! She’s important because she is to my way of thinking. She did help shut down that attack in book one, but, again, that’s only because she just happens to have a natural ability no one else does. Or doesn’t have as strongly.

      20 pages! You’re smarter than I am. We agree again. I really am a snob about simple writing, and so this just does not work for me. Also, that character is the worst. Oh man, I’m excited for that.

  5. This review made me smile, because I knew it would be a rant, and it was a good rant, and I also like both books, but I agree with some of the points you’ve made. WOO. I should probably go back and read the books more thoroughly, since I don’t remember a lot of the writing ticks you’ve mentioned… but also: you do know what her writing style was like outside of Divergent. You read her short story in Shards & Ashes, right? If I remember correctly, you didn’t like it then either?

    Truthfully, I know that the actual world doesn’t make *that* much sense (I mean, in HP, there were very few limitations to the magic possible among other things), but if it’s a good enough story with some underlying message, I’m happy enough. Mostly, I like the things she says about human nature. I do suspect it’ll make for a good movie, though, and some of your issues with the book will be eliminated with the movie, namely Tris’s perspective. But I’m sensing that the movie is also a no-no :).

    • Christina says:

      You are welcome. I can rant on Divergent or the Chemical Garden trilogy any time. Well, yes, I did read that short story, and it was slightly better, but not enough to really convince me she knows how to write well. Plus, it was also in first person if I remember correctly.

      THAT much? Like, no. Not at all possible. But, see, I’d be fine with it if it was a fantasy novel, but it’s trying to be science fiction, and as science fiction – JUST NO. I might watch the movie, but I certainly won’t pay to see it in theaters.

  6. fakesteph says:

    I LOVE the narrator of this! And you’re right. It drove me crazy that we’re told Tris is erudite, yet lacks even a basic understanding of logic, and that she’s abnegation, and yet is probably more selfish than that bad guy lady whose name I don’t remember, etc, etc, etc… All the saids don’t bother me though.

    • Christina says:

      Oh really? I thought she was okay, but tend to reserve my feelings of love for British narrators. :-p

      Yeah, the characterization is a joke. We’re shown one thing and told something COMPLETELY different.

  7. Debby says:

    I love you and I love this review. This book was one hot mess. I did like Divergent – quite a lot actually, but this was just the total opposite. It killed all my love for the series. Tris needs to quit whining and being such a self-important little bitch. Four was an absolute douchebag. Just no. Ugh. I’m so scared about Allegiant, though I’ll still be reading it…

    • Christina says:

      Such a hot mess. Bleh. “Tris needs to quit whining and being such a self-important little bitch.” <-- THIS. She would feel guilty, until the moment someone else criticized her or forgave her for what she'd done, at which point she'd be all "PUNK ASS BITCH, HOW DARE YOU. KISS MY RING AND APOLOGIZE FOR YOUR SLANDER."

  8. Bookworm1858 says:

    I liked Divergent alright but ended up being super bored during this sequel (except for the end). Boring the reader has got to be the worst thing a book can do!

  9. Yup, this one was a dud. Tris was a terrible heroine in here and I was so tired of her and Four bitching back and forth to each other. Also, the entire concept of the novel makes no sense. In Divergent it was a tad easier to ignore since there was action going on, but in Insurgent there was so much damn angst that you had no choice but to notice.

    Also, I have heard from other authors that with writing it is recommended to NOT use too many other dialogue tags and instead let the reader infer the emotion or action behind it. I personally like to see more diversity with it, but I can see why some keep it.

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