Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Amanda6′s #CBR4 Review 34: Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Summary: “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.”

I liked this one a lot, but I’m going to get kind of senior thesis-y, so the rest of my review is going behind the jump.Awihle back, Feminist Frequency’s Anita Sarkeesian made a video about True Grit’s Mattie Ross, saying that while she is a good character, and an interesting character, we should caution ourselves against  holding her up as the feminist ideal for strong female characters:

As we know, all people regardless of gender are capable of the entire range of human behaviours but since we live in a male dominated, male centered society traits stereotypically identified as masculine are most valued and consequentially more celebrated by Hollywood while traits stereotypically identified as feminine are undervalued and often denigrated…

In True Grit, Mattie is certainly subverts expected gender roles by being witty and smart and competent and independent yet she’s not challenging the set of patriarchal archetypal male values ever present in most mass media narratives – she’s actually adopting them.

In other words, having a woman “act like a man” doesn’t necessarily a Strong Female Character make. I’ve seen this described elsewhere as Strong Character, Female vs. Character, Strong Female. The former implies a strong character who happens to be female (we like this), while the latter is just about taking a female character and making her “strong” (can be problematic, depending on what “strong” means to the creator.)

Which brings me to this book. I’ve seen two main criticisms:

  1. Tris is a mess in this book. What happened to the girl I loved in Divergent?
  2. There is so much more ROMANCE in this book. Yuck! This isn’t Twilight! Get that shlocky stuff away from my dystopian YA lit!

Clearly, I’m about to disagree with these criticisms (I have my own, which I’ll get to a little later.) In Insurgent, Tris is very clearly traumatized by the events of the previous novel. I want to avoid spoilers, so suffice it to say she has some pretty damn good reasons to be messed up. It takes her most of the novel to “recover,” but she’s still not quite the same. To me, this is completely okay. I expect people who have been through that kind of crap to have a rough go for awhile, especially when the person in question is a sixteen year old girl. It is frustrating to see that kick-ass girl from Divergent go through this period, but to me it’s much more realistic that she would change based on what she’s experienced (and remember, Insurgent picks up immediately after Divergent, so she’s literally had no time to process what has happened when we meet her again in this novel) than if she had stayed exactly the same. I think her turmoil makes her a stronger (female) character, in terms of being a more interesting one. Tris continuing to kick ass without consequence would have been fun, but would this actually be a compelling, realistic human being? It is a more difficult read to be in the head of someone who doesn’t always think completely clearly, but to me, this doesn’t take away from the novel.

Regarding the romance, all I can really say is that the Twilight backlash has really ruined the ability to have romance in YA novels for awhile. Tris’ boyfriend is her emotional center in this novel out of necessity; she doesn’t really have anyone else. That doesn’t mean that the whole book is about them, but it does mean that there is a lot of gravity placed on their relationship and their interactions. It may seem melodramatic at times, but only because of the extreme situation these teens are in — they literally don’t know if they will live or die from one day to the next. So with all that said, no, I don’t think this book is “too much” about the romance. But even if the scales had tipped more in that direction, I take issue with the seeming idea that our young lady protagonists have to be compared to Bella just because part of their stories involve love.

Now — my impassioned defense thus far should make it pretty evident that I liked this book, and I did, basically for all the same reasons I liked Divergent. My main issue with it was the issue of “the secret,” and the ending reveal. Basically, there is this whole buildup where Tris is trying to get this other character to tell her the major secret that would shake up their society, and he’s all “I can’t, I have to SHOW you.” And then you find out what it is 200 pages later, and I was kind of like, “Really?” For one thing, it’s not all that shocking (I didn’t think) and for another thing, it was absolutely NOT anything that he couldn’t have just told her. The quest for the secret drives the plot in a major way, so for me it kind of made the whole part of the conflict surrounding it based on a pretty faulty premise. Despite that pretty major plot hole, though, the story is still extremely enjoyable. So even considering that AND the major cliffhanger ending, this still has been one of my favorite books of the cannonball so far.

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One thought on “Amanda6′s #CBR4 Review 34: Insurgent by Veronica Roth

  1. I got why Roth wrote Tris that way (traumatized, PTSD, whatever you want to call it), I even think it was necessary for the story . . . I just didn’t enjoy reading about it at all. And for me, the combination of that trauma and seeing the rest of the story through her eyes, along with the rest of the story (which I thought was kind of a mess, especially compared with the tight plotting of Divergent) just made for not a great reading experience for me.

    I am still excited for the third book though. I just hope it’s more like Divergent than this one.

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