Book Review: Insurgent, by Veronica Roth

May 16, 2012 at 7:15 pm (Book Reviews) (, , , , )

WARNING: this is the second book in a series, sequel to 2011’s Divergent; if you have not read the first book, there WILL be spoilers below!

The factions are in chaos, Abnegation all but destroyed at the hands of the Erudite-controlled Dauntless. It’s hard to know who to trust, a situation made worse by the ever-present threat of another simulation that could turn even the most beloved people into mindless puppets intent on your death. In the wake of her parents’ deaths and her faction’s destruction, Tris has to decide how far she’s willing to go, what’s she fighting for, and- perhaps most importantly- what she’s willing to give up.

Middle books make me nervous, especially if I liked the first book. And I LOVED Divergent. Like it was almost physically painful to put the book down to clock back in for work, and while I was working my brain was still buried in the story and the characters. I loved the action, the brutality, the question of identity and choice and decisions. This book was more than captivating- it was engulfing. So I’ve been very nervous while waiting for this second book.

And I shouldn’t have been, because holy crap it’s AMAZING.

This book picks up immediately where the first left off, on the train running from the tattered remnants of the simulation that caused Dauntless to slaughter much of Abnegation. Her parents’ deaths are still raw and heavy with no time to try to make sense of what’s happened because if she doesn’t keep moving, she’ll join them. They have to find out what Erudite’s after (and why) at a time when only two of the five factions haven’t been directly impacted by the slaughter.

There is so much to love about this book. Right off the bat we get to start seeing more of the factions that separate this society. Tris and Four go with some of the Abnegation refugees (including Four’s father, Marcus) to the Amity compound on the edge of the city, but they know that isn’t going to be a long term solution. Amity is as foreign to Tris as Dauntless initially was, a compound awash in cheerful reds and yellows, with people who hug each other and talk things out until they reach a consensus. There’s no leader, just a spokeperson or representative who carries the decisions of the faction the rest of the council. They’re very happy people, and Tris at the best of times is not a particularly happy person. But we go beyond Amity to look within Candor, where unflinching honesty isn’t simply a way of life, but the hardest truths are accepted with the grace of a gift. We’ve peeked into Erudite before, but we get glimpses of a more complete world, one with children and people who couldn’t care less about who’s in control as long as they can keep learning. What makes these factions so compelling is that the vices and virtues inherent in their chosen trait is fully embraced. The sometimes black and white worldview of the first book, where each of the other three factions comes off as rather single-minded and flat, comes more into the world of grey here. It complicates things, certainly- decisions are easier to make when everything is black and white, right?- but it also makes us fully involved in these difficult moments.

And there are a LOT of difficult moments. Tris reels from crisis to crisis, not even given the time to recover from one before she’s thrust into the next. It’s a nearly constant state of high adrenaline, as crippling in its own way as grief and fear. Each crisis is not just a test but a blow, and some of them wound more than others. Nor are they all external blows. If the first book was about Tris’ choice, this book is about its consequences.

And one of thosse consequences is Four. I love the conflict that grows in the space between them, the way they respond differently to the events even as they cling to the comfort each usually finds in the other, but those differences become more pronounced until Tris has to try to figure out if they actually want the same things (which will force her to figure out what she even wants). As enigmatic and abrupt as Four could be in the first book, he starts to feel like someone we don’t really know anymore. It’s hard to understand some of what he’s thinking, what he’s working towards. We feel disconnected from someone we thought we understood really well, but that’s okay- because that’s also how Tris feels.

I LOVED how we got such a close look at the science behind divergence- how awesome is that? And really, it stands on its own without much gushing, because it’s frickin’ amazing.

I think one of my absolute favorite things about this book is how it truly continues the story not only in terms of action but in terms of character. And it’s not just choice and consequence, though that’s captivating. The first book was also very much about exploring the difference between strength and bullying, and where the line can be drawn. Tris chose strength, but strength leads into other traits as well, and here we see just how fine the line is between recklessness and courage. Just as she had to make choices in the first book, she has to make them here, and they’re not any easier.

I still wish Tris would use more contractions in her narration, simply because she uses them in her dialogue and the inconsistency is sometimes jarring, but other than that, there was really only one thing that bothered me. It’s hard to talk about without spoilers, but when you get to the biggest *GASP!*- and trust me you’ll know what it is- I have an issue with the timing, which could prove potentially problematic. I think you’ll see when you get there. But at the end of the day, if those two very tiny things are my only irritations about a book? I’m in love.

Insurgent, by Veronica Roth, absolutely NOT to be missed!

Until next time~

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Cover Love: September Edition

September 25, 2011 at 9:17 pm (General) (, , , , , , , , )

I realized last month that I rather like analyzing the covers, so here we go again!

This one is a recent cover reveal (within the last week, I believe), and the farthest out as far as wait time goes. Insurgent, by Veronica Roth (the sequel to this May’s breakout debut Divergent) comes out May 2012 and holy cow what a cover. Along the bottom, we still have the cityscape of Chicago, where our story takes place, but the background coloration is completely different. The first book was a mottled blue grey, like a cloud drenched sky before a storm. Despite that ominous undertone, though, the colors were fairly soft, which made the brilliant flames of the Dauntless symbol stand out all the more. Here, we see a much more sickly cast, the grey-green, tinged with yellow, of clouds gathering for a tornado. Ever seen those clouds in person before? Once you do, you never forget it. It makes the sky look diseased, and it certainly doesn’t give us hope that our friends are going to have an easy ride. And then, set against all this, is the Amity symbol of a tree. Look at the tree, though. To create that spiral shape, it looks as if a strong wind (tornado, anyone?) is actually bending the branches and tearing the leaves away in a circle. Now look closer, at the coloration- closest to the branches, at the top and slightly to the left of the center, the leaves are brown, like they’re dying, and as you cross the circle, the brown encroaches. What does all this add up to? Tris may find that Amity is not sufficient shelter against the myriad dangers tearing apart her world.

I’ve been waiting for this next one since last year. It’s up all over the place at work, it’s all over the internet, and it’s killing me to wait the whole week and change until it’s released. I’m speaking, of course, of Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan, the next installment in the Heroes of Olympus series.

We’ve left behind the rather playful cover of the first book. We don’t have three friends riding bareback on a metal dragon. The stakes are higher and our hero is on his own- both in the story and on the cover. Percy is a creature of water, but somehow we’ve always associated (or maybe this is just me) him with with warmer waters. This may be partly due to the ongoing image of Poseidon as a beach bum in a deep sea fishing swivel chair. Poseidon, I’m thinking, is more than passing fond of Jimmy Buffett. The ice represents a number of things. Obviously, it’s a new setting, someplace completely different, alien to Percy’s experiences (whatever little he may remember of them). It’s cold and harsh, and it’s a strident example of danger. He’s not on a glacier, he’s bursting through a frozen lake. LOTS of dangers available through that. Even the coloration is stark. From the bright teal and gold of the first book, we have very stark gradations of white against a stormy background, deep grey-blues like thunderclouds gathering (unintentional theme, I promise). We know Percy’s older, and we know he’s a fighter, but I think he’s about to prove himself in a completely different arena, one that will require him to take those fighting skills to a whole new level. This one is an SOS for 4 October 2011, so not too long now, however much it may drive me crazy.

I’m normally not a huge fan of the close up model shoots of the face on covers- I personally find them very off putting, like I’m picking up a fashion rag rather than a book- but this is one that actually worked for me.

The colors here are both bright and soft, almost luminous. The girl, clearly lovely, is further softened by (sorry for repeating the word so much) soft focus through the lens. It isn’t so much that she’s blurred as she doesn’t have any sharp edges, like the brightest burst of illumination before the shadows draw crystallized lines. What that light does is draw our eyes to a central point: namely, the butterfly wings that spread across her face like a mask. The colors here are richer- blue and edges of gold instead of the pinks and purples that edge the image. It isn’t just that it’s a mask- intriguing and symbolic of itself- but that it’s a butterfly. Butterflies are extremely rich in symbolism, through many, many cultures, and no matter where you are in the world a butterfly stands for roughly the same ideas. Grace, ephemerality, and reinvention. Or, if you like, reincarnation. The image is a little surreal, the way the wings seem to grow from her rather than simply being placed against her skin, so it gives us the idea that this isn’t quite our world. If we take that assumption, it makes me very curious to know the more literal ways this girl might represent the butterfly she bears. If you’re curious as well, you’ve got a little bit of a wait: Incarnate, by Jodi Meadows, comes out 31 January 2012.

Up next, we have perhaps one of the best uses of color I’ve seen in a long time.

Color, especially in stark contrasts, is one of the first things that draws our eye to a book. It’s the automatic response that makes us reach for the bright colors as children and what makes us notice- right away, without any thought or effort, the one person in a room of dark suits wearing a red silk dress. Brenna Yovanoff’s upcoming The Space Between, out 15 November 2011, does this perfectly. The deep red, mottled with even deeper tones that speak of black, is faintly ominous, deeper than blood, like an ember of rage burning far too long. But red is also the color of passion, not just of anger but of love and lust, and under its shadow, we see a girl reclining. Her immediate background, though, is not that red- it’s cold steel, empty and passionless and sterile. It’s formed into elegant, beautiful designs, full of grace and luxury, but for all that beauty, it isn’t welcoming. It feels like a prison, and the way the girl lies across the steel divan, the drape of her arm, her hair over the edge, even the way she slightly tucks her face into that outstretched arm as she looks out at the viewer, reinforces that. This is a girl who is caught between that coldness and that passion- in whatever form it might take- caught very literally in a space between.

My psych prof once told me that the way someone analyzes something reveals as much about the person doing the analysis as it does about the item being analyzed. This next one might bear that out.

I have a thing for falling. Or flying. Maybe floating. Most of all I love that sensation somewhere between where you're not really sure which it is. Right in that moment, caught in that endless potential of a thousand directions, everything seems simultaneously possible and impossible, the perfect paradox. Shattered Souls by Mary Lindsey, out 8 December 2011 gives us that paradox, but then it gives us more: where the girl’s dress should continue on, we get a sense of disintegration. As it goes from the bodice to the skirts, the fabric gives away to something organic- leaves or flower petals, I’m not sure- and it’s equally uncertain whether that material is dried or dead. (The difference between a dead flower and a dried flower, after all, is both striking and significant). It’s a haunting image, a lingering one, but not knowing whether she’s floating or falling…it’s the kind of thing that makes you curious. We don’t get any hints from her background, either, a textured and somewhat uneven grey that could be any number of substances. The cover leaves you guessing, but it also gives you enough detail (a little hard to see in the pictures) to draw you in.

Like before, feel free to weigh in with the covers you really like! What draws you in when you’re in a store, or makes you curious to read more? On the flip side- what really irritates you in covers? What turns you off?

Until next time~

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