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 really wanted to love this second installment of Roth’s “Divergent” trilogy, but I couldn’t. In fact, so much of the action and muddled motivations behind characters’ responses could have been cut from the story entirely. The end of the book — heck, the last ten pages — could have been placed in the first book!
My initial reactions started on the very first page: Tris’s guilt over the death of Will. I could not for the life of me remember Will or his significance in Tris’s life. I remember Al and Christina because they had very distinct personalities and importance in the first book. Understandably, Tris is bothered by this “friend” she has killed, and her character seems to stumble along between stability and instability throughout the rest of the book. If Roth was shooting for PTSD or shock from war and gunshots, it was weak and poorly written. While Collins’s “Mockingjay” accurately portrayed PTSD and thoroughly explained the motivations and thought process behind Katniss’s decisions, not once did I see a good, plausible explanation for Tris. Her distrust of Tobias (and his with her) was weak, whiny, and difficult to understand. The things they fought over did not have any sort of basis — it was as if Roth wanted to create a tension between these two because it’s expected in a second installment of a trilogy.
Which, truthfully, there doesn’t need to be tension between the romantic couple in second installments! Everything else that’s going on around them — politics, economics, familial issues — is enough to cause tension for the reader. I applaud Roth for not creating a love triangle, but I have to shake my head at the weak arguments between Tobias and Tris, the constant back-and-forth over extremely petty issues.
Another bit that I was let down or bothered by was all the effort to kill others or protect others for a piece of information no one knew anything about! It was irksome to keep reading about how the characters don’t know “what’s beyond the fence” or why “Divergents are dangerous” or even what a Divergent was, but they were going to fight for or protect this mysterious information because it would either strengthen or destroy this society. I knew from the previous book that a Divergent is an individual whose test does not conclusively say in which faction they belong — that answers include two and sometimes three factions. To the reader, all I can think is pshh, big deal. Yet all the characters were nervous and never fully explained why it scared them. It wasn’t until the very end of this novel that we finally find out what is beyond the fence, why these people are contained within the fence, and what being a Divergent means.
All of the alliance switches, unexplained actions, loads of violence, Tris’s “selfless” and “selfish” acts, indistinguishable characters that I lacked any sort of attachment to or could differentiate from, built up into this difficult and rather sloppy second book. I expected so much more from Roth, since I truly enjoyed Divergent. To have this dystopian universe and create characters that are distinguishable and meaningful to the main character and the reader, the author should spend more time developing the world and properly understanding her own characters and plotline. This felt like a writing exercise gone awry. The last few chapters should have belonged in the first book instead.
I’m curious to see the third installment now.
Rating: ★★ of 5
Goodreads: 4.39 of 5