It’s no secret that my favorite books are generally ones where nobody is happy and everything is depressing, so it’s actually pretty weird that Insurgent isn’t right up my alley by this point.
“This point” being that Tris was just sort of forced to admit that she was sort of forced to kill Will. Which sort of undercuts the themes we’re trying to work with.
“He had a gun,” I say. “He was about to shoot me. He was under the simulation.” […] the only words I can think of – I’m sorry – sound more like an insult than an apology. Sorry is what you are when you bump someone with your elbow, what you are when you interrupt someone. I am more than sorry.
It’s a little much, but Tris is going through a lot right now. Given the severity of the emotions, I can probably forgive some prose that’s less than-
“You killed him,” she says. Her words sound bigger than words usually do, like they expanded in her mouth before she spoke them.
Nevermind. I completely forgot what I was saying.
Tris reunites with Uriah (the Dauntless-born Dauntless initiate that befriended Tris in the last book, unless you watched the movie, in which case he wasn’t important enough to be included). Uriah is much more understanding about Tris’s actions, reassuring her that she “did what you had to do” in order to “save us from being Erudite slaves”.
That only leaves us with Tobias’s reaction to Tris’s confession.
“We can talk about it tomorrow,” he says. Quietly. Quiet is dangerous, with Tobias.
Ah, the “dangerous” upset boyfriend trope. Good thing we always have male anger to fall back on as a barometer for happiness in a relationship in these books. People can’t just be upset with each other, but we have to reinforce that the woman has to be in danger to indicate she’s “in the wrong”. Yes, I have been reading a lot of feminist theory lately. Why?
[Ariel adds: I also can’t remember other times he’s been quiet before being dangerous specifically…Please remind me in the comments if you do.]
That night, Tris can’t sleep and wanders around, and symbolism happens.
I set my hands on the back of the chair. It’s plain: wooden, a little creaky. How strange that something so simple could have been instrumental in my decision to ruin one of my most important relationships, and damage another.
This is why people hate English majors. This right here. It’s a fucking chair. Trying a little hard to explain yourself, book. [Ariel says: The chair wasn’t instrumental at all! The chair had nothing to do with anything that happened in that room. It would be like if I was sitting on my couch when I found out that (god forbid) The Walking Dead was cancelled, and then I was like, “I have to burn my couch! It was instrumental in this horrific news.”]
Tris dwells on her guilt over Will and “everyone else’s judgment as well as my own”, and Insurgent wants to make it really clear that you get what its message is on this particular page.
The Candor sing the praises of the truth, but they never tell you how much it costs.
To be fair, one of the major advantages of first-person narratives is hearing the main character’s insights and revelations as their story progresses, which often overlap with the work’s major themes. But I’m pretty sure that by this point – 29% of the way into Insurgent and with no sign of any direction whatsoever about where the narrative plans on going since the ending of the last book – the story is Tris’s insights and revelations. At a certain point, we don’t want to hear about the main character’s grand revelations about the themes of the book because she saw a chair or thought about the last book in the series; we want to read a goddamn book.
Speaking of the entire narrative consisting of Tris thinking about the narrative, Tris contemplates suicide. Maybe. I don’t really care. I don’t get what the stakes are. We’re still only 29% of the way into the book, so I’m pretty sure she’s not gonna jump despite her new revelation about revelations.
And then I think of Al.
I wonder how long Al stood at the ledge before he pitched himself over it, into the Dauntless Pit.
He must have stood there for a long time, making a list of all the terrible things he had done – almost killing me was one of those things – and another list of all the good […] and then decided that he was tired. Tired, no just of living, but of existing. Tired of being Al. […]
For the first time I feel like I understand Al. I am tired of being Tris. […]
Another few inches [from the ledge] and my weight would pull me to the ground. […]
But I can’t do it. My parents lost their lives out of love for me. Losing mine for no good reason would be a terrible way to repay them for that sacrifice
I’m torn. On the one hand, it’s a pretty raw scene and conveys how much shit is swimming through Tris’s mind by this point. On the other hand, barely any narrative has happened since the last “this point”. Everything that is happening is coming from a thing that came from a thing that came from a thing that came from an actual event. If I had to write a high-level summary of Insurgent thus far, I’d have nothing to say, aside from how we visited Hufflepuff, other Hufflepuff, and the Hufflepuff that’s so Hufflepuff it’s not even allowed in the same group as the other Hufflepuffs.
And then it feels like there’s something problematic about Tris assuming she understands Al’s suicide? [Ariel says: I didn’t read this so much as assuming she understands as projecting her own feelings onto the only person she thinks can understand her at this moment. I weirdly liked this scene. I think it would be really easy for it to feel overdramatic, but I can understand why in that moment she feels so alone and exhausted and tired of being herself that she would contemplate this. Like how many more times do I have to visit Hufflepuff! It’s the worst! But actually, if you write down everything that has happened to her in the past…however long it’s been…it’s pretty fucking shitty.] [Matthew adds: Yeah, I kinda wasn’t sure if it might read like this too, hence why I didn’t right a whole thing about this maybe problematic angle. It’s weird! It rubbed me the wrong way, but Tris’s feelings felt markedly genuine too.]
Anyway, hope you’re ready for a stark reminder that you’re (probably) not this book’s target audience, because it’s time for a teenage boyfriend/girlfriend fight! Albeit a fight about desperate actions taken during war, yet somehow still overshadowed by “these are teenagers”.
“You didn’t tell me,” he says. “Why not?”
“Because I didn’t…” I shake my head. “I didn’t know how to.”
He scowls. “It’s pretty easy, Tris-”
“Oh yeah,” I say, nodding. “It’s so easy. All I have to do is go up to you and say, ‘By the way, I shot Will, and now guilt is ripping me to shreds, but what’s for breakfast?’ Right? Right?”
“I’m sorry.” [Four says.] “I shouldn’t pretend that I understand.”
Feel free to say this more often, Tobias. And every male love interest in every book we read. Don’t feel you have to limit yourselves when admitting you’re not experts of all things human condition. Good lord, am I sick of Tobias and his mansplaining.
Tobias says that he wishes Tris trusted him enough to tell him. She counters that he didn’t tell her that his mom was still alive. He claims that he was going to tell her eventually. Then… I don’t even know.
“I did tell you about Will!” I say. “That wasn’t truth serum; it was me. I said it because I chose to. […] I could have lied [under the serum]; I could have kept it from you. But I didn’t because I thought you deserved to know the truth.”
If you’re currently thinking about how stupid it was that she suddenly and conveniently didn’t have to tell the truth under the truth serum but then chose to anyway because
specialness of strength of character, don’t worry! It gets stupider.
“What a way to tell me!” he says, scowling. “In front of over a hundred people! How intimate!”
The fight ends inconclusively with neither of them sure what to say or do! Just like Insurgent.
Question of the Day: What’s a good scary movie that came out relatively recently? My friends from back in my hometown and I really liked The Conjuring and we’re hoping to find something kinda like that to watch when I meet up with them over Christmas. No, this question has nothing to do with Divergent; I’m basically just hoping at least one person reading this can do me a solid. [Ariel says: The Babadook is meant to be like that and very good. Allegedly has a good plot and is scary without relying on gore and such.]