Dear Ms. Roth,
Learn how to use commas.
Do not underestimate the comma. The comma is one of the most overused, misunderstood punctuations in the English language, and blatantly incorrect uses of it drive me batty. I am a huge proponent of the Oxford comma (last comma before the “and” in a series, dear friends), and I despise random, unnecessary commas. (Example: “I ran to the end of the hall, and realized I was trapped.” THIS IS WRONG!)
“But Ms. Pearson! Couldn’t the commas be from her editor?” my students ask, eager to defend their new favorite author. Yes, this could certainly be the case, but in that situation I would expect Ms. Roth to defend her correct comma choices and not succumb to her editor’s pressure to make her look like she doesn’t understand commas. So to sum up, I blame both.
That being said, commas may not be as big an issue for others, so I will move past it. Insurgent is the second novel in Roth’s Divergent series that recount the struggle of Tris, a divergent Dauntless, and her friends to overthrow a regimented society that has divided all of the people into four factions who are now turning against each other. It is a solid follow up to the thrilling Divergent, which I read last summer and is featured in one of my early posts on this blog. Once again, Roth presents an engaging and compelling plot full of adventure, high stakes, and romance. It is a quick and easy read and ends with a cliffhanger that has left my students (who adore the series) desperate for October 22nd when the conclusion to the trilogy, Allegient, will debut.
I had a few small issues with the book, aside from the commas. The first was that I had no memory of several of the characters from the first book. Roth provides no recap at the beginning of Insurgent, expecting readers to jump right in. I admire that, and it is clear that she ultimately intends the trilogy to be read together in its entirety. However, I had to wikipedia Divergent to remind myself who everyone was. I chalked this up to having read Divergent almost a full year ago, but several of my students, who read the two books only about a month apart, said the same thing. It appears that many of the characters are flat, one-dimensional, and unmemorable, and it was glaringly obvious throughout all of Insurgent. Additionally, some of the plot seemed fairly standard and conventional, and the relationship between Tris and Four grew tiresome. While the first book seemed fresh in a popular genre, this second one seemed like it was trying too hard to capture the success of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy.
Ultimately, this was a fine second installment, especially considering the second installment is usually weaker than the first (Star Wars, The Godfather, and Hunger Games fans may disagree with that generalization). But as an individual novel, it felt flat and a little tired. That being said, I think this is a great series, and it has galvanized many of my students to read more. As such, I would highly recommend it as the middle part of what will hopefully be a strong-finishing series.