I've discovered that I'm not so good at writing reviews or talking about books in a completely spoiler-free way, but I'm going to do my best with this one because it only came out yesterday so the majority of people haven't read it yet. That said, anything spoilerish, I'm going to hide behind the Read More cut at the bottom and label it with a number. You can choose to ignore the number, or you can choose to click on the Read More and see to which thought the number corresponds. But the numbers DO indicate spoilers, so be warned.
So. Let me start off by saying that this is not a bridge book. It is the second book in a trilogy, but it is not a bridge book.
By "bridge book," I mean a book that mainly serves as a vehicle for character development and not much else. Sometimes the second book in a trilogy can lean this way because the third book is going to be completely explosive and epic, but a lot gets put on the backburner in the process. Sometimes the second book completely changes the set of characters from the first book, to stage their comeback in the final installment. [Heck, sometimes the second book even changes narrators, or adds a new narrator-- I'm looking at YOU, Timepiece and Crossed]. Sometimes there's a new setting, unfamiliar to both the characters and the readers.
Insurgent does none of the above. The only missing characters are the ones who died in the first book, and frankly, I didn't care much about them anyway (1). It starts off pretty much where Divergent left off, so there's not really time for the entire set of characters or the setting to change, and it wouldn't make any sense to change the narrator.
What this book DOES is move the story along. There is so much happening in this book I found myself having to reread pages because I wasn't sure which storyline we were talking about (2). It turns out, the pages pretty much turn themselves when you have no idea who you can trust and who you can't. Not to mention, we got a deeper look at the other factions that we didn't really see in Divergent: Candor, Amity and Erudite. Learning the good and bad traits of each one is really interesting, and it says something about Tris as a narrator that she can see that Candor may not know how to fight when fighting seems useless, but they also know how not to get carried away. That she realizes that while Amity may be selfish in remaining uninvolved in pretty much everything, there is a peace to their lifestyle that none of the other factions have. That she acknowledges that Erudite may have members who use their knowledge against everyone else, but they're not all like that, and their existence is necessary for the survival of the other factions.
[Side note: Tris + Amity "medications" = hilarity.]
I absolutely loved the characterizations in this book. I cannot tell you how many times I wanted to scream at Tris, but you don't have to agree with a character in order to like them or respect them. She is one of the most respectable characters since Katniss Everdeen (3). I love that she won't stand for anyone else underestimating her, even when she sometimes underestimates herself. I love that she's selfless, smart and brave, but still has her weak moments-- that's what makes a good character. People are weak sometimes, but it doesn't change who they are.
And Four-- GOD, Four. Sometimes I wanted to yell at him too. But even though he wasn't the one narrating the story, I often felt like I understood his motivations better than I understood Tris's (4). Still, Tris and Four balance each other out well. Even when it's not all roses and rainbows between them, they're there for each other. Their relationship develops so much in this book, I can't even. (5) They both realize where their faults are in their ideas of each other, and it all culminates at a point where you're kind of teetering on the edge. If it goes one way, it means the third book is going to have a lot of repair work to do, and if it goes the other, at least that is resolved.
Oh, and I have to mention Peter. Peter, the sadistic pansycake. He is one of those villains that I love to hate, because it's so much fun. And also... he has his moments. [Oh, Peter, you may be a ruthless, butterknife-yielding psychopath, but I like your style. Careful, though: an eye for an eye means you're going to be wearing an eyepatch soon.]
Other characters from Divergent make their returns, and I won't tell you who they are, but it's good (6).
As for the plot, um, yeah, I already mentioned that it hooks you. But the end is my favorite part. I can't tell you about that though (7).
And the setting... it is a bit different, because we get to see every faction. Personally I liked the Dauntless headquarters as a setting because it was exciting, but it makes sense that, because this book was no longer about Tris's initiation, it couldn't solely take place there.
One thing I just want to get off my chest: the Abnegation names. I'm sorry, I just really hate them. I don't want Tris to be Beatrice (not that she is, really), and I don't want Four to be Tobias, because frankly I'm not even sure how to pronounce that. Ugly names are distracting when you're reading a book. Plus, their Dauntless names say something about who they want to be. They can't go reverting back to who they once were, no matter how much more intimate it is to call someone by their real name. [Side thought: it would've been really cool if Tris had started going by Six. But I get that that wasn't really possible, because everyone already knew her as Tris or Beatrice.]
But that's probably my least favorite thing. Everything else is... let's just say, I want the third book now. Unfortunately it doesn't even have a title yet (unless you want to go with V. Roth's working title Detergent). My bet: the third book will be called Emergent.
"'We don't need you as an ally,' says Tori. 'We're Dauntless.'"
"By the time the fight dies down, my clothes are more paint-colored than black. I decide to keep the shirt to remind me why I chose Dauntless in the first place: not because they are perfect, but because they are alive. Because they are free."
DO NOT READ BELOW IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO BE SPOILED
(1) Will, yeah, I guess I liked him, but I'm over it. And they talk about him enough in Insurgent that you wonder how different the book would be if he had actually survived.
(2) There's Marcus's plan, to find the information Jeanine was hiding-- which Tris wanted to know more about-- and then there's Evelyn's plan, to overthrow the Erudite and destroy the faction system, basically putting the factionless in power-- which Four supports because he hates his father and thinks Evelyn's plan is better for everyone. Then, of course, there's Jeanine's plan for Erudite to take over the government from Abnegation.
(3) Dear Tris, you don't make a promise to someone you love that you won't go walking straight to your death, and then break that promise. That is not how a healthy relationship works. And also, I was so mad at you while you were feeling worthless.
(4) I mean, obviously he's going to side with his mom after she tells him that she was exiled from Abnegation. He thought for years that she just abandoned him.
(5) I have to admit, all the fighting got on my nerves a little bit. But they just have to work on their communication some.
(6) Christina, Uriah, Lynn, Marlene... I fell a little bit in love with Uriah. How he never seems to believe the bad in the good guys, if that makes sense. Tris lets his girlfriend commit simulation-controlled suicide (though really, she couldn't have stopped her anyway. Tris is tiny), and he lets it go. Tori tells him Tris is a traitor, and he's still nice to her. And so on. And I grew to like Christina more in this one too, because she wasn't such a Candor smart alec with no concern for anyone else's feelings. Oh, and Eric! Eric's death may not have made Tris feel any better, but it certainly made me feel better.
(7) EDITH PRIOR!! Tris's grandmother worked with the group who started the whole faction system!? And her parents and everyone from the "first generation" was placed in Chicago solely for the purpose of a blank slate for the rest of the country[/world?]!! And the Divergent are the ones who are supposed to end the factions and get people outside the fence, because their minds can work in all the ways! I honestly did not see that coming. I had no idea how the world outside the fence would factor in to everything, or even what was going on out there. It's nice to know.