Insurgent, by Veronica Roth (HarperTeen, 2012)

A review, student connections, and release week signing!

The Review
As I’ve mentioned before, I seem to be on a pattern of punishing myself by reading trilogies that are still in the making, thereby causing me to wait in anguish for the next book in the series. For me, the most highly anticipated book this year was Insurgent. I read Divergent soon after it hit shelves last spring. I loved it, and I was blown away that Veronica Roth was so young,  a recent college graduate at the time.

As a big fan of dystopian YA literature, Roth’s world building in book one is so well done. As a Chicago suburbanite myself,  it was thrilling to see the transformation of a city I’d known for decades into the world of Divergent’s five factions. Though we only get to see two of the factions in book one, Abnegation and Dauntless, as well as the ever-running L trains, Roth makes the world as much of a character as Tris and Four. Divergent ends, appropriately, on the train, so we begin Insurgent still immersed in the world Roth has created.

I can’t say too much about Insurgent without spoilers, but I’ll do my best. Let me start by saying that it was NON-STOP ACTION! Divergent spends a lot of time, and rightfully so, letting us get to know Beatrice Prior, watching her transform into her Dauntless alter ego, Tris. In addition we have to unravel the mystery of what is really going on with Dauntless and Erudite, and as Divergent ends, we think we have things semi figured out as far as good guys vs. bad guys. That could not be further from the truth.

Insurgent keeps readers guessing all the way to the last page. Who should we trust? Where do characters’ allegiances really lie? What are Jeanine and Erudite really up to? What does the ending mean? Why are there so many serums? Why do I have a crush on a fictional character named Four?

The pace is great. Mystery provides incessant curiosity. Relationship issues offer emotional highs and lows for the characters as well as the readers. Above all, Roth has written a great story that will have us pre-ordering by the thousands again when book three comes out.

How Divergent has made me younger…in the eyes of my students
When I began the school year back in August, I raved to my students about Divergent. But to my surprise, none of them went out at bought it immediately upon my urging. I recently understood why. A librarian at a conference I went to a couple of weeks ago imparted some very wise words to us. She said that we should never tell a student to read a book because WE loved it. Why? Because it doesn’t matter if we are 27 or 57 (I’m somewhere in between). We’re teachers, so we’re old, and old people don’t know what kids like. I totally get it. She’s totally right, and one of my students who read Divergent and wrote a review of it on our ning corroborated the notion. In her review she said she was reluctant to read it because I recommended it. It wasn’t that she didn’t respect me, but she didn’t trust my taste because (to her) I’m, well, old. So I did what any good teacher who knows she’s right would do. I read my class the first 100 pages of the book aloud and then left them hanging. It worked, and to this particular student’s credit (who had to finish the book), admitted I was right, for all the world to see, on our ning.

These days, despite my geriatric state, many of my students do not head to the library without asking me for a book suggestion. When I pull out the latest YA novel I’m reading, students come up to my desk to see what it is. When I finished reading Insurgent, I had to conduct a lottery to see which of my students would get the honor of borrowing my signed copy. Thanks, Veronica Roth, for at least putting my good opinion in a younger age bracket.

Did she say signed copy?
I’m not a speed reader. I’m a teacher and a mother of two who does not get the chance to sit down and read until long after half the household is sleeping. So forgive me, students who came into class on May 2nd having finished Insurgent. It took me three days to read it, but that was ahead of schedule. My goal was to be done by May 4th, and I’m happy to say, mission accomplished. Why the deadline? Because Veronica Roth’s release week tour included a stop at Anderson’s Bookshop, which is only an hour from where I live, and I wanted to be done with the book so I could gush about it to the author.

Though Anderson’s has quite an organized system for book signings (you receive your number in line when you buy your book), I don’t know if they (or Veronica Roth) anticipated the hundreds of fans that would pour into the store for this event. After Roth did a short Q and A, I was lucky enough to be #43 in line along with my friend, Linda (That’s her–>). I’ve met Veronica Roth a couple of times, once at the NCTE convention and again when she was a guest at our school’s Writers Week. You’d think that would cancel out me being star struck especially since this talented writer could have been one of my students had she lived just a few minutes in another direction. That doesn’t change the fact that authors are my rock stars, which is why I’m so appreciative of Veronica remembering me as I approached the signing table. She was as gracious and friendly as she was when hundreds of students swarmed the stage at our high school to have her sign each and every book or program or Nook case…you name it. And here she was after an exhausting release week for Insurgent, probably at Anderson’s until well after I made the hour drive home, giving her time to hundred of readers (many much younger than me) who also look at authors as rock stars. Thank you, Veronica Roth, for including your readers in Insurgent‘s release. We can’t wait for Detergent!

*Currently reading Twenty Boy Summer and Anna and the French Kiss


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