So it's taken me a few days since I finished reading this book to clear my head and get all my feelings in order so that I can even begin to explain what this book did to me and why. The best thing that describes it is this gif:
The first cat on the left is how I felt about Divergent. I had moderately high expectations but I wasn't expecting to be thrilled…and I wasn't. My thought process while reading it went something like this: This book is pretty cool. Dauntless are crazy. Tris is awesome. I love Four. That ending was intense and weird and I have no idea where this series is headed...Maybe I'm not usually so monotonous but you get the idea.
And then I downloaded Insurgent. I had no expectations or high hopes and WHAM. It hit me like a crazy cat from the middle of nowhere. Seriously, for the last few days I have been in such a major book hangover that not only have I not been able to start another book but I can't even really focus too intently on anything because my mind is still spinning from everything that happened in this book. In my opinion, that alone makes it worth the 5 star rating I gave it.
To me, what makes a book good (besides head spinning side effects and mind blowing awesomeness) is good, strong characters and this series is full of them. We learn so much about Tris in Divergent and watch her grow from the meek, struggling, lost Abnegation girl to a strong, Dauntless woman who finds out that not only is she brave as well as selfless but that she has the power to fight for what she believes in and what she feels is right. And this was why Divergent became one of my favorite books. In Insurgent, we see a whole new growth spurt and a much different side of Tris.
At the end of Divergent (spoiler if you haven't read the first one yet) Tris goes through some major crap. She watches members of her old faction die in front of her eyes, both her mother and father are murdered while trying to help her, she shoots one of her best friends in the head, and her boyfriend almost kills her. None of these issues is brushed aside in Insurgent, much to my delight. I had no interest in reading a book where a character could live through all that and walk away unscathed because even though this is a futuristic dystopian society that's not reality. There is no about-face and the characters become superheros with no emotions, they are still teenagers and they deal with their issues like teenagers. Tris struggles pretty intensely for most of this book in handling her post traumatic stress disorder, which had me so completely captivated because it was so realistic and heart breaking. I can't claim to have been through anything like the violence in this series but I have lost someone close to me that I cared about so I found Tris's pain quite easy to relate to, which left me literally clinging to my Kindle. Even more fascinating was that even while Tris suffers, she manages to still do the right thing and fight for her beliefs, just like the Tris we met in Divergent.
As to her relationship with Four: since I am a fan of the romance genre this was obviously one of the parts I loved most in Divergent, but, still, I was hoping for a little more conflict and, boy, did I get it. In Divergent they're in the "honeymoon phase" of their relationship, all la-ti-da and falling in love and happy fuzzy bunnies. Honestly, I could not have handled it if this book was filled with more cute fuzzy ducklings and their relationship is perfect despite all the other s**t going down…you know, like the war that's about to take place between the factions. This book has much more to it than the romance, which was hot and heavy in Divergent. Still, romance lovers like me will not be disappointed. While we start to see that their relationship is far from perfect, both Tris and Tobias are pushed to their limits and we see the dark sides to their characters. They are tried and tested over and over again and the fact that they keep coming back to each other makes their romance one I want to keep reading about.
These were the two biggest things that made this book amazing for me, with my character-loving, but there were a zillion other small things that only added to its greatness. If I tried to list them they would be (not in any logical order):
-The pacing. This is a book that never quits. Every chapter is action packed and drama filled, making this book a page turner you won't be able to put down.
-The insights into other factions. In Divergent we really only see life for the Abnegation and Dauntless, besides snippets of the other three. In Insurgent Tris spends quite a bit of time with both Amity and Candor and also with the factionless.
-Christina, Uriah, Lynne and all of the other supporting minor characters. I love the depth we get into each of them, how none of them are listed just to be listed. They are all real characters with real feelings, not "fillers" or extra paragraphs which is something many young adult books lack.
-The plot twists. Ok, I'll admit, some of them are predictable but there were a few that surprised me. Caleb, why???? :(
-The world building. Things are somewhat more explained in this book, or at least start to be explained. I think Allegiant will have a lot more answers but at least I am confident that Veronica Roth will not leave us hanging on that aspect!
I withdraw my previous statement that Divergent should be recommended for fans of The Hunger Games because I wish we could just look at this series without comparing it to anything else. I would recommend this series to anyone and everyone, whether or not you liked The Hunger Games, whether or not you've ever heard of The Hunger Games, or whether or not you've ever read an entire book before. Veronica Roth has created something amazing here and it should not be held in any other book's shadow.