Insurgent: Divergent, Book 2

Book review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Insurgent: Divergent, Book 2 Book Poster Image
Popular with kidsParents recommend
Excellent dystopian sequel is terrifically twisty, intense.

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 12 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 94 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

As in the first book, Divergent, the author includes references to the old North America, specifically the book's setting of Chicago. There are street names and landmarks, for example, that exist in Chicago today and are mentioned in the book. Lots of discussion about what makes society run smoothly and what kinds of people and what sort of government structure are needed for people to peacefully co-exist in a society.

Positive Messages

Insurgent might seem bleak at times, but there are actually several positive messages about remaining steadfast in what you believe in; acting for the greater good/those you love, even when that means putting your own safety in jeopardy; and learning how to be a balanced person and not just feed the part of yourself that's most dominant (the factions are segregated by personality/aptitude). There are also worthy messages about romantic relationships and how to overcome difficult situations together.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Tris, Four, and their inner circle of close friends grow a great deal in this installment. They continue to act selflessly and courageously, but Four also reminds Tris that there's a fine line between being brave and being reckless. Someone proves to be a "traitor" to Tris and Four, making it obvious that not everyone is willing to die for those they love. As for romance, Tris and Four have one of the most positive relationships in young adult literature. They're equals who treat each other with respect and admiration. While they admit they "want" each other, they resist the temptation to let their desire overwhelm or disrupt their greater mission. Even when they disagree, they eventually see the other person's point of view and overcome the obstacles they face together.


Insurgent definitely has a high body count. Several characters whom readers know and care about are injured or killed, and Tris and Four themselves are nearly executed or murdered on more than one occasion. Characters are tortured both physically and mentally, and people are killed in explosions and by others who are under the influence of a mind-control fog. One character is rendered unable to walk, and another plummets to her death because her mind is controlled. Many others die in shootouts with enemy factions. One ruthless group holds others hostage at gunpoint.


Since Tris and Four are already together, this installment ups the romance. Instead of just longing looks and some kissing, Insurgent has several scenes of passionate making out -- once in bed when they're wearing just a night shirt (her) and bottoms (him). One time they kiss so fervently in front of others (uncharacteristic for them) that the spectators stare in awe and then make jokes. Other couples kiss, embrace, flirt, or are identified as being together.


Words like "stupid," "idiot," "jerk," "fool," "shut up," and "hell" (as well as the pejorative term for Abnegation members, "Stiff") are used occasionally, but there's no stronger swearing.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some of the characters (many of whom are still teens) drink wine and other alcohol, and one faction drugs inhabitants to act "happier" and with less restraint, causing Tris to become amorous and loopy. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Insurgent -- the second installment in a  dystopian trilogy that began with the best-selling Divergent -- follows a brave young heroine and her equally fierce, devoted boyfriend. Like most thrillers set in a futuristic, fractured society, this sequel has a lot of fraught situations, violent encounters, deaths, and the constant threat that the protagonist or her boyfriend will be killed or injured. While the language is mild, this book ups the romance from a few kisses to several passionate make-out sessions and even a declaration of love. Some teens (considered of age in the book) drink, and Tris is slipped a drug that loosens her inhibitions and makes her giddy. Many characters are killed or hurt, but in the end, there are thought-provoking messages about the best way to ensure a peaceful but productive society.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 8, 10, and 12-year-old Written bySLKbooklover January 18, 2014

Great sequel, just as good as the first

I found the sequel to be just as good as the first book. It begins to build the background stories of the main characters to help the reader understand the mot... Continue reading
Adult Written bysyda.defreitas March 19, 2019

Really good!

I think that this book is the best one out of the three, with Divergent coming in as a close second. This book had action, angst, violence, and even a bit of hu... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byravenclaw1999 August 5, 2012

Great! But for mature teens only!!!

As with the first book in the series, it has to much sexual content. IT RUINS THE BOOK! It encourages teens (like me) to go on to a serious relationship when ag... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byHeq073198 June 1, 2012


OMGOODNESS IT IS SO ABSOLUTELY FREAKING AMAZING I CAN'T EVEN DESCRIBE IT!!!!!!! Whoever gave this one star is CRAZY!! I usually can't stand main chara... Continue reading

What's the story?

After surviving the horrors of the day the Erudite (intelligent) faction controlled the Dauntless (brave) to invade the Abnegation (selfless) compound and kill many of its members, a grieving Tris and Tobias travel with a small group to seek answers and allies among the other factions. With the help of Tris' brother, Caleb; Tobias' abusive father, Marcus; and the Dauntless friends they reunite with, Tris and Four discover that a key to stopping the Erudite from pursuing their goal of complete domination is to align themselves with the factionless, who aren't the starving and homeless they were thought to be but rather a highly organized and militarized group of outcasts led by someone with connections to Tobias. When Tris decides the only way to help the cause is to turn herself in to the Erudite, she doesn't realize that Tobias will stop at nothing to save her -- and their cause.

Is it any good?

Once again, Veronica Roth has created a pulse-quickening plot that delves further into the dysfunctional governing structure of factions that either collaborate or can't stand each other. In the tradition of second installments, Roth introduces in-depth exposition, new characters, seemingly unsurmountable challenges, and cliffhanger-level twists to move the story forward. The factionless folks are particularly fascinating, since as the literal outcasts of the book's highly stratified society, they're unpredictable and free thinking. It's also refreshing to have so many women as leaders, even though they have completely opposing agendas.

As in Divergent, INSURGENT centers on Tris, a beautifully flawed heroine much in the Katniss Everdeen (of The Hunger Games) mold of fierce and unflinchingly courageous young women. Unlike Katniss, however, Tris only has eyes for Tobias/Four, and he for her. Their intensely mature relationship far surpasses many of the superficial romances in young adult books. With a devotion and a certainty that belies their age, Tris and Tobias face each obstacle as equal partners who will do anything and everything to keep everyone safe in unthinkably dangerous world. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the growing popularity of dystopian books aimed at teens. Why are stories set in a dangerous future such a hot trend? What are some of the best examples of the genre?

  • Which characters or factions' philosophies do you agree with? Which Faction do you think you'd belong to?

  • How are Tris and Four different from other teen-lit couples? Why are central love stories in a series less common than love triangles? Which do you prefer?

Book details

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For kids who love fantasy and dystopian novels

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