(Warning: if you haven’t read Divergent, go do that now. There will, obviously, be spoilers for Divergent in this review.)
Tris, Tobias and their friends are on the run. After successfully — sort of — stopping the Eurdite faction and their plan to exterminate the Abnegation faction, and the city government, they’re hiding out, regrouping. Their faction, Dauntless, has all but dissolved: half have defected to Eurdite, basically becoming their thugs, the other half is hiding out in the Candor faction. Then there’s the “factionless”: those without a place to belong. In this fight which pits Knowledge and Brawn against Truth and Selflessness, it seems those whom everyone has been ignoring are suddenly quite important. But the important thing is this: Tris and Tobias (and their friends) make their way through most of the factions, assessing and trying desperately to figure out what Jeanine (the leader of Eurdiate) wants so badly with the Divergent, so badly that she will kill for.
The action picks up immediately where Divergent leaves off which is both a strength and a weakness. A strength because for this story, there isn’t a need for months in between plot lines. The action is too intense, too immediate for that. And Roth finds a way to build on the ideas of Divergent, taking the plot lines in intriguing directions. The weakness comes if you, like me, haven’t read Divergent immediately proceeding. Roth wastes no time on exposition, no time on explanations: if you don’t know what’s going on, tough luck.
That said, she does weave bits of information into the chapters, enough so that I was able to remember the basic story of Divergent by the time I was half way through. (It’s just getting to that point!) But, eventually, this story kicked in, and I no longer needed past information — admittedly, I did get tired of Tris and Tobias’s clandestine smooching, which lacked both intensity and passion — to carry my interest. The story is very much a middle-of-a-trilogy: things need to happen, pieces need to move, revelations need to come out (though, honestly: I felt the Big Reveal was a bit forced), in order for the story to move forward. There’s a lot of running around from faction to faction (on the plus side: you get to see the insides of all the factions), recruiting people, trying to understand what the Ultimate Purpose is here. Much like Katniss, Tris spends the book trying to recover from Bad Deeds She Did, though she’s a much more pro-active character than Katniss is. However, everything seems too cut-and-dried, too much like jumping through hoops. I wanted there to be more surprises. (There were a few; Roth, I think, revels in making characters who will do both “good” and “bad” things, within the space of a few chapters.)
I’m not sure it’s as good as Divergent was, but since it left us on a bit of a cliff-hanger (Roth does know how to write an ending!), I’ll have to leave my ultimate judgement until the next book comes out.