Thursday, November 21, 2013


Although I will try to avoid major SPOILERS, for those of you interested in reading Veronica Roth's Divergent series, you'll probably want to stop reading this review.

I was really impressed by Veronica Roth's story when I began this series with Divergent, reviewed here. Now that I have read Allegiant, the conclusion to the trilogy, I have mixed feelings. Divergent has not lost its luster. And there were aspects of this final novel that still impressed me. I'll get to those in a minute. But overall, Allegiant just wasn't as easy to read for various reasons. There's not as much movement and danger as in the first two books. There's a lot of sitting around thinking. The book is also narrated differently, by two main characters rather than just Tris. And the biggest cause of my mixed feelings is the end. It's so daring (like the Dauntless!) and something that's just not done (or rarely) in young adult fiction, but I'm not sure whether or not it actually works.

Allegiant has a lot to wrap up. I won't go into the details of the first two novels. You can link to my review of those above. Let's just say that in this novel, the world gets bigger. It's no longer just a place that was once called Chicago. The characters are thrust into that bigger world, so the effects of that are part of the story. But they are not completely cut off from the world they left behind, quite the opposite actually.

Identity is a big thing in this book. The factions have been terminated, but when you are raised to think along very narrow lines, that's not something you can simply shed. Tris and Tobias narrate and offer insight into this whole process of change as they come up against new injustices and have to decide whether or not to bring the revolution they began on the inside to the outside.

While I enjoyed the characters and was intrigued by the changes they were going through, this book is not particularly fast-paced. What I do like about it is that this slower pace offers the chance to really delve into some moral questions. Roth is a Christian (or, at the least, a believer in God), and though her books wouldn't be labeled as "Christian," I think her worldview really shows if you care to look. One of the big moral questions of the book is, are genetically deficient humans inferior to those with perfect genes? It's certainly not the first time such a question has been asked, but Roth puts a new spin on it. And she doesn't tackle fixing the problem with the usual simplistic, one-can-be-sacrificed-for-the-many, nihilistic, existential answers. She has characters who have those viewpoints, but she also offers something different, something more complex, maybe not as easy but better.

I was especially impressed by Roth's portrayal of broken relationships and the realistic repercussions of them. She offers a mature way of dealing with such brokenness. Both Tris and Tobias have a lot to forgive and a lot to be forgiven for. They aren't perfect heroes, and they have to live with the consequences of their choices, some of those consequences being more real than we readers might like. And in Tris and Tobias' relationship with each other, a romance that has seen the harsh light of reality, we get more of the author's perspective on what real love is and what a mature approach to love is. You don't see that often in young adult literature. Sure, there are the physical moments and romantic parts teen readers supposedly crave, but Tris and Tobias have whole conversations that are about more than their relationship and about more than their immediate trials. They think. It's refreshing.

It's clear the author wanted to present a thoughtful, meaningful story as much as she wanted an entertaining one. I appreciate that, so I wish I could give the book a higher star rating. But a few things hold me back. For one, sometimes I had a hard time remembering who was narrating. At times, Tris and Tobias sound a lot alike. Their characters and the way they deal with things are not alike, but their inner thoughts sometimes tend to be. Context did not always help me distinguish between them, and a couple times, I would think I was reading one's thoughts when it turned out to be the other's. Then, there was one morality question the author left kind of vague that I wish she hadn't. At no point does she say that Tris and Tobias have sex, and she often makes a point of saying they don't. But there is one time when she leaves it vague, seemingly leaving it to the readers to interpret what happened according to their preferences. I'm not sure of the author's beliefs on this point, but of course, I wish she had leaned toward complete abstinence, the reasons for which I have named in other blogs and won't go into detail about here. Much of the morality addressed in this book is actually quite complicated, and Roth deals with it well, but in this simpler thing, I was disappointed.

The last unfortunate thing about this book is the ending impression. I won't spoil it by concretely revealing what happens, but as I mentioned above, it's an unusual ending for young adult fiction and I'm not sure it works. Many dystopian novels end a bit sadly, if they are being honest to how life really works (or how a dystopian world would actually work). The Hunger Games series is one example of this. But the Divergent series ends on a different kind of sad note than we are used to. For the book, it works well enough and makes sense. The author does handle it in a careful manner. But it wasn't what I wanted and hoped for. It didn't satisfy me on the level I'm at when I read a book, that escapist level that honestly doesn't want the book to end just like the real world does.

Though I'm impressed by Veronica Roth's insight and depth, Allegiant just didn't resonate with me as much as her first book did. I can give it only three stars. But if you want to get in on the action, that first story is well worth it and is in process of becoming a movie, which I am very excited to see.

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