Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Allegiant Book Review

by The Wanderer

Author: Veronica Roth
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian Science Fiction
Series: Divergent Book Three
Pages: 526

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(Spoilers for Divergent and Insurgent are below).

In concept Veronica Roth had the right idea for ending her Divergent Trilogy. In execution, though, there were a lot of problems. The two major characters get the endings they deserve, but the minute by minute decisions they make undermines the story’s themes and the logic of the plot.

Like the previous two books, Roth’s story will likely please the young adults it’s written to cater to – although the ending might cause some division between people who prefer conventional or unconventional endings.  Active readers will likely be infuriated by the revealed back story which takes a messy dump on science and forces the reader to ask all sorts of questions that break down the structure of this story.

With the revelation that the factions were created as part of a controlled experiment, Tris and Tobias now plan to leave Chicago and find the people that are experimenting on the city.  Evelyn now controls the city with her Factionless army, disbanding all factions in the process.

Evelyn’s rule though is now opposed by a new group of rebels that are calling themselves the Allegiant. As a new war begins to emerge, the mysterious experimenters plan on restarting the experiment in Chicago, which would alter the lives of everyone in the city.

I was initially excited when Roth changed the structure to this book, by including Tobias as a narrator.  These types of things offer new perspectives and are oftentimes refreshing. Unfortunately Roth can’t get this to work in the least bit.  Having two narrators usually means each character has separate plots, objectives, etc. during the course of the story.  In Allegiant over 80% of the time Tris and Tobias are together giving two different perspectives on the same events.

That would be alright too, except for the fact that the two narrators sound almost EXACTLY THE SAME.  Considering Allegiant has two books behind it and Tobias and Tris have established themselves as different people, Roth can’t distinguish their narrative voices.  Tris’s voice is alright, like it’s always been.  But Tobias, unfortunately narrates like Tris, which turns our masculine protagonist literally into a 16 year old girl.

The love scenes told from Tobias’ perspective are especially troubling. A man and a woman may love each other equally, as is the case with Tris and Tobias, but the way they would describe these experiences would be different.  That is not what happens in Allegiant.

Tris is also given a journal by her mother that allows her to explore her family’s past.  This is initially a great idea until, Roth decides not to include anymore journal entries about half way through the book.  I was hoping the exploration of Tris’s family’s past would yield some powerful ways to connect Trish and her mother, or maybe would be a neat revelation about the experimenters that could further the plot, but none of these things happen.

The basis of the factions in Divergent were flimsy at best, and the back story that explains their origins is an absolute disaster.  It seems to be inspired by the real world Eugenics movement in the early 20th century in the United States – this is an interesting idea to explore in a fictional novel, albeit it’s a very messed up one, especially for a young adult book.  However, the rules of the system and the reasons given for it via the experimenters don’t make sense.

The titular Allegiant ceased to have any emotional impact on me as a reader.  It feels like they were suddenly thrust in the story.  The only thing they are fighting for is to stop Evelyn … and return the factions to power? We just went through two books of the faction system clearly not working, why would anyone want to return to a faction based system?

As I mentioned above, the ending to the series was the right way to go conceptually but its execution is ridiculous. The rest of this review will contain spoilers for Allegiant.

Spoilers For Allegiant Below

The controversial nature of this book will largely be centered around Roth’s decision to kill Tris.  In concept this is the right way to go as the Divergent Trilogy has frequently established sacrifice as something that’s important if it’s done for the right reasons.  Tris sacrificing herself for her brother makes perfect sense.  Furthermore I have to nod to Roth’s courage to kill off her main character, this rarely happens, especially in young adult novels.  This particular novel, could have been a lot better were this part of the plot executed correctly.  But once again lack of logic on the storytellers part sabotages a what could have been.

The plan to save Chicago and stop the government from resetting the experiment is absolutely ridiculous.  With 48 hours to come up with a plan to get memory serum to erase the government’s memories, the best solution the protagonists can come up with is to send one person on a suicide mission into a government controlled room where they could release the memory serum on the unsuspecting experimenters. (The room with memory serum releases death serum on intruders … begging the question why don’t people use guns and other forms of more modern technology to protect their secret research).

They of course could have gotten said memory serum by driving back into Chicago and collecting it from the Amity or the remaining Abnegation.  They could have also obtained a code or hacked into their computer system and broken into the room controlling the memory serum without setting off the death serum, but no. Tris needs to die, she needs to be sacrificed in order to fulfill the story’s thematic message about necessary sacrifices.

The way Tris is killed is utterly stupid, too.  When I realized she was going to be the sacrifice I sincerely hoped Roth would not kill her major character with something as stupid as death serum.  Unfortunately Roth came up with something that’s even dumber: Tris gets shot to death by David, the lead experimenter of the Chicago project.


David’s in a wheel chair after recently suffering a violent attack, he’s never been trained to kill, and he’s likely never held a gun before – and this is the guy that off’s your much deadlier, trained to kill, main character, who by the way was carrying a gun until she conveniently forgot it before entering the room David was in? Tris’s death couldn’t be any more forced.

Score: 5.0

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