Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Book Review: Allegiant by Veronica Roth

Allegiant is the third book of a trilogy that definitely improved as it went along.  This final installment offered the strongest characters and the most interesting, complex and believable relationships, without losing any of the page-turning action and breath-taking surprises of Divergent and Insurgent.

For those who haven't started the series yet, you can read a plot outline on wikipedia, if you'd like.  I won't retell the whole story here, but to set the stage very basically, it's another young adult trilogy set in a dystopian future.  The population of Chicago is divided based on their primary character trait into five factions: Abnegation (selflessness), Dauntless (courage), Erudite (intelligence), Amity (peace), and Candor (honesty).  There are some people who for one reason or another are rejected from their faction and they become the faction-less.  And some few special people show aptitude for more than one faction and they are called Divergent.  Because the existence of Divergents threatens this well-ordered system, certain elements of the leadership find them to be a threat and are determined to exterminate them.  [spoiler alert if you haven't read the first book!] Our two protagonists, Tris and Four, are members of Dauntless and both are discovered to be Divergent.  And, of course, romance blossoms.

In contrast to the first two books, which were both told exclusively from Tris's perspective, the first person narrator duties in Allegiant switch off between the two main characters Tris and Four.  Of course, this allowed Ms. Roth greater flexibility in telling the story from different angles and I completely understand why she chose this route, but I found it extremely confusing.  Even though it's clearly marked at the beginning of the chapter which character is speaking, I can't count the number of times I had to flip back a page or two to make sure I knew which point of view I was reading.  Perhaps using a different font for the characters would have been a better cue for readers?

In my reviews for the first two books, I mentioned that the romance between Tris and Four simply wasn't very believable for me.  I didn't care for their lopsided relationship and didn't sense any chemistry between them at all.  Allegiant turned it around.  The relationship became much more real, not to mention more equitable, when Tris called Four on his hypocrisy, demanding that she share all her secrets with him but refusing to reveal anything to her, and they both actually started working at being together.  After a series of betrayals on both sides, Tris comes to a realization:
I used to think that when people fell in love, they just landed where they landed, and they had no choice in the matter afterward.  and maybe that's true of beginnings, but it's not true of this, now.
I fell in love with him.  But I don't just stay with him by default as if there's no one else available to me.  I stay with him because I choose to, every day that I wake up, every day that we fight or lie to each other or disappoint each other. I choose him over and over again, and he chooses me.
Choice is a recurring theme throughout the series, but especially as the story wraps up.  Not only is the choice to love and to continue to love vital to who these characters are, but the ability to make choices that substantive affect their own lives becomes paramount.  Four argues that the system of factions that some are fighting to save is deceptive, but that forcing any way of life on others is just as wrong:
The reason the factions were evil is because there was no way out of them...They gave us the illusion of choice without actually giving us a choice. That's the same thing you're doing here, by abolishing them.  You're saying, go make choices. But make sure they aren't factions or I'll grind you to bits!
Of course, it's the final book in a series, so there are some emotional moments.  Without getting too spoilery, I'll tell you that it wasn't the moments regarding the Tris-Four relationship that got me teary-eyed.  It was the moments when damaged family connections were healed.  For example, there's a scene between Tris and her brother Caleb who betrayed her in an earlier book that brought me to tears.
When I look at him, I don't see the cowardly young man who sold me out to Jeanine Matthews, and I don't hear the excuses he gave afterward.
When I look at him, I see the boy who held my hand in the hospital when our mother broke her wrist and told me it would be all right.  I see the brother who told me to make my own choices, the night before the Choosing Ceremony.  I think of all the remarkable things he is--smart and enthusiastic and observant, quiet and earnest and kind.
He is a part of me, always will be, and I am a part of him, too.  I don't belong to Abnegation, or Dauntless, or even the Divergent.  I don't belong to the Bureau or the experiment or the fringe.  I belong to the people I love, and they belong to me--they, and the love and loyalty I give them, form my identify far more than any word or group ever could.
In the end, Allegiant proposes that two factors demonstrate who we are: our choices and our family.  Denying people either of those factors causes deep damage, and restoring those elements can be the catalyst for healing and growth.

by Veronica Roth
ISBN: 9780062024060
Buy it from Amazon here: (hardcoverpaperbackebookaudiobook)
Find it at a local independent bookseller.
Look it up on Goodreads.
Check it out at your local library (find the nearest one here).

1 comment:

  1. I actually liked the ending as there was a message in it. It was sad and made me cry a little too. Even now whenever I go through the last pages, tears show up in my eyes.
    I admire Tris and Four. The characters are great and so is the story.
    The real problem with it is that it didn't meet my expectations. The last two books were great but this book was lacking in something and that was- thrill. It is adventurous, through but is more inclined towards sci-fi and less towards action and adventure. The conclusion was perfect and couldn't have been better. It taught me so many things but was missing the essence of Divergent and Insurgent.
    These are my views but if you like sci-fi more than you must check it out.