Hey, readers. Cheri here with the penultimate installment in my Divergent trilogy series (make sure to check out Chebk’s review of Divergent, and my reviews of Divergent, Insurgent, and the first two Divegent movies) — which, yes, there will be one last post even though this is the review for the final book, Allegiant. It seems Veronica Roth has got a deeper hold on me than I would like.
As much as I thought finishing the series would be a relief, it was actually more of a trial than the first two books combined. I was blissfully ignorant of the shitstorm that occurred when Allegiant was first released and fans everywhere notoriously disagreed with the series’ end (and you can read Roth’s response to them; big spoiler alert), but now it seems I have become legion because this last book disappointed in every way possible. Please note that this is the calm version of my many emotions. The rest comes later in bullet form, rest assured.
SPOILERS FROM HERE ON OUT STARTING WITH THE NEXT SENTENCE.
Insurgent left off with the big reveal: The city of Chicago and its five-faction structure is actually a large-scale social science experiment being conducted by the US government. You may now find yourselves asking, “But why?” And that would be an excellent question…for which Roth has concocted an answer so poor SO AS TO SET MY ENTIRE SOUL AFLAME WITH FURY.
In their time of “great peace,” the government decided, “What the hell. Everything’s going so well we should fix what made things wrong in the first place when we weren’t peaceful.” (We later find out that there was never a great peace, but it doesn’t matter. The damage has been done when pretty much an entire national scientific community accepts this as truth.) The solution is to genetically modify humans to select for specific personality traits that will help perpetuate peace. Obviously this goes wrong. But let me tell you why: Because they conduct this experiment on an entire population from the goddamn get-go.
Veronica Roth, if you are reading this, please know that there is a world of scientific research with standardized processes ready for your perusal. All legal research starts with a small sample. Not half the nation’s population.
In any case, this leaves a lot of people “genetically damaged” and they wage a war against the still-remaining “genetically pure.” Death and destruction happen, evidently across the entire country because this is how Roth measures everything, and the remaining government decides, “Nah, not gonna help our actual citizens any more. Gonna set up these new experiments to return everyone to genetically pure status.” Which, okay, sometimes even I think this is how our government works, but come on. Essentially everywhere outside these experimental cities becomes tent cities and dog-eat-dog hobos.
Outside the city walls, Tris, Tobias, and a few others are taken in by the Bureau of Genetic Welfare who monitors the city experiments. It turns out that Tris, as a Divergent, is one of the “genetically healed,” and made to reintegrate genetic purity into the greater population. Oh, good. Also, meanwhile, Tobias’s mother and father (leaders of the factionless and Allegiant, or those who want to return the city to the five factions, respectively) are planning to wage war in their small experimental city.
The good, the bad, and the silly behind the cut.
Somewhere along the line my notes for this book swerved behind half-hearted and ALL-CAPS. Despite all my problems with the foundation of an illogical premise — as noted from my very first Divergent post — there are still things that I liked and even some I loved (admittedly because they were ridiculous.)
- As mad as I was that Tris’s parents bit the dust so early in the series — especially as they just started getting complex and compelling — Roth has tactfully used their deaths to further Tris’s character arc throughout the series. This works on a number of levels. For one, it grounds Tris as a character with a steady background that straddles the nature vs. nurture debate. It also provides a meaningful relationship that is just as impactful and strong as the romantic relationship between Tobias and Tris. I like the idea that the familial relationship is pushed just as much in a YA novel, for teens who must still learn to balance wanting their independence and having to rely on their parents to learn and grow.
- Similarly, there is an interesting attempt (though not a great success) at looking at free will vs. predetermination for those people considered “genetically damaged.” They are not considered whole or able to be whole. How does this change how you view yourself? How do you even define yourself anymore? WHAT GREAT QUESTIONS. But no one, Roth included, lingers on this long enough to mean anything.
- Also along that vein, I liked the idea of everyone questioning things like, “How can I be brave if there is no Dauntless faction?” This was also not explored more, especially as the factions started moving towards reestablishment. SO MUCH DISAPPOINTMENT. IT IS LIKE ROTH TOOK EVERYTHING THAT COULD POSSIBLY INTRIGUE ME, HINTED AT IT IN A SINGLE SENTENCE, AND THEN SNATCHED IT AWAY AND THREW IT INTO THE VOID BECAUSE SHE WOULD RATHER KEEP WRITING FILLER ABOUT MEMORY SERUMS.
- But she also threw me a sliver of a bone with the queer relationship between George and Amar. It is barely there. It is meant to matter only because they cannot reproduce and therefore pass on their genetically pure genes. But I suppose it is still there, at the very least.
- Roth changes up the structure in the last book, alternating chapters between Tris and Four. From the get-go, I could only assume something was going to happen to Tris to interrupt her ability to narrate. Plus both narrative voices sounded the same most of the time, and they usually involved both characters being in the same room or interacting together anyway. Why not just write from third person from the beginning? Especially since it was often a relief to be out of Tris’s head so much. (Oops.)
- A lot of things don’t make sense in this book and we’re just supposed to go with it: 1) Evelyn makes a big point about destroying factions to the people who have been in factions all their lives and liked it. I’m pretty sure she should have been trying to figure out a better way to make allies instead of inviting mutiny but that is just me~ 2) The Allegiant are trying to reestablish factions but we have literally just seen each of these faction leaders defect from their own faction or get exiled for being awful people, (Johanna and Marcus respectively). 3) The Bureau of Genetic Welfare trains their own kids from childhood to keep working in the Bureau and this has happened nowhere ever except in CEO nepotism probably so I don’t understand. I guess it’s supposed to mirror the factions but to what end? We never find out~ 4) Cities WITHOUT faction systems all fail within three generations but, realistically, I would think more people would resist the faction system much sooner. We are not supposed to think this~
- Tori, AKA the only character I care about besides movie!Tobias’s face, bites the dust in the first hundred pages and we find out her brother is still alive in the Bureau. Her entire revenge story is negated. WHAT HAS BEEN THE POINT THIS WHOLE TIME. None because Roth doesn’t care.
- Oh yeah, and Tris and her group are alone beyond the city perimeters for LITERALLY TWO PAGES before the Bureau finds them and takes them in. ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME.
- Christina is not allowed to love anyone ever, and especially not allowed to flirt with anyone. They will die. We have seen it in every book in this trilogy.
- Lastly, let’s talk about this miraculous memory serum. It is the turning point for most of the action throughout the entire book. Different people want to control it and use it for different reasons on different people: the genetically damaged, the genetically pure, Tobias, Tris, etc. LET US TALK ABOUT the fact that this memory serum could have been used from the very first book to reset the goddamn experiment and lead to instant peace LET US TALK ABOUT THAT, VERONICA ROTH.
- The over-mention of muffins returned and I COULD ONLY ASSUME ROTH KNEW SOMEONE OUT THERE WOULD APPRECIATE THIS AND THAT SOMEONE IS ME, FOLKS.
- Tobias thinks it would be too weird to identify as Four in the Bureau but it was always weird.
- The factionless try to disband the factions and mostly it seems like all they do is force everyone to mix their clothes with one another.
- There is the usual relationship problem arc for Tris and Tobias that we are supposed to take Really Seriously, but Tris trying to “control” hisdecision is somewhat diminished by the fact that all his decisions have historically ended in people dying.
- Actual Tris quote: “These people have no regard for human life…They’re lucky I’m not going to kill them.”
The last thing, of course, is that Roth kills off her own protagonist and seems to feel justified in doing so. Far be it from me to keep any author from killing off a main character, but everything about the entire series feels anticlimactic. Yes, it’s nice to see Tris’s struggle with selflessness come full circle in the ultimate sacrifice, or whatever, but her death doesn’t end with the sacrifice. She gets through the death serum (which we will not even deign to discuss because Roth certainly doesn’t either) which is the sacrifice in itself — she takes Caleb’s place — only to get shot FOR NO REASON. Why doesn’t David just use the memory serum on her? That would make more narrative sense since Roth spends the whole book talking around the serum.
It doesn’t really matter because it happens and it’s predictably awful but not for the right reasons. We don’t mourn Tris so much as feel, as readers, that we have wasted our time. Especially since the war ends pretty much like this: “Hey, Mom, can we just not have a war because I love you and you love me?” “Okay, son.” Peace restored.
I DON’T KNOW, GUYS. It’s been a wild ride but I am very over these books. My last post will be coming within the next week to reflect on how Roth’s writing has taught me to be careful about my own plotting and character choices for my own novel. I hope you will stay tuned for one last Divergent post from me.
Chebk will be back on Tuesday for me with a picture post and some updates on schedule changes and new challenges for April! Till then, let me know your Divergent thoughts in the comment section. 🙂