Book Review: The Divergent Series – Allegiant

“There are so many ways to be brave in this world. Sometimes bravery involves laying down your life for something bigger than yourself, or for someone else. Sometimes it involves giving up everything you have ever known, or everyone you have ever loved, for the sake of something greater. But sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it is nothing more than gritting your teeth through pain, and the work of every day, the slow walk toward a better life. That is the sort of bravery I must have now.”

Rating:

Based on the final book in Veronica Roth‘s young adult dystopian Divergent trilogy, originally published in 2013, Allegiant is set in the aftermath of Insurgent, as Tris and Four venture outside of the walls that enclose the only world they know, a futuristic Chicago in ruins, for the first time ever. Once outside, old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless with the revelation of shocking new truths. Taken into protective custody by a mysterious agency known as the Bureau of Genetic Welfare, Tris and Four must quickly decide who they can trust, as a ruthless battle ignites. In order to survive, Tris is forced to make impossible choices about courage, allegiance, and sacrifice.

The following post is a review of the book only. You can read my review of the film adaptation in comparison to the book here.

Allegiant picks up in the aftermath of Tris’ actions in Insurgent, after she releases a video revealing the truth about the faction system, announcing that the Divergent are needed outside the borders of the city. Tired of waiting for the self-appointed leaders of a now factionless city to make a decision, Tris and Four take things into their own hands and are invited by the rebel group ‘Allegiant’ to join their escape over the wall to discover what lies beyond.

The book starts off with an epigraph from the Erudite faction manifesto: “Every question that can be answered must be answered or at least engaged. Illogical thought processes must be challenged when they arise.” Roth obviously had this intention in mind for her final book, but it quickly becomes apparent that Allegiant wasn’t going to provide all of the answers to the questions that we were deeply craving.

Allegiant does well to tie up some of the loose ends that the previous instalments have opened up, but there’s so much left to explore and to be resolved by the end that it feels like a whole book has been missed out. From the beginning, there is so little focus on what’s going on inside the wall between the factions and factionless, that what’s most important is quickly forgotten. With the group venturing outside of the wall quite early on, we miss out on the real story and only hear snippets of what’s going on from what’s available at the Bureau. And then when it’s about to get good, Four quickly convinces his mother otherwise and we skip over how the only characters we really care about find their resolutions.

What’s going on outside of the wall is obviously important to bring the story to an end, and it’s where all of the answers are going to be found, but it’s all brought on too fast. This final book feels very messy, trying to give too many explanations to everything that’s going on instead of focusing on one problem, one explanation, and one conclusion. Instead, there are too many rebellions going on inside other rebellions, not focusing on a single revolutionary plot or act to have enough impact.

The conclusions given aren’t well thought through, and the bigger picture is often avoided. For a final instalment about genetics, the science just isn’t there and the explanations that are given make very little sense. The Bureau may be worse than the people they are trying to “correct” but, in the end, they are right in what they’re saying. It may have been wrong of them to mess with people’s genetics and to control and monitor them, but if you imagine this story from the opposite point of view, then the “genetically damaged” should be destroyed, and a real world would want to go back to having a “genetically pure” population, since everyone else is technically mutated.

None of this is really explored, and we are instead made to believe Tris, merely to go along with a group of people we were beginning to like, even though, in truth, they are only test subjects in one of many experiments that didn’t go to plan. This bigger context is completely dismissed, and whilst Tris complains about the Bureau’s plans to erase the memories of Chicago, her plans are so much worse. Tris and the group may not agree with what the Bureau are doing, but their actions are not going to fix the problem and the conclusions given certainly won’t resolve everything going on in the long run.

Written from the perspective of both Tris and Four, as well, just like the final book in the Twilight series, Allegiant continues to be a well written and descriptive account of a well-structure young adult dystopian world. There’s a lot of nods to the previous instalments, especially to the first book, with the contrast in narratives allowing the characters to discuss how they first met each other and how their relationship has progressed.

Whilst it’s a quality to see Four’s perspective on the situation and to read about how he feels about Tris for a change, their narrative styles aren’t distinctive enough. Of course, there’s a much bigger reason for this change in narrative, which becomes much more apparent towards the end of the book, but the narratives read so similar to each other that Four begins to sound like Tris by the end. That bravado we once loved about him is quickly lost, and the more Tris puts him down, the more their romance gets in the way of what’s important.

Tris has always been a horribly selfish character, which became hugely apparent in Insurgent, and has been one of the most difficult protagonists I have found to try to engage with. She only ever acts with herself in mind, constantly making sure that Four feels guilty about not agreeing with her, when her actions only have a short-term span. In Allegiant, there’s too much focus on the petty fallouts between her and Four, of Tris being jealous because Four is talking to a pretty girl, and of Four thinking too much about her reactions than of the greater good.

With the similarities in narratives, as well, with Four sounding more like Tris than the free-thinking hunk with anger issues we saw him as before, Four is a complete wimp in this instalment. All I could think of during this last book was that he needs to man up and tell his woman to pipe down, and I even found myself agreeing with Peter by the end, when he comments that she makes it very easy for a lot of people to dislike her.

But, at the same time, there’s a lot of loyalty between the two. Seeing the story from Four’s point of view allows us to see how Tris has helped him to become a better person, and how the two have depended on each other’s support. It’s lovely to read about how their relationship has developed, especially in the final few chapters, but it too often deters from the relevance of a supposedly climactic finale.

More importantly, whilst the couple had quite a heated sex scene in the Insurgent film, it’s not until this book that Tris finally takes control and allows Four to take her virginity. It’s quite a big deal in the book, as Tris is constantly telling Four and herself that she’s not ready, which is great for its young adult premise, so for the Insurgent adaptation to take this away from the story is a little disappointing. I’m not sure how Allegiant will follow on from this, whether it will avoid sex altogether or throw in a pointless sex scene every half hour, but either way, it’s not going to work. Their first sex scene should have been at a point when Tris really needed to feel close to Four and to feel like a real 16-year-old girl, which made for some light relief in the book, but the change in Insurgent has made this scene lose all meaning in Allegiant.

Whilst there’s all this focus on Tris and Four, many of the smaller characters don’t get enough attention, either. Peter has a small moment towards the end, but this could have done with being followed up a lot better, and Caleb also nearly has his moment of retribution, only for Tris to trample all over it. The tagline of the film is “One choice can define you”, but Tris yet again jumps in the way of the only character who needs to be redeemed for his betrayal, and once again sacrifices herself for no other reason but to do what she wants. Just like with the Insurgent film skipping out most of Marcus’ actions, the few reasons we had for liking his character, it seems that Allegiant is going down the same road, making it all about Tris and forgetting that there are much more likeable characters involved.

There’s still quite a lot of violence in this instalment, especially at the start, although there is noticeably less deaths of popular characters than in similar franchises, there are some pretty big twists to come and one big ‘moment’ that I will steer clear of spoiling.

Whilst I have had my fair share of criticisms for the book, Allegiant is still an enjoyable read, and, as a final instalment, it’s much better than most books ending a trilogy usually are.

Alegiant, the first in a two-part film adaptation, was released in 2016, which you can read my review of the film adaptation in comparison to the book here, and watch the trailer for below:

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