4,606 of 4,868 people found the following review helpful
on November 16, 2013
**SPOILERS! RUN AWAY!**
First, let's address the elephant in the room that is the topic of most discussion about this book: The ending. I want to make very clear that I am not a person who needs a happy ending in a book, nor did I even really expect one in this series. I don't read books because I expect to see "...and they lived happily ever after" on the last page. In fact if this book had ended with some flash-forward to the house and kids like certain other series did, I would have been just as annoyed. That's lame. I don't need happy. What I do need and expect, from any book, is an ending that makes sense and satisfies the story.
This ending was not that ending.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. The real reason I give this book one star is because the book, as a whole, was awful. I'm sorry, but this is one of the most shoddily written books I've ever read in my entire life. And I say this as someone who absolutely adored the first two books in this series. I say this as someone who read Fifty Shades of Grey ... and Allegiant has officially taken that book's place as the worst book I've ever read. And I debated somewhat on that, but I decided that Allegiant wins because, while Fifty Shades was an affront to literature indeed, I don't actually wish I could go back in time and unread it. I wish to the heavens that I had never read Allegiant.
Let me first talk about the writing style. Roth employs the use of a dual narrative in this book, a departure from the first two books. I am not opposed to this style at all - in fact, I welcome it, as I find that a single-person narrative can sometimes be restricting. When done right, a dual narrative can allow a book to tackle parallel storylines and provide insights that you wouldn't get from following the story from one person's perspective.
This dual perspective was a mess.
When you use two first-person narrators, you have to (a) give them different perspectives to justify the use of this gimmick in the first place, and (b) make sure the voices are distinct so readers can actually tell who is speaking. Allegiant fails on both counts. The only reason this style was used is because of how the book ends, because beyond that there was simply no purpose for it. We did not get any new perspectives on either the story or his personality through using Tobias as a narrator. Whatever new information he learned without Tris being present, he passed it on to her anyway so it became repetitive. Outside of those moments, the two were pretty much in the same place the entire time, so we had no real parallel storylines going on, and having them in the same place made it very difficult to tell who was actually talking.
And this is the real failure with the dual narrative: Tris and Tobias were written identically. I, along with every single person who has reviewed this book, found myself constantly flipping back to check the chapter heading to remind myself who was talking. They were written like they were the same person, which is a shame because one of them is supposed to be a dude. What happened to Four the badass, the Dauntless legend, the one who was sensitive but tough, the one who took charge rather than let other people lead him? Well, apparently he was out buying tampons, because Allegiant turned Tobias into a 15-year-old girl. And a damn annoying one that I wanted to slap. With dueling angst-ridden girl voices, it was impossible to tell Tris and Tobias apart because they sounded exactly like each other. Actually, Tobias didn't sound like Tris in this book because Tris didn't even sound like Tris. Both characters were wildly different from how they were written in the previous books - Tobias becoming a whiny pansy and Tris a nagging know-it-all shrew. This made it that much harder to tell who was talking, since they weren't even the same people we knew. It was like they were both replaced by a third person who inhabited their bodies simultaneously.
Roth simply does not know how to write in another voice than, presumably, her own. I predict that the narrator in her next book will sound suspiciously like Tris even if it's a 75-year-old Japanese man.
Now that that's out of the way, let's get down to the meat and potatoes of why this is one of the worst books I've ever read: The plot.
This entire series has been building up to the Big Reveal: What is outside the fence that surrounds Chicago? Why were these people placed here? Why was the faction society really created? Now we're finally getting our answers. And it's even dumber than I ever could have imagined.
The series' premise was pretty flimsy. How could human beings be broken down by a single trait? Why would anyone think that segregating people based on their differences would be conducive to maintaining peace? Clashing ideals and competing belief systems have been the cause of mankind's wars since the beginning of time. And most of all, why is it no one apparently leaves the city, never even seems to occur to anyone to try? These plot holes were apparent from the beginning, but until now the story still worked mainly because it wasn't self-conscious about the premise. The previous books focused directly on the plot, not back story, and so you could ignore the "Why"s and just assume it would be addressed at the end. This book not only addresses the premise at last but brings it front and center.
Roth has said that she didn't really know where this story was going when she first started the series. This obvious fact finally catches up with her in Allegiant, as the entire premise completely falls apart with the most illogical, nonsensical, scientifically bogus back story that was ever pulled out of a person's ass.
Here's the skinny: Many years ago, in order to cure people of undesirable traits such as cowardice, selfishness, aggression, low intelligence and dishonesty (sound familiar?) - which were believed to be the cause of all of humanity's problems - some moron scientists figured out how to remove the specific genes that caused these traits. The alterations began to take effect after a few generations, and what they discovered was that removing the gene for one trait just enhanced another bad trait (um, duh), leading to a war between those who had been genetically altered and those who hadn't. The morons sought to correct their mistake by rounding up scores of genetically damaged people, sticking "corrected" genes in them, and locking them up in a controlled environment to wait for them to reproduce enough times for the bad genes to heal and return to a state of genetic purity (aka divergence).
First off, any genetic manipulation, whether removing or adding a gene, would manifest right in the subject being altered. It does not take multiple generations to appear. And so, if these people had the technology to remove a gene at one time, they can use that technology to put that same gene right back where it came from - and fix it at one time.
But even if the scientists were unaware of this, why would they put everyone in the experimental cities? If the goal is for these people to pass on these "corrections" for their descendants to be "fixed," they could do that anywhere. And, in fact, should - reproduce with the genetically pure people so the damaged genes will be watered down. But isolating them and forcing them to interbreed will only a create a founder effect: with no variation in this small genetic population, the damaged genes they carry will only become prevalent over time. They will just as likely make the defect stronger and eventually create new and perhaps even screwier genes through mutations as they would achieve any imaginary genetic "healing." If these people are such a scourge on society, the only reason it would be prudent to round them up in one place is so they could blow them all up at once.
This also doesn't work as an explanation for the society being divided into factions. They say they added this "nurture" component to some of the cities to see if it would help. How would encouraging their inborn behavior help? How would this aid the goal of "genetic healing" to isolate the people even further by keeping like aptitudes together so they end up reproducing with people with the same strain of genetic damage they have? The bad genes will get even worse.
And it still doesn't explain why no one ever leaves the city. So they were being watched. So what? These people were trapped for some 200 years with no idea what they were doing here, and no one in that time ever thought, "Hmm, I wonder if there's anything outside. Let's go find out"? Human beings are curious animals. If we were not inclined to explore our surroundings and push past barriers, most of the planet would be uninhabited. And Roth expects me to believe that an entire population stayed where they were, for that long, not knowing why they were here or why they couldn't leave, because of a fence and some guards with memory serum? How would that stop anyone? How does that explain why they never even tried? Unless the manipulations also involved removing the common sense gene, these experiments wouldn't have lasted eight weeks, never mind eight generations.
Was this really the best she could do? It's like she just ran with the first dumb idea that popped into her head without thinking it through or doing any research despite basing the ENTIRE PREMISE around a researchable topic. Honestly, just five minutes on the Wikipedia would have told her why it wouldn't work. Science fiction needs some level of plausibility. It doesn't have to make complete sense to OUR world logic as long as we are shown why it should make sense to the story's world logic. But this doesn't even hold up within the logic of the story - the experiment is inherently counterproductive to its purpose and an unrealistic waste of time with no context provided for why anyone would be so stupid, and retroactively applying this explanation to the story presented in the first two books just creates more plot holes.
But the worst offense is that this backstory is just anticlimactic and LAME. "Guess what, kiddies? Your lives are really a science project, there are cameras everywhere and people have been watching you Truman Show-style this entire time from a command center literally right down the street and yet somehow none of you ever figured this out for 200 years." Great idea. That's totally believable and doesn't make everything that happened in the series feel pointless AT ALL. Please. And throwing this nonsense in at the last minute? Might as well just say the whole thing was a dream. Suspension of disbelief can only go so far, and then a story is just too dumb to take seriously.
Sometimes a wacky concept only works if you accept it as is. She should have just left the premise alone and not tried to explain anything.
A lot of people say the ending ruins the series. For me, it's this backstory that ruins it because I now feel like I've been led on a wild goose chase as it is clear that Roth had no real plan for her story and was making it all up as she went along. The whole thing has the agonizingly awkward feel of an author who realized too late that she wrote herself into a corner and then half-assed her way out. Here's what I think: She had this idea for this funny little city with people living a funny sort of way and wrote a book around this idea with no intention of having any larger story behind it, but then she had to write two more books and realized she needed to come up with one after all. And so she crammed a series' worth of explanations into one book to make a "real story" out of it - and somehow ended up writing a completely different story altogether.
I think the moment she decided to find a scientific reason for divergence was the death knell for the story, and not just because her decision to have divergence be nothing makes the whole series feel like a waste of time. It seems she couldn't think of a "larger story" that worked to this angle AND stayed in line with the plot points she already wrote, so she opted for Biology For Dummies over continuity and twisted the story right out of coherence. The radical shift in story direction from ideological warfare between factions to science run amok and civil rights, taking the characters completely out of the current plot and inserting them into a new story so random as to be irrelevant - it feels like a book out of a totally different series rather than the conclusion of an existing one. It's all too far removed from the current story, like Tris and company crossed the fence and accidentally walked into the wrong book - one with choppy writing, characters who either fade into the wallpaper or undergo lobotomies, nonexistent worldbuilding, themes as subtle as a two-by-four and plot holes the size of minivans.
And worse, it's boring. Once the characters arrive at the Bureau the story comes to a halt and the book becomes one big infodump, but rather than making discoveries everything is just thrown at them. The big revelation felt very forced, like the author was saying to the reader, "Okay, this is what I came up with..." Just explanations upon explanations that somehow never really explain anything. And retcons! Oh, the shameless retcons. Remember when Edith/Amanda said she was a leader of an organization fighting for justice and peace and the Divergent were the signal for the people to come out? No, the video was a lie and they never wanted them to come out at all. Um, why would the video even exist, then? Am I not supposed to notice that Roth was just dropping this cliffhanger because she decided to switch tactics after Insurgent? The Bureau supplied Jeanine Matthews with the simulation serum to lead the attack on Abnegation so they wouldn't reveal this video. Um, if the Divergent are so precious, wouldn't it have made more sense to slip memory serum to the Abnegation so they wouldn't release the video, rather than instigate the slaughter of a high proportion of genetically pure people in the faction? And the big one, Natalie Prior was working for the Bureau and was inserted into Dauntless as a spy. Um, if she knew what was really going on and that the Bureau was saving Divergents, why wouldn't she help her own daughter escape? Why would she give her own life to save this video and reveal the "truth" if she knew it was a lie?
Anyway. It's at this point that we abandon the old premise and become immersed in a flimsy new construct where people are labeled by their genes and we are served an after-school special about prejudice so preachy and obnoxious that half the time I felt like the book was yelling at me. The world outside the fence, a paint-by-numbers mashup of every dystopian cliche ever written, is never fully fleshed out and so the reader can't connect with any of it. The trips to the Fringe serve very little purpose in advancing the story, and Tobias getting involved in their "uprising" was mind-boggingly stupid. Why in the world would Tobias, who intrinsically distrusts people and expects the worst of them, accept Nita's plans on face value when he barely knows her? Because he's bothered by the fact that he's "genetically damaged"? The Tobias we know wouldn't have even cared about that. It made sense for him to fall for Evelyn's lies in Insurgent because she was his mother and he was desperate to believe in her, but he knows nothing about Nita or any of these people and has no loyalty to them. Total character assassination for the sake of an utterly random plot point. Seriously, why is this story suddenly all about a battle for genetic equality?
And you know the whole factionless/Allegiant war, the thing the series used to be about? That all pretty much takes place offscreen and is barely even included in the book. And don't get me started on how it ends. Big Bad Evelyn, hellbent on world domination, plans to just kill everyone as the final step in said world domination plan. And she throws that all away because her son says pretty please with sugar on top. What??? Evelyn was never portrayed as anything other than a cold, calculating megalomaniac. But the son she never gave a crap about begs her to be his mommy again and, poof, she's not evil anymore? Give me a break. I might have forgiven the lack of buildup if she at least didn't cave so easily. Because it was Too Damn Easy. So easy that I wonder why Tobias didn't just do that 400 pages ago and saved me the trouble of thinking this story was going somewhere. And to top it off, Marcus just accepts her peace treaty and agrees to leave, just like that? Who are these people and what happened to the real Eatons? I actually don't mind that Marcus slinks off to who knows where and nobody even cares. It's a fitting end for a terrible man who only cared about how much he mattered over others. But I don't buy that he would cave so easily, either. What a lazy cop out.
And speaking of crap, let's discuss the ending. From cheap racism allegory to cheap religious allegory. Tris's sacrificial death. Like I said earlier, I don't need a happy ending in a story. I am not even opposed to the main character dying. I'll let you in on a little secret: I was spoiled on this detail prior to reading the book, and my reactions were, in order: annoyance that I had gotten spoiled; sadness that Tris dies; excited curiosity for the story; and then sadness again as Tris's death sunk in and I actually cried for a half hour - and I hadn't even read the book yet. I cried because I grieved this character, not because I was angry or disappointed about her death. I thought the idea was actually pretty cool. I never would have guessed that Tris would die. How many times in these books do the heroes miraculously survive against all odds? Every time. How refreshing, in theory, for the hero to actually not make it out. I was intrigued.
And then I read the damn book.
I think most people who do love this ending only look at the situation within the actual moment of sacrifice: The idea that Tris would take her brother's place. I agree with this. It is literally the only authentic or believable moment in the entire book. Of course Tris couldn't let Caleb die for the reasons he said; she is way too selfless slash stupid to let someone throw their life away when she could step in for them. The theme of this whole story, as the book repeatedly tells us, is about sacrifice. Tris was Abnegation at heart, and so her actions make perfect sense in the situation. She did what she had to do. The problem, though, is why she had to do it in the first place - how the situation came about.
When Tris offered to sacrifice herself in the previous books, it was because she found herself in a situation to do so due to circumstances beyond her control. But here the characters go out of their way to create the situation for absolutely no reason whatsoever.
The entire storyline was contrived just to shove the sacrifice in her lap.
The plan to release memory serum onto the people at the Bureau was totally arbitrary. They make no effort to come up with another plan to stop the Bureau from resetting the experiment, and there were much more logical options available to try. Why not work toward a plan to sabotage the vessels deploying the memory serum over the city? Why not try to evacuate everyone? Why not beg for a temporary stay of execution while Tobias talks his parents down from their war plans, since that's precisely what he ended up doing anyway? That was the reason David ordered the reset to begin with, so if they'd just done that in the first place they could have nipped the reset in the bud right off. But somehow the only thing they can think of is a mass memory wipe.
Here is where the story lost me: They learn the Weapons Lab is rigged with death serum, but rather than set out to try to get the passcode or hack into the system or disable the trigger somehow or just THINK OF ANOTHER IDEA, they immediately elect someone to go on a suicide mission. This attack wasn't going down in the next five minutes. They had 48 hours and they make NO effort to think of a plan where someone wouldn't have to die. Well. That's conveniently stupid.
And that death serum trap - can you say "random plot device"? Roth uses a slew of these to basically deus ex machina her way through the plot. Evelyn wants to kill everyone with death serum. The Bureau wants to stop this with memory serum. Our heroes want to stop THEM with more memory serum. It's all artificial conflict; it's contrived. Somehow there's a serum to magically fix any problem and yet the gang ignores all the myriad ways they could use them. Why not get truth serum from the Candor, since evidently it's very easy to drive in and out of the city all of a sudden, and coax the passcode out of David? Why do they need to release the memory serum en masse? Why not just get some from the Amity using it to keep people in the city and use it directly on the folks in charge of the reset? Or take the sample Tobias planned to give to one of his parents and use it on David? It is unfathomable that they wouldn't even think to try anything else with someone's life on the line. Logic, schmogic - gotta work that sacrifice thing into the story somehow!
Amazingly, it's Tris who proposes this foolish plan in the first place. Tris can be tough and unforgiving, and I get that she would want retaliation against the people responsible for the attack that killed her parents (Retcon alert!), but she is not evil, or stupid. It was glaringly out of character for her to denounce the Bureau's plan to erase people's memories as wicked and depraved, a fate worse than death, only to then suggest doing the exact same thing to them - even though most of the Bureau workers were innocent. Why is this a better option? Her answer: It isn't, but this one saves the people THEY care about. What? Who is this person? Dismissing one group as expendable to save your own interests. The Abnegation would be proud. This moral relativism might work in another context, but it's counterintuitive to Tris's death as a testament to her selflessness for her to die committing an ultimately selfish act. The others even acknowledge what a questionable plan this is but concede that they don't know what else to do. That's not an excuse. It's not okay just because you can't think of a better idea, and for them to act like it is was also out of character.
And in what world would Tobias think that Tris would EVER stand by and watch her brother walk to his death? She's pulled this crap before and he's always called her out on it. Maybe getting his period interfered with his radar.
It would be different if the plan was a last-minute, last resort idea; if all alternatives were proven inaccessible and there was just no other way; if the characters had been established as morally bankrupt morons prone to jumping to extreme worst-case scenarios before working through problems rationally. But none of these is true. In her last moments, Tris says true sacrifice comes from necessity and not without exhausting other options. Exactly which options did they exhaust? This situation was not necessary; it was impulsive, irrational and just plain idiotic. And for what?
Since this book did such a good job of effectively reducing the city to pointlessness, I actually wondered why it even mattered if the reset happened or not and why I was supposed to care - especially since literally none of the characters we cared about were in any danger. I get that they care and they need to stop it, but the larger issue of reprogramming the Bureau's agenda was laughably absurd. So they tricked one building full of people into believing in genetic equality. So what? The rest of the world still doesn't. Nothing changed beyond Chicago, and what happened here was ludicrous. They all just accepted the lies they were told? Nothing contradicted them? These people answer to a higher authority overseeing the experiment in other cities. The government would just replace these workers with new ones who hadn't lost their minds. The idea that they would let them stay in charge and turn Chicago into some GD/GP utopia wasn't believable either.
THIS is what our hero's final moment is built on?
I would have no problem with Tris dying, would even applaud it, if the circumstances truly called for it. As I said, I knew her fate going in, and so I anticipated a good story, an epic death for a truly epic character. A hero's sacrifice. But there are way too many holes in this story to justify a sacrifice by anyone. Roth needed to deliver Tris to her destiny but failed to create a believable, organic or even vaguely logical path to take her there, instead using cheap plot devices, actions with no logic and characters behaving woefully OUT of character to force the story into its prearranged conclusion. And while one might blame this on a lack of creative skill, truthfully I believe the problem is simply that she rushed through this book and did not take time to properly think out the plotline for her ending. The unfortunate result is a hastily put together concoction that is too flawed to support its goal. It rings false, and it is very jarring to place such a "real" moment at the end of what feels like a fake story.
Even if we accept the nonsense that put Tris in the Weapons Lab in the first place, her death was still unnecessary. She survived the death serum by sheer force of will, proof that she did not want to die - but now the plot officially no longer required her to die. I admit I am not opposed to the irony of Tris the Invincible being taken out by something as mundane as a couple of bullets, but the scene in which David confronts and shoots her felt too convenient and contrived just to ensure her death. The actions, once again, did not feel organic to the story or the characters, and so I was acutely aware that it was not David's hand pulling the trigger, but Roth's. She was forcing the story to kill her. But why?
When the main character dies, it should be integral to the plot. Either it was the unavoidable result of preceding actions, or the required catalyst for later actions. We know the former is not even remotely true, but what about the latter? What did her death create? If Tris could have carried out the mission without dying but was killed some other way anyway, it had to be because her death was needed to move the story forward - her death, and not the mission itself, was an instrument of change on its own.
But her death didn't do anything. It didn't move the plot. It didn't motivate the other characters into actions that moved the plot, nor did it change them in any way. Her death didn't save the city. The memory serum would have worked the same way even if David hadn't shot her as she was setting it off. Nothing that took place in the aftermath of her death was actually the result of her death.
Tris's death was meaningless from a plot perspective and served no purpose beyond the thematic point of sacrifice. And while the relevance of this theme to her character is clear, the failure to incorporate the necessity of her death into the narrative makes it seem merely arbitrary.
I read Roth's blog where she explains Tris's journey in trying to understand sacrifice. The first time Tris attempts sacrifice, it's for love but unnecessary so she lives; the second time it's necessary-ish but not for love so she lives. But this last time she got it right, love AND necessity, so she dies. Congrats, Tris, you did it for the RIGHT reasons this time! You know what you believe in now! Your search for identity is over and so you've no need to traverse this earthly plane anymore. And so you shall die, because you earned it!
I find it disturbing that this story about a girl's quest for identity, which speaks to the reality of so many young readers, ends by basically saying that since she has found her sense of self she no longer needs to go on. Becoming whole doesn't mean your job is done now! That's when the real test begins - true, honest and certain of who you are and what you want to do. This is when you start living. What does Tris gain by dying?
This final act is meant to be the culmination of Tris's story of growth and discovery, but she achieves her growth when she realizes why she must take Caleb's place. Her understanding of sacrifice is satisfied in her willingness to die for him, because she loved him, because there was no other way; actually dying neither added to that point nor made the sacrifice any more real, and her actions don't tell us anything we didn't already know. We always knew she was selfless and brave and willing to sacrifice herself. Even though she wasn't "trying" to be sacrificial this time - she was just trying to do right by her brother - she is still doing the same thing she always does, because this was always who she was. It doesn't add to our understanding of her for her to do it again. I am also alarmed by Roth's logic that Tris's death honors her parents, who died for her. Her mother's ghost/hallucination even appears to tell her how proud she is of her. (Whatever.) Yes, when I sacrifice myself for my child, I don't want her to honor my beliefs by living a good selfless life. I want her to go out of her way to risk her life in the name of selflessness just to prove herself to me. Sure.
Tris found her way back to Abnegation when she decided to take the risk for her brother. She did not need to die to do so UNLESS DYING WAS THE ONLY WAY TO DO IT. But it wasn't; she was able to survive this. Forcing her death is just forcing the point for its own sake, as all story outcomes would have been exactly the same if she had lived. The story did not need Tris to die. She only died because the author felt that she should, because "her journey was over." That is contrived. That is dying for the sake of dying.
That is pointless.
When you do something as controversial as killing off the main character, even if it was planned that way all along, you absolutely must execute it properly. The story must be tight, the writing flawless - otherwise it falls flat. This was not executed well at all. It was not fulfilling; it was empty and unsatisfying. There was no emotional payoff, no promise of hope, no real resolution. A book with a devastating ending can leave a reader emotionally spent but satisfied, if there is some purpose to it. But this ending came off as too senseless, and so, like most senseless tragedies, it just leaves you feeling traumatized. And angry.
Writers should not tailor their stories a certain way purely to appease the audience - that would be pandering - but a published author has a certain responsibility to take their readers' expectations into consideration. Roth once stated that she felt the Harry Potter series would have been better if Harry died - that it would have been the most powerful moment in the story and an incredible act of heroism. In explaining Tris's death, she says that Tris had earned an ending as "powerful" as she was. I am a little disturbed by her romanticized notions about sacrifice and death, obvious Christ parallels and all, in books aimed at young audiences. J.K. Rowling has said she did consider this ending for Harry, but she knew that such a twist, "powerful" or not, was just not what her audience wanted.
Roth would do well to learn this lesson in understanding your audience. Her idea was fine in theory, maybe, but probably not for a YA fantasy series. I suspect this is why so many readers complained of feeling "cheated" by this ending - this isn't what they signed up for. Personally I love the idea of Tris going out in a blaze of Abnegation-style glory, but I'm several years outside the target market and so that may be why this type of ending doesn't bother me in principle as it does others. What does bother me, though, is how horribly executed it was. The whole affair was crap.
The whole BOOK was crap.
Now, I don't think all the blame for the absymal nature of this or any book falls squarely on the author. I think when a series is an established success, the editors and publisher likely don't feel the pressure to crank out a truly quality product since they know it's going to be a bestseller regardless. This book really needed three or four more rounds of rewrites before it should have ever been allowed to go to print. It reads like a rough draft. Guaranteed moneymaker or not, I can only assume the editors were drunk when they let this through.
2,311 of 2,462 people found the following review helpful
on October 24, 2013
I finished this last night and afterwards I felt just dead inside. I absolutely hate when a series ends leaving me feeling unsatisfied and even, in this case, angry. I feel kind of betrayed by the author.
I loved Divergent. The book had its faults, but I really fell in love with the whole story, the characters, the romance between Tris and Four, the Factions, etc. I read and re-read Divergent probably 8-10 times. I bought the audio book version as well. I was SO PSYCHED about the movie! I bought Insurgent and devoured it as well. It didn't have quite the same magic for me that Divergent did, but I still loved it. So I was REALLY psyched to read Allegiant.
And maybe my hopes were too high.
I don't know.
That doesn't change the fact that this book utterly and completely disappointed me.
For real, SPOILERS!
READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!
**What's outside the fence?**
I was really excited, after reading the 'cliffhanger' ending to Insurgent, to find out what was outside the fence. I had my theories, and I was right about some, wrong about others. I was expecting the cameras and Truman Show-esque thing, but I was not expecting all the genetic manipulation crap. As soon as our heroes get outside the fence, there are chapters and chapters of info dumping and, to be honest, it's kind of dull. We learn that Chicago (and some other cities) were created as 'experiments' because of genetic manipulation gone wrong. Supposedly these cities were an attempt at creating more 'genetically pure' people (aka Divergents). This is so far-fetched and bizarre, but I was willing to go along with it.
**Tris and Four**
I wasn't against the dual perspective, though once I finished the book I realized why she HAD to write it in a dual perspective. However, I don't think it was done well. There were several times where I would get halfway through a chapter and not remember who I was in the head of at the time, mostly because the two narrators had identical voices.
Tris has always been an interesting character to me. I really liked that she was tough, but a little vulnerable and naive. I liked her progression through Divergent and Insurgent. She doesn't really progress much here. We've always known Tris is a selfless person who is more than willing to sacrifice herself for the greater good, or for her loved ones. That doesn't change here. More on that later. She does become kind of arrogant and holier-than-thou here, and it really started to bug me. She's 16, but she often acts (and everyone treats) her like a grown-up. She is pretty much always right in Allegiant and she makes sure everyone knows it.
Four was awesome in Divergent. He loses all of that awesomeness in Allegiant. He becomes quite whiny and pathetic to the point where I actually wanted Tris to break up with him. She probably should have, considering some of the stupid and completely out of character stuff he does. I really hated seeing him reduced to this quivering mess of a boy who does nothing but wax poetic about his mommy and daddy issues. Four was always strong, and he is the polar opposite of that here.
I did enjoy the progression of their relationship though. Some people have complained about the scene where Four accuses Tris of being jealous, but I actually liked it. I like that they, FOR ONCE, acted like TEENAGERS. Unfortunately that was a tiny part of this book, and for the rest of it they act like 30-40 year old worldly adults.
**THE END OF THE CONFLICT**
So we have Four's mother Evelyn running Chicago like a factionless tyrannical dictatorship. Johanna and Marcus running the Allegiant, trying to reinstate the factions.
Evelyn has been portrayed as a nearly heartless person, hell bent on making all the Factioned people clean toilets like the Factionless had to do for so many years. At the height of the conflict, she is willing to allow a "Death Serum" to kill pretty much everyone in Chicago in order to avoid going back to the Factions. This is when Four arrives and says "Hey Mom, I'll be your son again if you stop acting like a monster" and she goes "Okay."
She then negotiates with Marcus and Johanna. Marcus wants to take over as evil dictator and Johanna says "Nah, you're not gonna do that" and Marcus just says "Okay."
Roth has not shied away from killing off characters in the first two books, but I felt like most of that had a purpose. Tris' parents in the first book, Al (due to the guilt over his own actions towards Tris), Jeannine in Insurgent, and more. Deaths in Allegiant come just as rapidly and have even less meaning. Tori dies in a very sudden manner, and then is mostly forgotten about. She was referred to as the leader of the Dauntless, but she is killed and then is nothing more than an afterthought for the rest of the book.
Uriah's death is given a lot more page time, but only as a way to make Four feel like total garbage for getting involved in the rebellion and to make Tris "right" once again.
The biggest death of all was Tris, and this was the biggest disappointment to me. I will be straight up honest - I LIKE a happy ending. I read YA because I like knowing that things will most likely end up happy overall. I read romance because I know there will always be a happily ever after. HOWEVER, I can deal with a bittersweet ending so long as it feels satisfying and feels like closure.
Tris' death was NOT that ending.
Caleb's betrayal was a huge part of Insurgent, and that continues on in Allegiant. He has a LOT to atone for in Allegiant and when he volunteers for the suicide mission to help save everyone, he does it because he wants Tris to forgive him. And he doesn't want to live with the guilt of what he did. Instead of letting him, Tris forces him to let her go instead. I understand this. Tris forgave him and doesn't want him to die because he feels guilty. I get it.
Caleb doesn't get that opportunity to redeem himself. While I understand that Tris acted the way she had to act, that doesn't mean Caleb can't take a bullet for her. That doesn't mean he can't force a redemption. Instead, Tris dies in a completely unsatisfying scene that left me going "WHAT THE HECK JUST HAPPENED?" Caleb lives and basically still is the coward and traitor.
Caleb NEEDED to redeem himself. He needed to take that bullet for Tris and die.
Instead, we get this messed up ending where Caleb lives. Peter lives (gets his mind erased BY HIS OWN CHOICE and gets to start over). Marcus lives (just disappears somehow). David (Tris' murderer) lives (also gets his mind erased and even though he's an evil murderer, no one cares because he doesn't remember). Almost all the bad guys live and get to have perfectly happy, normal lives.
This is NOT SATISFYING.
THIS IS POINTLESS.
Sorry, but this book was awful. I wanted to love it. I REALLY wanted to love it. I was willing to deal with all the weird genetically damaged stuff. I was willing to deal with the complete dismantling of Four's character. I was willing to deal with a lot, but Tris' pointless and needless death... NOPE. This death felt like it was here for shock value only. So the author could be "edgy" and "different."
Unfortunately, all she did for me is ruin the entire series. I won't be re-reading Divergent or Insurgent anymore. I won't be re-reading Allegiant. And I definitely won't be seeing the movies that I was once so excited for. Knowing how depressingly it ends ruins it all for me
366 of 398 people found the following review helpful
on October 25, 2013
I've found that my opinion of this book has gone down with time, so I'm editing this review....
Summary: "Allegiant" wasn't entirely bad, but it was by far the weakest of the "Divergent" series, including the short stories. There were parts that I liked, and at times, it had some of the same "I can't stop reading" feel that the other books had, but overall it felt very disconnected from the first two books. The characterizations and voices were different, and the plot had virtually no overlap with the earlier books. In many ways, the book felt like it had been written by a different author, enough so that at one point I went online to double-check that I had received the right book.
On top of that, the book left me with a tremendous feeling of loss that left me unwilling to ever read it again. Originally, I thought I would get over that and reread at least some parts of it, but I never did. Instead, my uncertainty turned to dislike, and I eventually removed the book from my Kindle so I wouldn't have to see it when browsing my library. Even worse, the book also turned me off the first two books in the series for a while. I don't think I would have gotten over that if it weren't for fanfiction, but fortunately, that restored the rest of the series for me. Still, I would have to say that on balance, I wish I had never read "Allegiant." It just didn't give me enough to make up for what it took away.
At this point, my honest recommendation is to read "Divergent" and "Insurgent" and then skip to fanfiction. There are several alternate third books out there that will give you closure on the series, including one I wrote called "Determinant" (if you're interested in trying it, search on "Windchimed Determinant"). There are also hundreds of alternate endings that assume the first part of "Allegiant" occurred but then pick up partway through that book and provide a happier ending. If you've already read "Allegiant" and want to forget it, those endings will help you do that.
For those of you who are still undecided, here's a summary of what works and what doesn't in "Allegiant"....
1. You learn more about Tris' mother. It's a little strange and contradicts the earlier books, but it's there.
2. You find out what happened to some characters who were mentioned earlier but not shown.
3. You get the story on the world around Chicago, why they're there, and how they came to be. Unfortunately, it's dull and contradicts the earlier books, but it does offer a type of closure.
4. There are some decent scenes.
5. It explores concepts you don't often see in YA books -- remorse, change, death, healing, and everyday forms of courage. In particular, though the end is crushingly sad, you realize that some of the characters improved each others' lives permanently and changed the world around them for the better, and that this effect doesn't go away when they die. Basically, their lives and relationships were worthwhile, even if much too short.
What doesn't work:
1. The book lacks emotion. "Divergent" and "Insurgent" have a lot of feeling, both stated and implied. There are many scenes in those books that I re-read repeatedly, just savoring the feel of them. This book has very, very little of that, and what it does have isn't as good. The only feeling that's deep is grief, which is overwhelming at the end, but honestly, most of that grief is because you love the characters from how they were in the earlier books, not for what you saw in this book.
2. The narration never finds its groove and doesn't sound like it did in the earlier stories. Tris's sentence structure is suddenly short, with no "poetry" to the words, and Tobias/Four doesn't sound at all like he did in the short stories. Also, they sound so much like each other that I kept forgetting whose POV I was reading.
3. Most of the other characters disappear or die without any further development. They have very few lines, and some of them (including some important ones) literally die without ever speaking a new word.
4. The whole faction concept, with all of its interesting elements, basically just goes away.
5. There's startlingly little consistency with the earlier books. Personally, I thought there were subtle clues in the first two books about the characters and about what plot developments were coming, and I expected to see Roth pick up on those the way JK Rowling always did, but absolutely none of them came back that way. As an example, Tori got through Jeanine's defenses, implying she was Divergent, yet we saw her kill an Abnegation leader during the simulation, implying she wasn't. I thought we'd learn more about her, but there's nothing. I expected some big reveals about Caleb and Peter, but those didn't happen either. Uriah, one of the more interesting side characters, says almost nothing. The same goes with Evelyn, and the relationship between her and Natalie Prior, and Marcus, and really all of them -- those clues are all left as loose strings.
6. The plot is simplistic, inconsistent with the earlier books, and full of holes. The earlier books had a lot of action and unexpected twists and turns. This one doesn't.
* Warning: The rest of this review contains major spoilers. *
To me, the biggest disappointment with Tris wasn't her death. That was actually the most in-character part of the book. What frustrated me was how she got there. She found out that people were going to wipe memories, and she immediately planned to wipe their memories instead, without even trying to think of any other solutions. Why didn't she offer to go into the city and fix things another way to avoid the need for the reset, the way her mother did years earlier? Why didn't she at least try to use her influence on David to get him to see another perspective? For that matter, she could have kidnapped David and taken him into the city to keep the rest of the Bureau from attacking, or she could have used the memory wipe serum directly on him to get him to forget about the plan.
Instead, she jumped straight to the idea of setting off the serum en masse. And then, after she decided that, she apparently could only think of one way to get it. She didn't try to figure out the passcode, even though Tobias is great with computers and even though David was obsessed with her mother and might have used her name as a passcode. She didn't consider attacking the group that was taking the serum to the plane to try to release the serum by shooting the container it was in. She didn't seem to make any effort at all. Instead, she just stated that it was a suicide mission and let her brother agree to die for it. It was so glaringly out of character that I assumed Roth was going to have a bunch of other things happen to change this course of action, but she didn't.
Also, I can't help but feel like this entire book was an attack on Tobias. He had almost nothing good in his very dark life, and this book took away what little he had. He lost his Divergence, and he lost Tris, and for a while he lost Zeke's friendship. I suppose the point was to show that life is still worth living no matter what, but it really felt like heaping even more punishment on top of someone who didn't deserve it. There was no sense of justice to it at all, and that's a horrible feeling to walk away with at the end of a trilogy. I think that's the biggest reason this book "sat" so poorly for me. Injustice always does.
138 of 148 people found the following review helpful
on November 7, 2013
I've been struggling to put into words why I so violently disliked Allegiant after so eagerly anticipating it for months. It's hard to narrow down a list of all of the things that I hated about it, but these are the things that stood out:
1) Derivative plot. It was basically "The Village" with better technology. That's not to say that there wasn't the potential for a good book in there. Just that the execution was so ham-handed that it brought the derivative nature of the plot into much sharper focus.
2) Completely inconsistent characterization. I mean, night and day differences from Divergent to Allegiant. In many cases, it was hard to believe that Roth was even writing about the same characters. This was somewhat of an issue from Divergent to Insurgent, but the better plot and pacing helped to gloss over those issues a bit. There is no such distraction in Allegiant. Many of the significant plot points happened because of a character behaving in ways that were completely out of character. That made the fallout of those decisions feel like manipulations, not an earned reaction. I didn't believe what she was having them do, so what followed was completely unrealistic to me.
3) My feeling that as the plot points (and deaths) added up, that they were not contributing to a greater whole. Look, I have no problem with entertainment that has a high body count. Games of Thrones, The Walking Dead, Justified, The Sopranos, Deadwood, the Wire, Oz, Homicide-I love them all. But the difference between those series and Allegiant is that the deaths in those stories served a purpose. They moved the plot along, they were used for the development of other characters, SOMETHING. The reactions they caused felt earned, not something to jerk your chain just because the showrunner felt like messing with you.
There was no point to the deaths in Allegiant. Beloved characters dropped like flies for seemingly no reason at all. Horrible characters emerged without a scratch. And pointlessly horrible things happened. E.g. Tori dying right before the others discover the compound where her brother is still alive. The big event, which was IMO pointless and completely avoidable. Roth's choices seemed to just be for shock value, rather than to add anything to the story. I don't like stories that are so obvious about trying to be a tearjerker.
4) The whole thing felt like a rush job. I would really like to see what could have happened if Roth had been given a longer timeline to work in and a better team of editors. Whoever edited this mess should be fired and blackballed from the industry.
Throughout the book, I kept thinking of ways that the story could have been told better. There are a lot of interesting places that Allegiant could have gone and a lot of cool things it could have done. But Roth chose to do none of them.
I can't recommend Allegiant to anyone. Not for fans of the series, not for anyone who is at all attached to the characters, and certainly not for teenagers. It is truly horrible and I would not suggest that anyone spend their time or money on it. I took the bullet of reading it for all of us, and my conclusion is that I would be happier pretending that this half-baked mess never happened. I reject Allegiant's very existence. As far as I'm concerned, the series ended with Insurgent. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it, no matter how much Truth Serum you give me.
126 of 137 people found the following review helpful
on November 14, 2013
Just finished it....absolutely HATED it. What a waste! I feel betrayed...I feel bummed...I feel so incredibly disappointed. I'd rather this book end at the end of book two, than THIS.
It was such a waste. People died and it was stupid and pointless. The villians just GAVE UP their evil ways and wandered off into the sunset, or whatever. Stupid.
And I now I just want to move on and forget I ever read this stupid book...I'll certainly never read it again. It's not even worth the time to write out all the 1000 and 1 reasons I didn't like it.
A vial of memory serum should be included with this book, so you can take it when you get to the last page.
60 of 63 people found the following review helpful
on October 26, 2013
After loving the first two books in this series, I cannot help but being so disappointed in this final installment. I am just beside myself with how many things are wrong with this book, but these are my main complaints:
First, the switching points of views from chapter to chapter. I kept forgetting which point of view I was reading from throughout the book. I have read plenty of stories where the author changes points of view and never had a problem keeping track of which person's viewpoint the story is being told from. There was just no real distinction in their thoughts, it all read the same way.
Second, the setting of the story made me disconnect from it more. The first two books are so well established in the setting of Chicago. It was its own world, and now we are torn away from it all that is going on there to be placed in this sterile environment with all these new people that I have no connection with and don't care about for the majority of the story.
Third, the big reveal about the purpose of the factions was such a let down. It was anticlimactic and, well, boring. It made me immediately think, how can there be over 300 pages left in this story? Where can she be going with this, and how can it be a good story? Well, my answer was, she ultimately went nowhere with the story, and it's not good.
Fourth, where was the action? I felt like so much of the story was wasted on explanations of a world that Tris and Tobias knew nothing about, or trying to figure out who is lying to them and who is not. I wasn't compelled to keep reading. The first two books I couldn't put down and read them each in a day. This book took me five days because I knew it would just keep getting worse, and it did.
Finally, the ending. It felt so unnecessary and without reason, like she wrote it that way because it would be the unexpected thing to do (or maybe just the sacrificial thing, since that was such a major theme of the story). But I just feel cheated. I started on a journey with Tris in Divergent and I did not get to finish this journey with her.
1,235 of 1,396 people found the following review helpful
on October 22, 2013
I know everyone is harping on the ending, but that isn't even the problem in this novel. I don't expect much YA novels to be Hemingway, or Rowling even, but reading Roth's monotonous and continuously stilted, short sentences for the duration of this story made me long for some artistic flare. A bit of purple prose, even.
My main problem is that Roth, for having decided to alternate POVs to both Tris and Tobias, has created no discernible tonal differences between the two. Neither develop a distinct personality and that leads to a boring read. If each chapter title did not state whether it was in Tris or Tobias' view, then I would not have been able to tell who was the narrator, aside from situationally figuring it out. Both viewpoints really do read that similarly.
Again, the very minimal diction (not to be confused with the bare style of The Road, an artistic masterpiece in simplicity) also leads to little passion. For all the kissing that Tobias and Tris do (a lot), there's little romance and tension. Unfortunately, this style also renders the rest of the novel, including all those action scenes, as repetitive and somewhat boring.
Finally, about that ending. I give a lot of leeway to authors. They can do whatever they want, even if it devastates me, as long as it serves a purpose. In this case, I don't see how the ending served the story for the better except for "shock-value," mainly because the end is filled with too many plot holes. Plus, by the time I even reached the end, I was already bored to apathy.
And just to be clear, my low-ish rating of this novel was not affected by the ending. I found the rest of the novel to be far more problematic.
143 of 158 people found the following review helpful
on November 14, 2013
If you enjoyed Divergent, tolerated Insurgent, do not go anywhere near Allegiant. This book killed Veronica Roth's career, or at least I hope it does. Poorly written, endless plot holes, and a ridiculous ending. At points in the story I felt like the author was trying to convince herself and the readers that this book made sense. Well, she failed to do any convincing. No more Veronica Roth books for me, at least not until she can learn to develop a plot properly.
431 of 490 people found the following review helpful
on October 22, 2013
These amazon reviews for Allegiant are much more entertaining than the book itself!
There are plenty of things that I resign myself to doing when reading a book meant for young adults. (I'm no spring chicken.)
Suspend disbelief and ignore glaring plot holes for the sake of a good adventure? No problem.
Chalk up a pattern of poor decision making to the naivete of youth? Sure.
Roll my eyes and skim through angst-filled dialogue that is expected of teenage romances? If I really, really must.
Veronica Roth, however, is not a teenager. And while I can give her credit for expertly depicting the dysfunction of a 16 year old's brain, she does not have the license to write like one of my 10th grade students. Chapter after chapter, we are forced to suffer through repetitive plot lines (Is this rebellion number 3? 4? 15?), snore inducing prose, disjointed (and unnecessary) narratives, and an incredibly poor use of the thesaurus function in Word. (Does someone have a count on how many times Tris' "blond head" appears in a crowd and her "petite frame" jumps into Tobias' tattooed arms? The editors need to return their bonus checks.)
I liked Divergent. No really, I did. Insurgent was a slight letdown but at least I cared enough to be disappointed with Tris and her inability to use summon rational thought. I was also willing to give Roth the benefit of the second book curse that plagues many a trilogy. I knew it was a lost cause by the time I hit Chapter 15. Instead of skipping straight to the Epilogue, I rode this train until it crashed and burned on the Weapons Room floor. (If you caught that reference, you have my empathy).
Save your money and go re-read Harry Potter. Or buy a book that is actually written for adults.
673 of 769 people found the following review helpful
on October 28, 2013
Ms. Roth had a lot of opportunity with this book. But because of her huge readership, she had a lot of power and responsibility too. She needed to write a good story. I don't mean "write a happy story." I mean write a good story as in one with a coherent plotline, robust characters, and emotional tension. These are simply the qualities that readers trust to get from Ms. Roth based on the first two novels, and it is in this point that Ms. Roth completely fails with Allegiant. We can see this from the many negative reviews: If you're going to kill off a main character, it had better make sense and not strike thousands of readers as arbitrary. If you're going to write in two voices (and sacrifice the ability to deeply understand one character's psyche), make sure that the voices are different enough that readers don't get confused. If you're going to create a power hungry character in Evelyn, don't make her transition at the end seem like it's a senseless and unbelievable 180-degree turn. Allegiant has none of the memorable and multi-dimensional characters that were introduced in books 1 and 2 (Nita is far less developed than Al or Johanna). The tension from the training fights and simulation attack in Divergent, as well as the tension in the attack on Erudite headquarters in Insurgent, are replaced by bumbling revolutions and counterrevolutions that do nothing more than alienate and confuse the reader into wondering "why do I care?" And on top of all this sloppy mess is the ending, written as if its aim is to shock this blustering treatise on eugenics into being a captivating novel.
In his Nobel Prize speech William Faulkner said, "the poet's, the writer's, duty is to...help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past." Yes, Faulkner is probably not often cited in a YA novel review, but his words certainly resonate here. An author has a prerogative to tell a story, but also has a responsibility to help the reader care about the story. A good writer knows that you do this by making the story relatable and believable. Whether you're writing Nobel prize literature or a good YA story, you have to bring out basic human values like bravery or empathy in an authentic and relatable way. Readers need to say, "Even though I'm really different from the character, I understand why he/she did that because I can imagine what he/she feels like." We know from the first two novels that Ms. Roth can write this way, but something is off in Allegiant because for all of its lip-service to bravery and self-sacrifice, it uses 500+ pages of fluff and still the Christ ending doesn't feel authentic, relatable or true to hundreds of reviewers.
Let's talk a little more about that ending; my opinion about it is a little more personal. Author John Green recently tweeted that he wants "stories to show me a bigger world than the one I know." And I completely agree. One of the things that annoyed me about this ending, however, was that it didn't show me a bigger world than what I know; it showed me what I already know. In real life I've lost people I love. I know how difficult it is to keep going, and so reading the end of this book felt like looking at a reflection. I don't need a book to remind me of the reality I live in every day. I need a book that shows "what's possible," instead of "what's actual." A "bigger world," to me, implies hope. Hope that there could be a world in which senseless loss is not the norm. In which children don't have to deal with losing family, losing friends, losing hope like they do every day in the real world. Harvey Milk once ended a speech with the words, "you've got to give them hope." I know that he was talking about a much more significant topic than a YA novel, but his words still fit. For me, and for the many real people who live with much more loss, destruction, war, and tragedy than I, we could use a little hope.
All in all, this book is not worth the reader's time and emotional investment, and the experience of reading it completely threatens the value of the first two installments. So many reviewers say that this trilogy is not worth reading. But no one should finish a trilogy and think, "I wish I hadn't started the trilogy." When the reader trusts an author enough to start a trilogy, it is the author's responsibility to finish that trilogy well. I wish we could go back in time and have the Ms. Roth who wrote the first two books rewrite the third book. That Ms. Roth understood how to write a good story and how to connect the reader to the story. I think that if she wrote this book using the same integrity with which she wrote the first two, hundreds of negative reviewers and I could feel enjoyment, satisfaction and contentment instead of disappointment, bitterness and regret.