November 6, 2013

Review: Allegiant by Veronica Roth

Allegiant by Veronica Roth
Series: Divergent, #3
Published: 2013, Katherine Tegen Books
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian
Source: Purchased
Contains spoilers for Divergent (my review) & Insurgent (my review)
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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. 

A warning: This review may contain slight spoilers. I’ll refrain from mentioning anything major, but I will need to mention certain aspects of the book that others may consider to be minor spoilers in order to fully articulate my thoughts on this one.

Well, this is a bit disappointing. With the exception of Harry Potter, I haven’t been sucked into the hype of many series still in the process of being written. Unlike Harry Potter, however, the weeks of anticipation leading up to this finale ultimately ended in frustration and dissatisfaction. I would not go so far as to say that I wish I had never read this series, but I do wish I had just waited for a copy of a library book. And maybe actually read some spoilers beforehand.

After Tris and Tobias risked all so that Edith Prior’s message could be broadcast, a message that indicates there’s much more to the world outside of Chicago’s city limits, the two of them do not hesitate to be among the first to find out more about the outside world.

There’s not much tying them down to Chicago anymore as it is. The faction-based life they’ve always known is more unstable than ever, as Tobias’ mother Evelyn continues to have the factionless enforce their beliefs upon the general public. And among the dissenters of the new factionless regime is a group that calls itself the Allegiant, and it has taken Tobias’ father Marcus as one of its leaders. War between the factions has morphed into a war between the faction and the factionless systems.

Tris and Tobias thought that they were leaving behind the instability that comes with division, but the outside world is not what they expected. It’s plagued by many of the same problems that their Chicago factions faced, and then some.

I don’t know what happened with this book. If I had to speculate, I’d say that this is an example of an author being a little bit too ambitious in her aims. Veronica Roth has a lot she wants to explore in the conclusion to her Divergent series, and it’s not all bad. She offers many fascinating explorations of concepts such as bravery, identity, belonging, and individuality. The issue, I think, is that Roth just doesn’t have quite the right expertise to pull off a discussion of them all convincingly.

Part of what made Divergent and Insurgent so much fun was that Roth was not trying to force-feed her readers too many concepts at once. Are the concepts I mentioned above still present in the previous two books? Of course. But whereas in the earlier installments those concepts emerged naturally as the stories unfolded, in Allegiant they felt much more forced, and as a reader I felt as though Roth was trying far too hard to make sure her readers understood the messages she wanted to make.

Although neither Divergent nor Insurgent could be defined as light-hearted, they’re fast and engaging. And honestly, who read those books and didn’t try to figure out figure out which faction they’d want to be a part of? They have their flaws when viewed from a more critical perspective, but I was able to simply allow myself to enjoy the stories being told. Allegiant, unfortunately, is a much slower story. The first half of the novel in particular just drags, as Tris, Tobias, and their friends begin to learn all about the outside world. This ultimately comes down to the fact that Roth left simply too much to be revealed in this third book. If the second book had been less about Tris’ anguish and Roth had introduced this final conflict halfway through Insurgent, then perhaps the transition between the focus of the first two books compared to the final one would have been smoother and more convincing.

My biggest complaint about this novel is that it adopts a new focus that simply does not fit when viewed in comparison to the first two books in this series. After two books focused solely on the faction conflict and Tris’ divergence, those issues are pushed to the side to make way for the major conflicts of this book, which have to do with genetics. That’s right: genetics. The trilogy goes from being purely dystopian to picking up science fiction elements. And issues and plot holes that I was willing to overlook in Divergent and Insurgent become a little more difficult to ignore as Roth tries to give her story a more scientific basis (one with no basis in true science). The addition of a political conflict to the novel makes sense, but that’s also not fully developed enough for me to be satisfied with the lackluster attention to detail there either. When taking into account the new conflicts in this book, it feels as though the story tries to discuss two separate societies and two separate rebellions, neither of which felt satisfyingly concluded by the end.

Before the publication of Allegiant, Roth confirmed that the narration would be shared between Tris and Tobias, rather than told exclusively from Tris’ perspective. I will not rehash how much I dislike dual person narration, but suffice it to say that I went into this book feeling very skeptical about Roth’s reasoning behind turning Tobias into a protagonist. After concluding the book, I understand why Roth decided to make Tobias a protagonist, but I was not satisfied with how it was done. Not only was Roth unable to write a convincing male perspective, but Tobias’ voice sounds identical to Tris’.

The conclusion of Roth’s trilogy makes a lot of sense when one takes into account the character development and story arcs at play. I was upset by the ending not because I think that Roth played with my emotions, but because the context surrounding it does not make sense. At all. Even if characters remain true to their characterizations, I cannot disregard the fact that this story is about more than simply the characters, that it has additional messages to make. And the context of the world that Roth built here doesn’t justify the ending she has.

I wonder how many potential new readers will be turned off from this series simply due to the bad reception of Allegiant. I know I haven’t been praising Allegiant myself, but I did enjoy Divergent and it would be a shame for readers to miss out on that experience simply because they’re wary of the finale.

For me, Allegiant is an example of a series that should not have happened. Veronica Roth can say all she wants that she knew how she wanted this series to end, but the plot and sheer scope of the third book makes me think differently. I am fine with the non-traditional ending, and I liked the messages that Roth had about identity and the greater good, even if they do feel heavy-handed at times. My primary wish for this trilogy would be that it had been better planned and could therefore function as a cohesive whole, but what can you do?

Rating: 2 stars

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Amanda loves few things better than sitting down with a cup of tea and a book. She frequently stays up far too late, telling herself she just needs to finish one more page. When she's not wrapped up in the stories of others, Amanda works as a children's librarian in a public library.


  1. Uh-oh, now I don't know if I should even read this. I'm in no hurry, with all the negative reviews, though I am curious. As someone who has worked in a genetic lab for the past four years, I know for a fact that if the science elements are done wrong, I'm going to find it hard to enjoy this book. *sigh* It looks like this is another Clockwork Princess, sadly. Thanks for the honest review, Amanda!

    1. Despite my criticisms, I kind of do think the drama behind this one makes it worth picking it up. Even just to be able to discuss it with others. I'd love to hear your thoughts related to the genetics lol I'm sure you could go into a lot more details there. Clockwork Princess is probably a good comparison, although I will say that I enjoyed the first two books in this series more than I enjoyed the first two books in that series.

  2. This is a really well articulated, thoughtful discussion, Amanda! You make some really great points here. Roth has talked a lot about how she didn't plan her series from the beginning, and I think there was something thrilling and spontaneous in that. But then she got to the final book and had a lot of explaining to do, plus messages she wanted to send, and her story got bogged down in that. Exactly this: "Roth left simply too much to be revealed in this third book." She even acknowledged that point in a video interview that she did.

    I always had trouble believing the "divergent" system because I always thought that everyone was divergent, and lo and behold, it's true! Anyway, I agree with what you said about the fake genetics being hard to take and a completely different direction from where the book began. Also YES, to Tobias and Tris sounding identical.

    I'm very curious about what you mean by this statement: "the context of the world that Roth built here doesn’t justify the ending she has." I don't like tragic ends on principle, so I'm not sure she could have ever made this one work for me, but I'm very interested in what you meant by that.

    1. Thank you, Lauren!
      I'm much more of a plotter myself with everything I do, so I think that makes me a little less sympathetic to those who don't, because it can cause many issues like those I mentioned in this book. I'm glad to hear she acknowledged that haha. I do want to watch her interviews about this book, I just haven't gotten around to it yet.
      And I'm sending you an email about what I meant with that paragraph. It's really vague I know, but I didn't want to give away too many spoilers.


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