By Ekta R. Garg
March 26, 2014
Rated: Borrow it (only if you’ve already started the series; otherwise, Bypass it)
With the Divergent movie now out in theaters, I had to finish the series. Unfortunately, all I got in finishing it was a major letdown. Veronica Roth rounds out her “Divergent trilogy” with Allegiant, the well-meaning book that falls short of its own expectations.
Tris Prior chose to leave the faction of her upbringing and join a new faction, but when she and the other residents find out that someone designed the factions as an experiment Tris knows she has to go after the rest of the information. She and her boyfriend, Tobias, along with a group of friends volunteer to travel to the city’s boundary to meet the people they’ve been told will find them. These people will supposedly give them information on exactly why the factions existed and what all the rules meant.
The plan gets off to a rocky start when Tris and Tobias lose one of their friends in gunfire. Nevertheless, they keep moving because their only hope to survive as a society is the organization that designed it. When Tris, Tobias, and the others reach that organization, the Bureau, they receive information beyond their belief. And yet, Tris becomes temporarily charmed by the idea of joining the Bureau, if only to regain some stability in her life. Never mind that her brother, Caleb, came with her, and she despises Caleb for betraying her and almost having her killed. Tris feels like she and Tobias could actually have a future here.
No organization comes without its problems, however, and the Bureau has its own. Many people who work for it believe the Bureau’s misguided claims and teachings will ultimately become its undoing. Suddenly Tris has to make a decision: believe the propaganda the Bureau puts forth, or try to forge a new path—again. Tobias’ wavering loyalty doesn’t help, and Tris really just wants Caleb to go away completely. But life has never been that simple, she knows, and once again she has to make choices.
Author Veronica Roth presents readers with an ambitious concept in the Divergent trilogy. It works, to a certain extent. The story arc will certainly make readers consider the consequences of discriminating against people with differences, no matter what form those differences take. But in her attempt to pull in the intended YA audience of the books, Roth lets logic and story progression flounder.
Tris, Tobias, and the others discover that the Bureau monitors people almost to a point of obsession, and at certain points Tris ponders the ethical implication of the fact that the Bureau could have stepped in to help and only watched on TV instead. So it’s a little hard to believe that an organization that tracks its experiment subjects so closely would not exercise the same caution within its own physical headquarters.
That’s exactly what Roth would have readers believe; Tris and Co. manage to plan and engage in an uprising without once getting discovered. No hidden cameras or microphones keep tabs on the Bureau’s own employees, which seems a little more than far-fetched.
Also, most of Tris and Tobias’ encounters early in the book deal with their make out sessions, and after a while it gets tedious to the point of encouraging readers to skip paragraphs. Roth seems to want to drill the idea into the heads of her readers that the two teens love one another. We get it. They like each other. They’re physically attracted to one another. And because this isn’t a grownup book, they can’t exactly consummate that love every 10 pages. By the fourth or fifth kiss, readers will probably feel relieved that that’s all they do.
I also had a real problem with the death of a particular character. I found it hard to believe that Roth would make this choice in the story. It doesn’t add anything of value to lose this person; in fact, it almost feels like she decided to do it to justify another literary device that readers will find different from the first and second books.
That device—adding Tobias as a first-person narrator—feels jarring. In the first two books we hear the entire story from Tris’ point of view. In Allegiant Tobias gets to come into the spotlight to share his side of things, and this immediately puts distance between the readers and the characters. It feels akin to Stephenie Meyer’s choice to share the point of view responsibility in the last Twilight book, and I didn’t like it then either.
I loved the main idea that Roth presented—the experiment of the factions—but I feel like her execution of the actual story let the entire series down. I would recommend this book only to readers of the first two so they can find out what happens, but I wouldn’t necessarily tell people to start the series if they haven’t already done so.