Veronica Roth – Allegiant
Length: 532 pages
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian Sci-Fi
Started: 04 December 2013
Finished: 08 December 2013
Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? I didn’t love the second book, but I was curious to see the explanation and how things came out.
Chicago is bad, but the
suburbs might be worse.
Summary: Now that the factions have been dissolved, the situation inside the city is worsening. There’s violence between the factionless and the former faction members, the city is being controlled by former factionless leader (and Tobias’s mom) Evelyn, who is proving herself little better than Marcus and Jeanine. Tris is approached by a group that calls themselves Allegiant, and they make plans to leave the city in the hopes of finding out the truth behind their existence… but what they find is not what anyone expected.
Review: I will start out by saying that I am by no means a squealing fangirl when it comes to this series. I enjoyed the first book quite a bit, mostly due to the compelling story and fast-paced action, although I found the worldbuilding premise remarkably silly. The second book left me mostly cold; too many undeveloped secondary characters, and the plot holes were really starting to bug. Still, I read this third book with the hopes that the explanation would finally be coming, and that it would make sense, and that maybe this book would recapture some of the spirit that made the first one so lively.
This book has a lot of problems. A LOT of problems. For one thing, there are roughly a thousand secondary/tertiary characters, most of whom are only on screen for brief periods of time, and who I had a really, really hard time keeping straight. Maybe if I’d re-read the first two books immediately before, I’d have had an easier time, but as it was, I barely remembered anyone’s faction identity, their history, their relationships, or their motivations, and what’s more, I didn’t care enough about them to even bother looking it up on Wikipedia. Everyone felt flat, and I just wasn’t emotionally involved with any of the characters.
Even Tris and Tobias, the main characters, didn’t engender much sympathy. Their relationship, again, felt flat, their fights felt artificial and repetitive, and their making-up bits felt dull. This book, unlike the previous two, gives Tobias his own POV chapters. Unfortunately, Roth doesn’t give him his own voice. There were multiple times where I’d breeze past the header at the top of the chapter letting me know whose chapter it was, and then I’d get several pages in and be unable to remember which POV I was reading. I understand not wanting to be tied to Tris’s first-person narration, but because Tobias’s voice was so similar to Tris’s, his perspective really didn’t add anything to the story.
But my biggest problem, as it has been all along, is the plot holes. The giant, gaping, city-sized plot holes. HERE THERE BE SPOILERS, so if you want to discover the (exceedingly silly and nonsensical) explanation behind the faction system for yourself, you may want to stop reading here. But you cannot put an explanation that relies on genetics down in front of a biologist and expect her not to get her rant on.
Okay, so, the explanation behind the factions, and the city, was that back in the day, some scientists started tinkering with human genes, and began “correcting” the gene for selfishness, for aggression, for cowardice, etc. That right there is problematic, since, as should be obvious to anyone who has taken a basic genetics class, there is no one-to-one gene-to-behavior match. But let’s assume that this part was possible… these genetic manipulations then started having unforseen consequences, actually making people’s behavior worse. That’s plausible. Then there was a “Purity War” between the damaged people and the normal people, and then all of the damaged people were shut into the cities and left until interbreeding had produced people with no damage – i.e. the Divergent. This is where things get ridiculous. If the scientists had the ability to manipulate genes in the first place, why would they not just change them back once they realized that there were negative side effects? Why would they keep making a whole population’s worth of them? And even if they were unable to change them back, why would they shut all of the damaged people into cities and hope that they would by chance produce Divergent? Why not set up a structured breeding program (which: totalitarian government, so clearly not beyond the realm of possibility) to systematically eliminate the deleterious alleles? Or have them out-cross with the rest of the population? Or sterilize the genetically damaged people? Or anything instead of shutting up all of the damaged alleles inside a fence and hope that through mutation or inbreeding you’ll get undamaged, instead of people with extremely damaged. Basic Punnett squares, people! The entire backstory makes no sense, and it certainly seems like Roth came up with the idea for the factions because she thought it would make a cool story, wrote that cool story, and then went “Oh, shit, now I need to figure out what’s going on and ret-con the rest of the story to make it fit.”
(Also problematic: if you’re going to have a totalitarian government shutting people up for generations inside a city, it should be much, much harder for people to get in and out. Seriously, in this book, Tris & co. stroll back and forth across the border of Chicago like it’s no big deal. Why did the people stay put inside for so long?)
So, since my main motivation in reading this book was to figure out what was going on in Roth’s world, I was highly disappointed. The one thing I wasn’t disappointed in, however, was the ending. It seems like the ending is a sticking point for a lot of fans of the series, and may be what’s causing a lot of backlash. The ending didn’t upset me – I wasn’t attached enough to any of the characters to have that emotional response. In fact, I rather liked the ending. It was a brave choice on Roth’s part, but not one that felt like it was done just for the sake of being shocking; rather, it was one of the few thing that happened that felt organic to the characters as established. The subplot that led up to the ending had just as many holes as the rest of the book, but even with the faulty premise, I thought the way that events played out was unexpected but fitting. But the good ending didn’t save the rest of the book. The weak-sauce explanation made this book a disappointment, and ultimately let down the rest of the series as well. 2 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: If you’ve read the first two and are dying to know what happens, then read it, but don’t go into it with high hopes for things making a lot of sense. If you’re new to the trilogy, I’d say skip the whole thing. The first book has a lot of potential, but the last book fails to deliver on any of it.
First Line: I pace in our cell in Erudite headquarters, her words echoing in my mind: My name will be Edith Prior, and there is much I am happy to forget.
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