Review/Discussion: Allegiant by Veronica Roth

Allegiant is the third and final book in the YA, dystopian Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth. This blog is coming to you in two parts: first a brief spoiler free review and then a more in depth discussion of the entire book. It is a difficult book to rate: it packs in action and huge emotional punches, but I felt that certain plot points were inconsistent with the series’ themes. I’ll discuss this further in the spoilery part of this post, and I welcome discussion on it as I work out all of my own feelings on the conclusion.

Divergent and Insurgent, Allegiant’s prequels, have been extremely popular for a reason: the Divergent series is probably the best dystopian series to emerge in the wake of the popularity of The Hunger Games. The series has a unique and interesting societal structure that drives its heroine’s character development and challenges its reader’s perspective on identity and virtue. The romance is impressive in its nuance and maturity. It takes on many narrative and thematic challenges and confronts most of them admirably and thoughtfully.

Allegiant suffers a bit, however, in its expansion of the world and conflict. Divergent and Insurgent take place inside the city, and Allegiant brings the characters out into the world to learn why they were so confined, and I thought the science was spotty and the government operation was somewhat illogical. It was extremely difficult to imagine a society making such a strange set of decisions.

Ultimately, however, I do recommend it. It’s a satisfying conclusion to an excellent series and it gives its readers a lot to think about. Now I will attempt to organize my own thoughts on it for you. Don’t continue on unless you have finished Allegiant; I promise it’s not a book you want to spoil for yourself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seriously. Don’t do it. This is your final warning

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About 100 pages from the end of this book I got extremely nervous. Tris and Tobias were both planning courses of action I thought would be disastrous and would completely contradict their own morals and the series’s themes.

In the climax of the book, the group outside the fence faces an interesting moral quandary, though both decisions have strikingly similar outcomes: do they allow people to destroy themselves and be destroyed in war, or do they erase those people down to their bare bones, destroying and saving them all at once? Tris and Tobias are from the city and want their home to fall to neither source of destruction, so they seek to stop both.

Tobias thus re-enters the city with a two fold mission. First he must find Uriah’s family before the city dwellers’s memories are wiped clean so he can deliver the news of Uriah’s impending death and confess his role in the plot that caused it.  His sense of duty to Uriah’s family was admirable. He was motivated by the knowledge that although it would be easier on them to forget Uriah, it wouldn’t be true or worthy of Uriah’s legacy to let him pass without acknowledgement of the circumstances of his death. I felt he was truly motivated by a desire to do what was best, even if it was painful, for his student and his friend.

Tobias then develops a second plan for his time in the city. He takes a vial of memory-wiping serum and resolves to dose one of his parents, who are the leaders of the warring parties inside the city, and when it comes time to choose, he heads for his mother. When I first read it, I was so appalled by the idea of his completely erasing her identity in an attempt to reconcile her with the man who made both of their lives a living hell. At the last moment, though, he changes his mind and instead offers Evelyn a choice: end the lonely, hate-driven war and have her family back or continue to fight and lose him forever. She chooses her son. Mission accomplished, and, in relinquishing total power and choosing discussion over force, Tobias faces and defeats his new-found fear of becoming his father.

As we all know, Tobias soon faces his other changed fear, and so we must turn back to Tris.

I have been struggling to come to terms with the morality of Tris’s plan to stop the memory-wipe of Chicago by the researchers. She seeks to stop an evil act by committing the same act, just on a different group of people. On one level, I understand her desperate position. She’s trying to prevent loss of life, and, especially from her point of view, the people she seeks to destroy are not innocent people. However, I can’t help but notice that her reasoning and motives are insanely similar to those of the researchers she is fighting. She reasons she is making the choice of the lesser of two evil options, and I suppose I agree with that idea because I couldn’t really think of a better option either, but I was still uncomfortable. In a series that has been so focused on the power of personal choices, it seems strange to conclude with a heroine sacrificing everything to violate that sanctity for others. It did have a very realistic ring to it, though. After all, in nearly every civil war, there comes a point where the oppressed become the oppressors. My feelings on this idea in the novel are (obviously) incredibly conflicted.

One thing I did like about the way Tris’s story ended was that it brought her individual character arc full circle, thematic inconsistency on the larger scale aside. Throughout the series, Tris is constantly learning and changing her definition of personal virtue. She leaves Abnegation in book 1 only to find that Dauntless is twisted in its own way as well, and that bravery and selflessness often go hand in hand. In book 2, she tries to sacrifice her life, but her motives come from a place of grief and guilt, selfish reasons at the core. By book 3 she’s learned better. She’s seen enough war and death not to desire it for herself, but she risks it anyway, for the love she bears her family and her friends. Her death was sad and shocking to read, and the death of any person to war and violence is tragic, but it is, for her character, kind of triumphant.

In the pages after Tris’s death we learn that the city has been liberated and is allowed to operate freely, like some other non-experimental metropolises. Due to their altered memories, the people of Chicago are much less prejudiced against so called genetically defective people. It’s a tad perfect, considering the attitude of the country as a whole, and again, the precedent of changing people’s minds by force doesn’t bode so well for the society. Things are good, but I think (hope) it’s intentionally implied that they probably won’t stay that way.

But the bulk of the ending is rightly focused on Tobias. He learns of Tris’s death, sees her body, hears her final words to him from Caleb. It felt quick when I read it, but it actually gets a good bit of description. Any longer would have felt contrived. He then hits his lowest point when he decides to wipe his own memory to save himself from grieving. Christina stops him right in time and in her words and her action  we see that a person’s identity comes from experience and their strength (or weakness, in some cases) comes from who they choose to love and call their friends. It’s a final challenge to the twisted society they live in where a gene map is said to determine a person’s worth.

Then, the epilogue, which is my favorite scene in the book. (aka the one I bawled my eyes out reading) Two years later, Tobias and the other surviving characters go zip lining off the Hancock building, spreading Tris’s ashes. It’s a big mix of what feels like every emotion possible. Nearly everyone present has lost a love or a family member, so there is grief in their absence, but there is joy in friends gathering together. Tobias is still afraid of heights, of course, but as he falls he understands Tris’s joy in the flying. It was a perfect little bittersweet moment with which to end the book.

There’s certainly more to be said, but this is as much as I can write for now. Allegiant was really a study in contradictions for me: beautiful and terrible, wrapping things up and leaving a hundred loose ends. It’s worth reading for entertainment alone, but I appreciated having a book that was so entertaining be so thought-provoking as well.

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