|At least it has the best cover of the series.|
When I wrote the title of this review just now, in my head I heard the "dun dun" that they play at the beginning of court scenes in every Law & Order episode. You know the one? The one that makes you feel like, okay, this is going to be tense. Because that's how I feel right now. I've been putting off this review-- I wasn't really even sure I was going to write one-- because it's going to be tense.
Warning: I cannot write this review without major spoilers. I just can't. So if you haven't read Allegiant yet, abort Mission Read-Paige's-Blog until the appropriate mission prep has been accomplished.
***SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT***
Let me say this now before I get wildly ahead of myself talking about the ending. The ending is not the reason I'm giving this book 2/5 stars. It's part of the reason, yes, but ultimately I was disappointed with the whole book.
The end of Insurgent promised some explosive conflict. We found out that the people in Chicago had been locked in there on purpose, and people started shouting. The outside world was beckoning and we were finally going to find out what's been going on out there. I was prepared to have to hold on to my figurative hat, if you catch my drift.
But we did find out what was going on out there, and anticlimactically, the answer was "not much." Some people doing crazy genetic experiments that created more plot issues than they solved (if they could manipulate DNA to create the "genetically damaged" people, why couldn't they manipulate it in the reverse and create "genetically pure" people?), some people eschewing government and living exactly like the factionless were before Evelyn came along, and a few other experiment cities. Where is the rest of it? And more importantly, where is the conflict? For the little conflict that does exist between the people outside the fence and the leaders inside, it seems like Tris is the only person with any idea of how to handle it correctly. And she is sixteen years old. It bothered me that every single leader in Allegiant turned into a villain at some point. Marcus, Evelyn, Zoe, David, and even Johanna. When did Tris become the all-knowing wise girl who didn't make mistakes, while every powerful person around her was tunnel-visioned into doing everything wrong?
And the science. I'm not an expert, but I didn't like the science. Aside from the terms "genetically damaged" and "genetically pure," which made me cringe every single time-- a lot, considering how overused they were-- I don't think this book benefited (the way Reached did, for example) from going the sci-fi route. It took the focus away from the Bureau/Fringe/Chicago tension and slowed the pace so much that at the end of its 526 pages, it still didn't feel like half of the book Divergent was in 487 pages.
The character stuff was... there. Barely. Tris's development pretty much happened at the end of Insurgent, so in Allegiant it was actually pretty great to see her more confident in what she believes and taking control and valuing her life. I even enjoyed seeing Four make a mistake and have to pay for it, showing Tris once again that he is not perfect and everyone is broken in their own ways. But their scenes together made me uncomfortable in two completely different ways: either they were throwing themselves at each other for no reason other than the fact that they were both there, or they were fighting. I hate it when they fight, but a part of me likes it too. Real couples fight and make it through, which is what Four and Tris have always done, but I could have used some more in-between scenes, where they're neither fighting nor kissing. I wanted to see them supporting each other emotionally-- healing each other, rather than Tris healing herself and Four kind of wandering, waiting for her to realize he needed her help. (The alternating viewpoints were also occasionally confusing to me. I would be reading a chapter thinking it was one person narrating, and then he/she would refer to herself/himself in third person and I'd have to go back and read whose name was at the beginning of the chapter. Which means the voices weren't distinct enough.)
Also, she couldn't have waited to put Uriah into a coma later? He was the comic relief!
And also I don't care what anyone says, he did not have to die.
I can't skip over Peter, either. I absolutely love Peter. He is my favorite character in the series. I find him simply fascinating-- which is why it is so extremely upsetting to me that he's left as a blank slate. But it makes sense that an awful person such as Peter is going to choose the awful person's way out: instead of developing into a less awful person, he uses his "damaged" genes as an excuse for the way he is, and wipes his memory clean to get away from himself. But that creates another plot hole, doesn't it? If his penchant for violence is in his genes, wiping his memory won't fix him. And if he's really such an awful person, why does he feel so badly about it that he doesn't want to remember the things he's done? I can't decide anymore what's consistent with his character and what's not.
Now that I've established that I do have other reasons for my 2-star rating, I can move on to the ending.
So, the majority of reactions to Allegiant that I have seen have been in two camps:
- People who are angry or upset about the book for one main reason, but possibly also a variety of reasons.
- People who are defending an author's right to end her characters' story the way she felt it had to end. These people are largely assuming that the negative reactions to the book are based solely on the end, rather than the other 450 or so pages.
But you see, the majority of readers of this book are in both camps-- like, say, me. My main emotion for the past week or so has been anger. Anger that this book was not what I thought I had been looking forward to for the past year and a half. Anger that this, the final book in the trilogy, seemed to render it all utterly pointless to me. Anger-- and this is the biggest one of all-- that Tris's death has in fact only made me angry. When a main character dies, I want to feel sad. I want to expel that sadness through tears while listening to sad songs that remind me of the people left behind; I want to cry it out so that later I can look at it and think, "Wow, what a way to go." The main character dying at the end has the potential to turn something into a great story (especially for masochists like me).
And don't get me wrong, I really appreciate Veronica Roth's explanation of why Tris died. And I really appreciate that she acknowledges my right to still think she didn't quite do it justice. I understand now that for her, the series was about Tris's journey from beginning to end-- but for me, the end didn't have to be her death, because her journey was finished before that. She made it through; she defined for herself what selflessness and bravery were, and she was fine.
And then she got shot.
If finishing the story were like trying to choose a meal to get rid of your hunger, this felt like the fastfood option. It seemed like a cheap and ultimately unsatisfying way out and because of it, the story never truly got finished. The hunger just gets replaced by all those undesirable things that come with choosing the fastfood option. Though she was only in the position to get shot because of a sacrifice she decided to chance to show her brother she loved him, getting shot was not the sacrifice. She survived the part where Caleb would have died, and then she died because she was what? Unarmed? Yes, it was very Tris of her to take that risk in her brother's place, but when I read it, the part where she actually died didn't sit right. Not for Tris. It felt extra. One last way to throw a wrench in the works.
As a fan of bittersweet, semi-ambiguous endings, especially for series like this, I was overwhelmingly disappointed. There was no sweetness. There was no ambiguity. Tris died, and now Four-- who Tris has literally just learned is as broken as she was before Allegiant-- not only has to live with guilt over Uriah's death, but with the death of the one person who's ever made him feel like he mattered. The one person who ever told him he was whole.
And this, my friends, is my biggest gripe: we don't get to see him become whole again. We don't get to see him deal with his grief. We don't get to see how the communities inside and outside the fence change and heal themselves, which is something that unquestionably should have been included in the primary plot of the book. All we get is an epilogue, two and a half years later, where we find out that Four and Christina have become friends, and he basically gives us a roster of everyone's jobs, like some kind of "Where Are They Now" special.
I recently had a friend point out to me that the Divergent series as a whole contains a lot of gratuitous death. Characters die left and right, quickly and unceremoniously, and it's accepted as a fact of life. While Tris's death was a bigger deal to everyone than most of the others, Allegiant did feel like more of the same on this issue. I remember texting my sister: "200 pages in and three people have already died." It starts to feel superfluous and lessens the impact when, oops, down goes our main character too.
So it's easy to say I did not enjoy Allegiant. But with an average of 4 stars, it's also easy to say that I enjoyed the series as a whole. And even though I'm stuck on the Anger stage of grief, I thank Veronica Roth. I thank her for bringing me to the Dauntless compound, for showing me true selflessness, for the wonders of ferris wheels and zip lines, for Peter, the actual anti-hero, for the word "pansycake," for a boy who grew up broken and hid himself away until he finally, finally allowed himself to be changed by a bright-eyed Stiff he respected so much that he sometimes forgot she was vulnerable too. But most of all I thank her for Tris, the first jumper, the girl who gave her life for her brother after he betrayed her. She did so well.