Allegiant is the conclusion to Veronica Roth’s highly popular Divergent series. And ohhh boy, was I excited about it. I read a good amount of young adult books, and this series was one of my absolute favorites. I had just finished rereading the first two and was completely pumped to read what I was sure would be a great conclusion to what had, so far, been a great series.
Oh, how wrong I was.
Warning: spoilers ahead for Divergent and Insurgent, and mild spoilers for Allegiant at the end of the article (you will be warned again there).
Some quick background
The Divergent series occurs in a dystopian future in which people are divided into factions based on their personalities. These factions are Dauntless, who value bravery, Erudite, who value knowledge, Abnegation, who value selflessness, Amity, who value kindness, and Candor, who value honesty. And then there are the Divergent (like our main protagonist, Tris) who are compatible with multiple factions (Tris chose to join Dauntless), and who also have a tendency to die young or mysteriously disappear. As the series progresses, a war is started, the factions are overturned, and the city’s residents discover that they are essentially an experiment and that there is a big wide world out there of which they were not even aware. Insurgent ends with this revelation, so I was extremely excited for Allegiant as it looked like it was going to be significantly different and potentially much more action-packed and enjoyable than the first two.
It wasn’t. But we’ll get to that.
A change of perspective… sort of
Divergent and Insurgent are both written solely from Tris’ POV, and I liked it that way. Tris is one of my favorite YA protagonists as she eventually becomes impressively badass, but she stays well-rounded enough that she is relatable, as opposed to just being a cold, hard fighting machine. She becomes romantically involved with Four/Tobias, and I absolutely loved him in the first two books. As previously mentioned, Tris has been the lone narrator of the series. But in Allegiant, Veronica Roth decided to write chapters from the perspectives of both Tris and Tobias. My main complaint here is that the perspectives were not distinct enough; if I paused in the middle of a chapter and came back to it later, sometimes I would forget whose perspective I was reading because they were frustratingly similar. Tobias was little more than a male Tris, and I frankly found his character much less appealing after being inside his whiny head. It was also jarring to introduce the Tobias POV chapters in the conclusion of the trilogy, as he was already a fairly well-developed character in my mind; the image I had of him was very much changed as I read his Allegiant chapters, and not for the better.
Too much to explore in too little time
Major changes take place for our characters in Allegiant, the most significant being that they sneak out of the city and are taken to the nearby compound responsible for creating the “experiment” in which they had been living. The reader is then treated to an onslaught of new information: people, places, procedures, motivations, and conflicts are all introduced in what felt like an excessive amount of infodumps. The awe, wonderment, and confusion that the main characters experience almost constantly throughout this book made it feel more like the first book in a series, where everything is shiny and new and needs to be explained.
I don’t want that in a conclusion.
Yes, new elements are great to insure the story doesn’t get stale, but in the conclusion of a trilogy, I generally don’t want a new cast of characters, a completely different setting, and a brand-spankin’ new conflict (that I’m not invested in at all) all rolled into one.
I think this series could have been fantastic if this book had been split into two, or possibly more. It would have given Roth more time to properly develop all the new elements she introduced, thus making the reader much more invested in the characters and the story. As it is, though, it feels far too rushed, and I frankly just did not care about at least half of the characters.
The ending (I spoil the what, but not the who, why, how, or where)
After finishing Allegiant, I was beyond upset and turned to the internet to see if anyone else shared my outrage. Turns out, people certainly were outraged, but not for exactly the same reasons. You see, at the end of this book, Roth kills off one of her main characters, and fangirls and -boys subsequently rioted in the streets of… er, the internet. Their main complaint, though, was simply that the character died, and ohhh Veronica Roth how could you be so cruel, their hearts are broken, it’s the saddest thing they’ve ever read, their eyes will never be dry again, wah wah wah. I’m a long-time Joss Whedon fan; I’ve grown accustomed to my favorite characters dying in heartbreakingly tragic situations, so I’m not particularly upset that the character died (I also kind of saw it coming).
No, what I’m upset about are the circumstances of the character’s death; due to the newness of the main conflict, I was barely invested in it, and I certainly didn’t feel like one of the main characters had to die for this cause. The death didn’t feel like a sacrifice; it felt forced and unnecessary, almost gimmicky, to me—like Veronica Roth thought, “Hey, what’s the best way for me to really end this series memorably? I know, I’ll kill off one of my major characters! No one’ll forget that!” Had the character’s sacrifice been more worthwhile, I wouldn’t have been quite so disappointed. But a lackluster sacrifice with a lackluster conflict and lackluster character development combined to make this book wholly underwhelming.
Why should you read this book?
Honestly, the main reason to read this book would be if you need closure after the first two, or if Insurgent leaves you with such an outrageously cruel cliffhanger that there’s just no way you’re stopping there. Perhaps I’m being too harsh, and my expectations were just too high. The fact remains, though, that I believe this book is by far the weakest in the trilogy. It’s not a terrible book, but don’t go into it with the high hopes that I did; you’ll only set yourself up for disappointment.