Thought-provoking. Controversial. Captivating. Powerful.
The action-packed and contentious conclusion to a much-loved series
that left me disappointed, but that simultaneously had
the power to shatter me, surprise me and bring me to tears.
It challenges the reader to think beyond the expected and be brave.
The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered—fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she’s known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories.
But Tris’s new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature—and of herself—while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice, and love.
Well crap on a cracker, people. It ends. I avoided all spoilers, mentions, reviews when Allegiant was released because I didn’t want to be biased. I wanted an unadulterated experience all my own and even though I heard enough to know people were disappointed, I was hoping to staunchly disagree. I can’t say that unfortunately. I’ve been trying to objectively process my own thoughts on it and in the end, I just wanted this book to be as awesome as the other two were. I’m not sure if I’m disappointed or angry or a mix of both, but I just didn’t understand some of her choices. I’ll go through my thoughts in a way that will not spoil the story, I promise. And I will say that there were some good parts. Truthfully, I’ve been so invested in the story that I still couldn’t put it down. I cared about what happened and cared a lot about the characters… I just imagined the story unfurling in a different way. But alas, it’s not my story to tell.
I’m going to write this review differently than I usually do, organizing my thoughts around the major points of discussion.
“There’s so much that was a lie, it’s hard to figure out what was true, what was real, what matters.”
We finally learn the truth behind the factions, behind who everyone really is and why. So much of this series has been about understanding who you are, what you believe in, who you align with. At the beginning of the series, it’s about choosing your faction according to your true self, your true motivations. In Allegiant, it’s more about what makes you, YOU. It’s about defining yourself beyond the factions, leaving the characters to ponder who they are intrinsically. This notion is particularly significant for Tobias, who has grown up with one tyrant as a parent, and another who was presumed dead, and who subsequently became a tyrant. It was evident in this book just how broken Tobias really was, how desperate he was to believe he’s more than the result of his parents.
“I was afraid of my considerable capacity to kill…That was the first time I’ve ever said those words out loud, and now I hear how strange they are. How many young men fear that there is a monster inside of them?”
Roth takes an allegorical approach to defining the characters, enlivening the nature versus nurture debate. But I believe that in the end she makes the point that who you are is defined by your own actions and beliefs… what you do for the people you love and for the things you believe in.
“I don’t belong to Abnegation, or Dauntless, or even the Divergent… I belong to the people I love, and they belong to me-they, and the love and loyalty I give them, form my identity far more than any word or group ever could.”
The first issue for me arose when I found myself confounded by all the groups (and characters) battling each other. It was almost as if Roth just packed way too much into the plot and made it more complicated than it needed to be. I was constantly trying to discern who was who, if they were good or bad, who the “good” group should be and what the “right” thing was in the end. I’m all for digging deep and making it challenging for the reader, but you don’t want to push it so far that it gets too confusing and the reader checks out.
This was one of the aspects I was most excited about and perhaps one of the ones I’m most disappointed with. The alternating POVs were too similar, almost monotone at times. I actually had to go back and check whose narrative I was reading a few times. I felt like I wanted Four’s POV to be stronger and more striking. He lost a little of his ethos in my opinion. I totally get (and like) the fact that he was broken and part of his character’s arc was to work through those issues, but he just wasn’t the same “badass Four” I wanted him to be. He felt weak and clumsy at times. On the other hand, I liked the insight it gave me into how Four felt about Tris. On some level, they really are kindred spirits… so alike in their resoluteness and bravery, but their internal struggles and motivations are divergent (no pun intended) and that causes a rift to grow between them. Nonetheless, it was fulfilling to see how much they did love each other despite their differences.
“He is stronger than anyone I know, and warmer than anyone else realizes; he is a secret that I have kept, and will keep, for the rest of my life.”
“I suppose a fire that burns that bright is not meant to last.”
In the acknowledgements, Veronica Roth tells her readers to “be brave” and I do think a lot of the story revolves around bravery, weaving in moments of tremendous courage in its plot twists. Brave choices. Brave sacrifices. Brave abandon. I liked this thematic framework and was really moved by her words on bravery at the story’s conclusion… I would say it brought me to tears, but I was already reading blurry eyed at that point. And perhaps, taking a cue from Dauntless, Veronica Roth’s intent was to be brave in how she ended the story. Personally, I DO NOT mind endings that are emblematic, especially in the dystopian genre where happy endings are not a fair expectation, I just honestly didn’t think her choices were necessary.
I think most readers likely already know there are deaths in the conclusion and I tried to process the impact of what happens through the choices of others who have made similar choices. In George R.R. Martin’s desultory approach to offing characters in his The Song of Fire and Ice series, he has such a large cast of characters, that the story lives on beyond the deaths it racks up, there is no one impervious to death in his books and you get that point from day one. The expectation is set… a silent contract signed between author and reader, and the story continues to take shape after the deaths (although many were indeed shocking). In Breaking Bad, the final death in the series felt necessary, ending in a way that felt organic to Walter’s character evolution. On the flip side, for all you Dexter fans, he, on the other hand, should have died, not lived. After the decisions Dexter made throughout the show, I feel that the story called for his life as the price for his transgressions. In making choices to kill characters – main or supporting – one must do so with care… it has to feel right and necessary. Allegiant’s story, in my opinion (because after all, this is a subjective stance), could’ve gone in a completely different direction and still imparted a bigger, thoughtful message with incredible power. It was just too unexpected and unwarranted. I won’t reveal how it ended obviously, but in my mind I envisioned it would end in hand-to-hand/watch-it-burn kind of style. I was left not only with my grief, but with a dissatisfaction that one of our protagonists was not ultimately happy and I strongly feel that happiness was well deserved after everything that had transpired leading up to the final moments.
“There are so many ways to be brave in this world. Sometimes bravery involves laying down your life for something bigger than yourself, or for someone else. Sometimes it involves giving up everything you have ever known, or everyone you have ever loved, for the sake of something greater.
But sometimes it doesn’t.
Sometimes it is nothing more than gritting your teeth through pain, and the work of every day, the slow walk toward a better life.
That is the sort of bravery I must have now.”
This isn’t a boring book. It was well written, embedding many heartfelt moments I desperately wanted. I also really loved how she weaved in some flashbacks from Divergent… those were incredibly powerful, emotionally charged scenes with good timing. I LOVED the first two books, I just didn’t understand all her choices. In the end, I’m not ready to burn my books or start any kind of riot, I’m simply left with a feeling of dissatisfaction. If you are a fan of the first two books, don’t avoid the third just because of opinions like mine or that of others. Finish the series, see it through to the end. Personally, I’m glad I read this book, I really am, and I do think the end was powerful nonetheless. I leave you with Veronica Roth’s own words from Allegiant…
“Some things are hard to let go of.”