I recently wrote a gust blog post here about Allegiant, the final instalment of the Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth. But there are a few things I couldn’t really cover there in the interests of keeping it spoiler-free, yet I thought were absolutely necessary to discuss. So here is my Allegiant review, ‘spoilers edition’.
WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW.
I discuss the ending of Allegiant and it WILL be spoiled for you if you read on.
I found Allegiant problematic for a lot of reasons, as discussed in my spoiler-free review. The pace and tempo lacked due to the events of the plot and didn’t pick back up the level of the previous two books. Tris and Tobias fell more into melodramatic than in previous books, which I personally wasn’t keen on – although that could just be my personal taste. The dual perspective irritated me within the first thirty pages, as I didn’t see how Tobias’ narrative added to the story; it felt like an author indulgence which the editor (or whoever else was reading the manuscript) didn’t flag as needing changing. The fact that the book jacket has to describe it as a “riveting dual perspective” rang alarm bells for me. Other books that do the dual perspective well, such as the Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness, don’t need to make a song and dance about it. It’s just how the book is written, it adds to the story, and it is easy to argue its corner when readers might question the decision to write the novel(s) as such. Allegiant, for me, can’t really stand up to criticism of the dual narrative as it doesn’t really work.
But most fundamentally of all, what annoyed me about Allegiant was the ending. I can think of a list of adjectives to describe it: stupid, unnecessary, pointless, and that’s just getting me started. This trilogy is Tris’ story so not only to take away from her narrative but to kill her off at the end was an unfathomable decision. I appreciate that trilogies – or any novel, for that matter – don’t need to keep their cast intact at the end, and a few books spring to mind where killing off an important character has worked fantastically well in a horribly gut-wrenching way. And if Roth had managed to kill Tris like that, I might not object to it so much. But, like much of the action in Allegiant, it appears to just ‘happen’ with little foregrounding or reasoning. I needed to be far more invested in the novel’s cast to get that feeling of losing a character where you feel like the bottom has just sunk out of your stomach.
This is where I think the dual narrative didn’t help Roth – we are unable to become more invested in Tris because we lose time with her to see Tobias’ perspective on things. And, like I’ve already said in my other review, her and Tobias’ voices are written in a way which makes them almost indistinguishable. Less critical readers than myself might argue that she writes the name of the character at the top of each chapter, so why was I struggling? I would respond with: the voices shouldn’t be so similar that distinguishing the two is a problem in the first place! As a result of losing time with Tris, the perplexing ending left no emotional significance for me. My response very much went from “oh” to “hang on, what was the point in that?” to “WTF, seriously?”.
I thought Tris was a great main character, but I didn’t feel even a little bit of emotion when she died. My response was entirely from a structural and narrative point of view, which I think says a lot in itself.
I’ll mention Tobias briefly, seeing as Roth does commit half of the book’s narrative to him. I liked him as a character in the first two books, and had no reason to change this going in to Allegiant. I liked the scene where they find out about who is a GD and who isn’t, and Tobias’ response to that – although I think it could have been capitalised on further in terms of emotions for the reader, like the unwinding scene in Shusterman’s Unwind. I also liked the bit with his mother, and he says he has been chosen. The significance to him was clear, and that wasn’t something we could have got from Tris’ point of view. However, I don’t feel like I learnt any more from having Tobias’ voice narrating than I would have done if I had seen him through Tris’ eyes. I appreciate that only having Tris would make the story after her death non-existent, but I saw no reason why we couldn’t have Tris all the way through then an abrupt change to Tobias afterwards. Or, have no afterwards at all!
In her blog post that discusses the ending of Allegiant, Roth says that she went with this because it was Tris’ ending, Tris’ sacrifice, and that it fitted in with what her (Tris’) parents did and what happens in dystopias re: gritty, horrible things happen, and the body count goes up. I appreciate that is what Roth has chosen and I am glad she has blogged about it as it has shown us her writerly perspective on things. But I personally do not understand her authorial choices and while I know Roth has given us all a why, it is not a why that I find understandable as a reader.
As Roth herself says: “If your explanations and intentions are not clear to the reader, buried inside the text, that isn’t the reader’s fault, it’s the author’s.” Understanding the principle is a great beginning. Applying it is another matter entirely, and it is this that I think fundamentally fails in Allegiant.
I will remember how much I enjoyed Divergent and Insurgent – I own both of them and I am sure I will read them again – but in terms of Allegiant, I think it is best forgotten. It was a real shame to see the trilogy end as it did, but at least we have the first two books still there for us.
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