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I was expecting that it would (eventually) get better. It didn't.
on 29 April 2014
NB: Plot and ending spoilers.
Like many other readers here, I felt compelled to write a review. This has been on my mind for days and I need to get it off my chest; I'm still having irritated outbursts whenever I think about this book.
Firstly, I really enjoyed the first two and eagerly read them having watched the first film. The story was interesting and held my attention, the characters were unique and likeable. Although there were tragedies and difficult topics, they were dealt with sensitively and with due care and consideration.
Needless to say, Allegiant was not like that. I persevered (had I known the ending, I wouldn't have), expecting that it would improve and fall into place. It didn't. I was genuinely upset at the end. I was left with the sense the whole book was a missed opportunity and the overwhelming feeling that I had been cheated of my time and money. I felt the characters had not received a just and well-thought out ending. Unsurprisingly, I have several complaints that made this book an actively negative contribution to my reading experience.
Firstly, we had Tobias' voice. This could have been brilliant. He's an engaging character; damaged, courageous, kind, fiercely loyal, all the things that make someone appealing in YA fiction. This was the first missed opportunity, the first hurdle at which our author had some inexplicable problem. Tobias was (amazingly) terribly boring. There was nothing distinctive about his voice. I kept having to check whether it was him or Tris, such was my confusion. I do not suffer from a short attention span, it was just poorly written (why? I don't know, there was nothing in the previous books that suggested this would be the case). He had a miraculous character change from an independent and headstrong man to a naive loser, who seemed suddenly incapable of independent will and ideas. Why would a character that is suspicious of authority and what other people tell him about himself (given he was horribly abused), suddenly believe some ridiculous category inflicted upon him by an obviously misguided group of people? Why would he ignore Tris, when he had already learned his lesson in the previous book? It is implausible and had no understandable mitigating circumstances which could justify it. But alas, this was the most minor of the offences that make this book utterly unsatisfying.
Secondly on characters; Evelyn and Marcus. Roth had done some great work here with deep, interesting plots - people with genuinely complex and difficult relationships. Did we get any closure here? No. Evelyn just ran away and Marcus disappeared without a event. The possibilities here were immense, why the cop out?
Then we had what was beyond the fence. This was a massive, irredeemable anti-climax and if I'd been a bit more cynical I would have given up and realised it wasn't going to improve, as this was probably the point of no return. The premise is a very boring, dressed up utopian idea about purity (in this case genetic rather than racial) that lead to exterminations and random experiments. There was the Purity War which was never properly explained as well as being a bit far-fetched. Even the characters seemed to have trouble with it. This bizarre context also randomly incorporated Big Brother (but wasn't as scary or compelling), which added nothing but further implausibility. It is perhaps unsurprising then that the characters were underdeveloped or poor imitations of previous ones, so I didn't feel anything about them, other than confused and disappointed that they weren't better.
The ending. Where to begin. The logic was odd, like everything else. The Bureau was a relatively benign dictatorship as far as they go and simply reseting the city did not seem all that bad, given it was a mess. The fact the characters wanted to leave in the first place suggests that they didn't care very much about what happened there, so why bother at all? They also had time to go and collect various people to save, so why not do that and leave everyone else? or notify Evelyn and Marcus so they could put aside their numerable differences to negotiate a truce in time for the greater good or self preservation? The possibilities were vast but once again missed.
Finally, I categorically disagree that Tris' 'sacrifice' was something to be particularly proud of. I understand the biblical no greater love than laying down your life for your friends etc. But nothing about this made any sense. Tris could have saved Chicago (albeit with above plot flaws) without being shot and killed by a supposed former friend of her mother's. This would have redeemed it in my eyes, I could have forgiven all of the above of Roth had granted us this; killing her was unnecessary and upsetting. It would have been better to have her injured (and make us wonder whether she was dead) and then have the happy ending we all wanted. I don't buy the realism line or excuse, nothing about this book was 'real', so why start now? I don't read fiction for realism, thanks very much, I have my own life for that. I read books for entertainment and this was not entertaining. Tragedy can be, but this wasn't, it felt unfair. After this sad demise, I kept expecting that she would miraculously survive somehow; she's a survivor after all and had beaten the odds every time. But the disappointment continued. Instead I had an ending full of unsatisfying grief (this wasn't enough in my view, Tobias was until the end quite dull) and a rubbish scattering of ashes scene. This was not a good ending. Where was the closure? What had Tobias learnt? Life's not fair, you'll never get what you want, those that love you always leave, tough luck? What had Tris learned? Sacrifice means dying for a good cause? It doesn't have too, as she had already understood. I think her parents would have wanted her to live and have a good life (doesn't every parent?); arguably they died so she could have that. Why kill her? I'm utterly mystified.
So in short: I'd avoid the series altogether or at the very least avoid this book. I wish I had. If you feel like you want to finish it, prepare to be unsatisfied and disappointed. All I got out of it was feeling thoroughly depressed and now irritated. I'm also 20 pounds poorer.
As someone else has already said, you might as well make up your own ending after Insurgent, it will be much better than Roth's strange and inexplicable attempt.