Veronica Roth’s Divergent Trilogy quickly filled the gap left in YA dystopic fiction after the release of Mockingjay as many rushed to call it the next Hunger Games. With this week’s release of Allegiant, the Divergent Trilogy’s final installation, the comparisons continue. Allegiant definitely packs an emotional wallop for many invested readers of the trilogy (and for good reason), but after a little time and reflection, I understand and agree with many of the criticisms of Roth’s conclusion.
The biggest difference between Allegiant and its two predecessors is the shared narrative. Instead of limiting itself to Tris’ perspective, the novel alternates between her and Tobias/Four. Many find this confusing because their narrative voices are very similar. I didn’t have trouble or think too much of it but then, I had just finished a different YA novel with a similar narrative technique that was executed in a poorer manner (the review of which, I will post next week). The sudden change in approach did strike me as odd and initially unnecessary but by the novel’s end, the larger reasoning for the change was made clear.
One of the things that originally bothered me about Divergent and Insurgent (which I read while on my blogging hiatus so I, unfortunately, don’t have reviews of them for reference but I swear I mentioned these reservations when I recommended the books to friends of mine): I found their lack of subtlety annoying. I understand that the books are aimed at a YA audience and that writers sometimes feel the need to drive a point home when self-absorbed teenagers are involved, but that’s always bothered me. I think we don’t give young readers enough credit; for me, it’s more important that we provoke them to have the conversation than tell them the “right” conclusion they’re supposed to reach. Part of why I love Hunger Games is that I think it balances deftly on ambiguity and circumstance. Not going to find that anywhere in the Divergent Trilogy.
Perhaps the preachy aspect of the novel wouldn’t be quite so bothersome if the plot-holes didn’t seem to multiply so much upon reflection (I won’t go into specifics here because I don’t want to give away the ending but if anyone wants to message me, I can and will go into greater detail). Almost everyone expected that the narrative would venture beyond the fence and into the larger world outside the fence at some point and Allegiant does. There are many questions that get answered and there is an element of realism in that the answers are largely unsatisfying. The conflicts that develop and need resolution in the last two-thirds of the novel become increasingly convoluted and confusing. Part of this is the dual narration. Providing two perspectives on a single problem would be one thing, but in this novel they end up folding back and twisting around on themselves into a mess and temporarily catches the reader up enough to lose track of the larger picture (and to a degree, this might have been intentional but given the clarity with which themes were preached throughout, I don’t think it was).
Ultimately, the novel’s conclusion can be powerful and engaging as it rushes by sweeping the reader along to it’s poetic but emotionally devastating end. However, it doesn’t hold up very well to reflection; it just feels rushed. The realism of having so many options, so many possible solutions to the challenges faced, but having them ignored, dismissed, or left unthought-of by the characters undermines key elements of the messages the series has been building from the beginning. It’s that sense of a cleaner and truer solution that has left many readers feeling that the ending was designed just to toy with them emotionally (which I don’t think is the case; I just think that Roth either didn’t take or didn’t have the time necessary to shore up a major plot point she had in mind from the beginning).
It was a good series in that I enjoyed it, but it’s just not one that will stay with me on a deeper level. I was surprised by how much I had forgotten of the previous books periodically as I was reading this last one and I realized it’s because even though they wound up being important plot points for the series, they didn’t resonate enough for them to stick long term. I probably should have re-read the first two but I’m also not sure it would have made much of a difference in my opinion of the third. Better written and deeper than many YA books and series that I’ve read, Allegiant falls a little short of what it might have been, what it could have been, but it’s still worth reading.
But now I’m going to re-read Hunger Games while I wait out the last few weeks until Catching Fire‘s theatrical release.