Allegiant by Veronica Roth
This post has spoilers. You’ve been warned.
This book feels very different from the other two in the trilogy. Tris and her friends leave Chicago and learn that their entire society and its faction system was part of a huge experiment. The perspective zooms back to take in an entire ravaged nation instead of only one city. This disorienting narrative move catches the reader almost as much off guard as it does the characters. Not only do characters discover that the world is much bigger than they thought, but their lives were built on fictions whose purpose was only to keep people from killing each other while they breed their genes back to health. The stuff about damaged DNA and ‘clean’ DNA is interesting as speculative fiction, though the moral issues brought up seemed disconnected from the ones that the earlier books dealt with. It was always clear to me that Tris’s society must have emerged out of the rubble of some catastrophe, and that it did not arise naturally but was planned deliberately by some authority, and Allegiant explains what happened to give rise to the faction system.
The faction system was probably the most interesting thing about the world of the Divergent series, so it was kind of a disappointment to spend the novel away from Chicago. Though none of the characters are living in a factioned society anymore, Abnegation, Erudite, Dauntless, and Amity aren’t gone from the book. They still inform Tris’s worldview and choices. I found it really interesting how the characters go through a period of mourning for the faction system when they hear that it was based on a lie. It gave meaning to their lives, and it continues to do so even as they rebuild.
Most of the other people I know who read the book were disappointed in the ending. Tris dies in a successful attempt to prevent the bad guys from destroying the memories of everyone in Chicago, wiping their memories instead. The main character dies; that doesn’t happen in many books, especially when she’s a first person narrator. For that reason it may feel to some of those readers like Roth broke an unspoken deal that authors have with their readers. This death didn’t bother me as much as it did many other readers. I liked Tris and thought her death was sad, even tragic and heartbreaking, but she was leading a revolution, and she was brave enough not to spare herself the hardest job. She would not have been herself if she had let anyone else make that sacrifice instead, and no one else would have been able to succeed in that doomed mission. Because of her death it’s not a traditional happy ending, but it is a happy ending for the entire faction society and even the whole country, because Tris’s sacrifice prevents disaster and allows others to someday prove that the whole ‘damaged DNA’ thing is a crock. Tris would be the first to say that these outcomes are more important than her life. She’s both Dauntless and Abnegation to the core.
I feel like I’ve spent this entire review just defending Roth against those who didn’t like the trilogy’s ending. That’s not really fair; I enjoyed the experience of reading the book (and the previous two) too much for that. I’d recommend the trilogy to anyone who likes YA dystopia.