Sunday, November 10, 2013

Allegiant by Veronica Roth

"To them, the people in our city are just containers of genetic material --just GD's valuable for the corrected genes they pass on, and not for the brains in their heads or the hearts in their chests."
The final novel in the Divergent trilogy picks up right where Insurgent left off. Tris, Christina and Cara are prisoners inside the Erudite headquarters from where Evelyn now rules the city. Tobias (Four) Eaton is not a prisoner but his mother (Evelyn) suspects him of being a traitor. After questioning under the truth serum (which doesn't affect her) Tris is set free by Evelyn.

Evelyn tells Tobias that they have learned that there is a rebel organization within the factionless that wants to leave the city. This rebel faction is called Allegiant because they believe that people should live in factions.The factions are now dismantled, citizens are encouraged to mix the clothing of all the factions, no more than four members of a faction may live together, and the boundaries of the city are patrolled by the factionless to ensure no one leaves.

Tobias is uncertain as to his mother's motives for telling him about the Allegiant but he knows that he needs to warn them that Evelyn is determined to control them. Tris is asked to meet with the Allegiant at the abandoned headquarters of Candor. There she learns that Cara and Johanna are the leaders of the rebel Allegiant which also includes Susan, Robert, Peter, Uriah, Zeke, Tori, and Christina.

Cara and Johanna believe in the factions and the Divergent mission directive of Edith Prior to send people outside the city once there is a large Divergent population. They want to overthrow Evelyn and the factionless to re-establish the factions and they also want to investigate outside the city. It is decided that Johanna will attempt to overthrow Evelyn, while Cara will lead a group that includes Christina, Tris, Tobias, Tori, Peter and Uriah to explore beyond the city limits.

What Tris, Tobias, Cara, Christina and the others, who are part of the Allegiant team that leaves the city, discover is a government organization involved in a series of wide-spread sinister experiments which are supposed to repair the genetic damage of the population as a whole. The level of manipulation and deception is so great that the Allegiant who have left the city - which they now know is called Chicago, realize they must act quickly to stop the next step. Will they succeed and what will be the cost?

Fans of the Divergent series will love this novel but will likely have mixed feelings about Roth's controversial ending. The first novel in the series, Divergent introduced readers to a bizarre world where people were organized into groups or "factions" based on a specific virtue. They grew up in these factions and then on their "Choosing Day" chose the faction that they would live their lives out as an adult. Little back story was provided and readers had to hope this would come in the second novel. However, the second novel was a hot mess of battles between the factions, with many new characters added to the storyline, making the novel difficult to follow. It developed the relationship between some of the main characters as well as the love interest between Tris and Tobias. The third novel however, spends most of its time filling in the backstory of the world which Tris, Tobias and their friends inhabit, explaining what they were a part of and how it came to be, as well as setting up the final confrontation between the society Tris and Tobias came from and those on the outside. The final novel concludes the storyline with a somewhat shocking ending, although Roth does foreshadow the events to come.

The story in Allegiant is told by both Tris and Tobias. This dual narrative unfortunately was the main weakness of the novel, because they hardly differ. Their voices are so similar that the reader will find themselves losing track of who is narrating.

Roth devotes a great deal of the novel to explaining the history of the city and the new society that Tris and Tobias encounter in order to set up the shocking climax of the novel. While many readers will not like what happens at the end, the dystopian genre is about a dangerous world where all does not necessarily end well.  I think Roth has reminded her readers of that with her ending.

There is no doubt that many readers deeply identified with Tris, which indicates that the author was able to create a realistic, engaging main character for the series. Tris is a strong character who struggles throughout most of the novels, trying to understand who she is, trying to comprehend her place in her world, even as it begins to unravel. It is a theme common to many young adult novels. She grows throughout the three novels, gradually maturing through her mistakes and in her relationships with others. Like most of the characters in the novel, Tris is struggling with her identity. She doesn't fit into any faction any more than Tobias, Caleb, Cara or Christina do. Human beings are much more complex than what the factions want them to be.
"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 would."
Ultimately the most important lesson Tris learns is the meaning of sacrificial love. It is a lesson she learns from her parents, but one which takes her some time to understand and apply to her own life.

At 526 pages, Allegiant is a monster of a novel to wade through, but definitely an easier read than its predecessor, Insurgent. The more linear story line, the filling in of the back story and the addition of only a few new characters make Allegiant a mostly enjoyable read with a heart-breaking ending.

Book Details:
Allegiant by Veronica Roth
Katherine Tegen Books    2013
526 pp.

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