I tore through the first two books in the Divergent series. Before picking up Allegiant, this series was becoming a favorite, up there with The Hunger Games, Harry Potter and Twilight. Yes I read Twilight and liked it! I know! I know! I’m such a girl on rare occasions.
Then I read Allegiant. In a day. And not in a I-can’t-put-this-book-down good way. More like I-can’t-look-away-from-this-train-wreck way. SO if you haven’t read all three and are considering it, do not read the following spoilers. This will ruin oh so much for you. Continue in your blissful ignorance and pretend this post doesn’t exist. Feel free to come back and read once you are done. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Roth lost me at genetics. Not that I’m incapable of comprehending. Quite the opposite. And given her YA audience are most likely enrolled in or have completed Biology, I’m fairly confident they can, too.
Essentially, the city of Chicago is undergoing an experiment to find perfectly restored genes. The factions (based on ideology) stem from genetic alterations made previously to the human race. However, these alterations caused behavior issues, causing war, causing the belief that only the genetically pure can behave rationally. Think of genetics as a symbol for racism, and there you go.
But then she dives into a conspiracy theory that states genetics do NOT determine ones behavior or cause wars, since wars were previously fought prior to messing with genetics. However, that history is hard to come by and hidden from the public. Say what now? So the factions and people leaning heavily towards one ideology IS based on genetics or ISN’T? There are also scenes where diagnostics are run on our beloved characters’ genetics, and we learn that Tobias isn’t genetically pure, yet Tris is. This causes some identity issues with Tobias, a grounded character in the series. Why would some DNA on a computer screen cause such an identity crisis for this young man? Because now it suddenly means he is somehow less of a person.
How has he fought the serums all this time, you ask, since he is not Divergent aka Genetically Pure? Because genetics have nothing to do with it. It’s a government cover up so they can do these experiments and have control. And yet the genetics were tampered with and they do affect behavior. But they don’t. Are you confused? Cool, me too. I get the point/metaphor she was going for, but the writing has to stay consistent. Pick a point. If it’s a government cover up, don’t also show us how genetics do affect behavior. We just spent two whole books learning about the stark differences in people and their ideologies, and how our heroine Tris possesses flexible thinking and this is because she is genetically pure aka divergent.
The link between behavior and genetics is still fairly weak. Yes, this is sci-fi but let me make my point. They have been able to link temperament and genetics, where two children of the same temperament growing up in different environments will wind up to be very different people. The whole nature vs nurture argument is an interesting one, and it would have been neat if Roth explored this approach, especially when it comes to cultural clashes. Not only this, but if they had discovered the link between behavior and genetics, did they then discover why siblings are so different? These explorations would have made for some cool material. However it was a racial based stance (for the sake of the metaphor), making this concept not pan out.
Then comes too many serums and one very valuable lesson: Tris holds the correct moral compass over everyone, including Tobias. The people in power, in order to save the experiment, want to wipe the memories of the people of Chicago. Naturally Tris and Tobias feel this is wrong and terrible. What to do? Tobias wants to warn everyone and talk his mother out of the impending war that will result in officials resetting memories. Tris wants to wipe the memories of the officials in charge of the Chicago experiment. Wait…Tris wants to do to them what they want to do to her people? Isn’t that hypocritical? Glad you asked, since this is one of the major conflicts between Tris and Four!
And how does wiping the memories of the officials in Chicago help? We still have the rest of the government to worry about. Well changing a regime and years of prejudice is difficult. More memory wipes or convincing to come…
Those plot holes are the forefront of my critique. By the time I reached the end of the book I had managed to no longer give a hoot about any of the characters. My favorite series dropped radically to indifference. If you can get past major plot point inconsistencies, then please, let me indulge you further.
Tobias conveniently reunites with and forgives his mother as Tris is off “saving” everyone (somehow? At least Chicago?) by dying. Not even sad here. Kill her all you want. She’s full of herself by this point and no longer brave. Ok, so the mother who left him with an abusive father is suddenly forgiven because 16 years later she picks her son over her war against said dad? Nope! Don’t buy it! Seriously, imagine it for yourself. I don’t care the reason- if my mother left me knowing full well how abusive my father could be, I would not kiss and make up. Her job is to protect her child. I get it’s a tough situation. Don’t think me callous. I’m simply getting into the mind of an abused character, who has grown past and beyond years of terrible abuse. I’m also thinking from a parent’s perspective. I would never leave my child to that. How does he suddenly forgive the one who abandoned him to such an awful life?
The answer is he wouldn’t. Yes, he was glad his mother was alive and struggled with her abandonment. But not enough to be suddenly besties. Her choosing him then is too little, too late. This is negative, but it’s also reality. Their reunion was a plot line convenience, meant to ease the pain of poor Tobias being suddenly left alone in the world since he is to return home to find Tris dead. That is it.
Tris’ death was whatever. I get it. A hero making the ultimate sacrifice is a brave, bold way to go. But the ultimate sacrifice for what? The stakes have to be extremely high here. It can’t be, “and if she doesn’t do this the people of Chicago will lose their memories.” It’s more like “and all of humanity will die. Immediately. Her death or their demise. In this very foreseeable future.” Not potentially down the road. Ooh that’s some scary stuff.
Nevermind the fact I could NEVER tell the difference between Tris and Tobias in the novel. I kept going back to the chapter head to remind myself whose POV I was reading. That’s not annoying in the least.
I don’t want to be super negative, but it’s disappointing to get so invested in a series, only to be vastly let down in the end. Like HIMYM. Not cool guys. I don’t need happy endings. Seriously, let Tris die a thousand, brutal deaths, but make it for a good cause, that clearly saves/betters the world without also being hypocritical and preaching that her way is best. What kind of egotistical message is that?
If you loved this series, don’t be offended. Remember, I loved the first two. Tris totally rocked! But a story has to make sense throughout its entirety, not the first 2/3. Such a pity…