Well, here it is, the last review of the last installment of Veronica Roth’s popular series. The Divergent series has spiked in popularity recently with the release of Allegiant on Oct. 22, 2013, the release of the trailers for the film adaptation of Divergent, and its enduring status as e-book sales darling. I commend Roth for creating a massively successful series, cleverly riding the wave of The Hunger Games while still bringing new life and fresh ideas into the post-apocalyptic teen genre, and combating the damage done by the Twilight series by giving us a (mostly) positive heroine for young readers to look to.
A small quibble: I’ve said it before, but either Veronica Roth or her editor continue to stubbornly refuse to learn how to use commas. (Example: As “because” is not a conjunction, it need not be preceded by a comma.) It is time to learn.
On to the review.
I must say that the “twist” of the third book was quite inventive. Roth clearly has many creative ideas and utilized them well in this series. I was not expecting the reality of Tris and Tobias (Four’s) world, and Roth impressively wove this new massive revelation into the plot structure already created in her first two books. However, the characters remained fairly flat, and like last time, I had difficulty remembering who everyone was. Unlike last time, I didn’t care enough to look it up. The first several chapters of the book were also surprisingly stilted in style. I attribute this to the fact that this is the first book in the series not entirely told from Tris’s perspective. Instead, the book is told from both Tris and Tobias’ perspectives in alternating chapters. The first several chapters told from Tobias’s perspective are oddly flowery yet robotic, completely at odds with the character already established (admittedly through Tris’s perspective). Tobias finds a happy medium in narrative style after a while, but these initial chapters make painfully clear Roth’s difficulty in establishing clear, distinct narrative voices. Additionally, this narrative style doesn’t really add anything to the book, only serving to separate it further from the high quality debut that was Divergent. I’m not sure this was an advisable choice on Roth or her editor’s part, and I’m not sure why the decision to do this was made, unless it was to allow the book to continue…
Warning! Avertissement! Предупреждение! Advertencia! Achtung! 警告！تحذير!
(Warning stated in the three official languages of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, followed by Spanish, German, traditional Chinese, and Arabic. I think I have all of my potential readers covered.)
Here be spoilers.
If you do not want Allegiant and its rather intriguing and well-executed major twist ruined for you, read no further!
I warned you.
…after Tris’s death.
See? I told you here be spoilers.
Now that I’ve ruined that for you, I will continue on to my other major quibble of the book. If you recall from my very first review of The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons, I have a thing about ensuring consistency of major details that are common knowledge or can be fact-checked. Now I know that we all make this kind of mistake. I certainly do. I still kick myself over not realizing that, in my senior thesis, I had named the heroine of H.M.S Pinafore Elsie rather than Josephine, when everyone knows that Elsie is, in fact, the heroine of Yeoman of the Guard. I jest, but the point is that it can happen to anyone, particularly when you have spent so much time with a manuscript that you start reading what you know it is supposed to say rather than what is actually on the page. However, I have a problem with glaring and repeated errors of consistency that any editor half-awake should catch, regardless of whether or not the author did.
If you were not completely destroyed by the above spoiler, feel free to continue on to the spoiler ahead.
If you were completely destroyed and still continued reading, I suggest you stop reading this review and just read the book already.
Spoiler commencing now.
What is this glaring and repeated error of consistency? Well, I suppose you figured out, if you’ve read the first book, that the series is set in post-apocalyptic Chicago. However, as we learn in this book, the citizens do not know the city as Chicago. In fact, they only learn of its name, along with the existence of not just the rest of the country but the rest of the world, when a small group, including Tris and Tobias, escape the city, are met by some “outsiders”, and are taken to the Bureau of Genetic Welfare, stationed at O’Hare Airport. There they discover that they, their families, and their city were all a part of a genetic and social experiment being conducted by the BGW on behalf of the U.S. government…oh, and that their city’s name is Chicago.
Now, here is my problem. In the first and even second books, no landmarks in Chicago were spoken of by name. Diligent reading (and perhaps a little googling) reveal that the marshes are what’s left of Lake Michigan, the Hub is Willis Tower, Dauntless headquarters is the Hancock Building, Candor headquarters is Merchandise Mart (not-so-affectionately known as Merciless Mart in the books, so that one’s pretty obvious), the Ferris wheel is the Ferris wheel on Navy Pier and so forth. But suddenly in Allegiant, Tris is climbing to the top of the Hancock Building, looking out down Lake Shore Drive, running up State Street, and having meet-cutes with Tobias in Millenium Park…AND YET THEY DON’T KNOW THEY LIVE IN CHICAGO????
The employees of the BGW tell Tris et. al. that after the Purity Wars (yep, some sort of genetic holocaust will tear the United States apart sometime in the future), several cities, including Chicago, St. Louis, and Indianapolis, were set up as locations of these genetic and social experiments. (Btw, Milwaukee is the nearest government center.) Here’s my theory: obviously, to do so, they had to prepare the cities for the arrival of the initial experiment participants. In Chicago, that clearly included removing all traces of anything that would indicate that Chicago was named Chicago. Having lived in Chicago for about 6 months now, I know that removal of such signage is quite an undertaking because Chicago absolutely wants to make sure you know you are in Chicago. So it would make sense, then, that anything relating to Chicago’s history like street names, park names, building names, etc., would be removed as well. And for the first two books, that seems to be the case. In the third book, it’s suddenly not. So what am I to believe? That for two books the characters just used different names for familiar landmarks and decided not to in the third book while still not knowing that they live in a place called Chicago? It just doesn’t add up.
My overall point with this is that Allegiant is a sloppy ending to the series. I don’t know if Roth was rushed due to the massive popularity of the series, if she suffered from an inadequate editing team, or if she truly thought this wasn’t an issue. Unfortunately it is an issue because it highlights the lack of care and inattention to detail that can separate good writers from great writers. The ideas are there. The execution less so.
That being said, I do think that Roth is immensely creative writer, and I look forward to what she will do in time as her writing grows in experience and maturity. I will continue to recommend this series, particularly to student readers. And if you are at all interested in what those student readers are into right now, read it yourself. Even coming in at over 500 pages, Allegiant was an extremely quick read. I’ll be honest, though. I may skip the movie.