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Friday, October 25, 2013

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Book Review: Allegiant

As some of you know, a little while ago I reviewed Divergent and Insurgent the first two books in Veronica Roth's trilogy. And as some of you also know, I didn't like them very much. But because I'm neurotic and have to finish what I started or whatever, I preordered the third and final book in the series, Allegiant. It was oh-so-conveniently delivered to my kindle this past Tuesday morning, and I set out to finish the journey Roth had started.

Now, this book has a lot of the same problems as the first, but I am pleased to say that it is by far the best out of the three, and I was pleasantly surprised.

 Before I start the review, just be warned, there will be spoilers. I can't really talk about what I liked about the book without giving a lot away. But, I will save them until the end and there will be a big warning for you in case you want to avoid them.
Also, if you haven't yet, you should go ahead and read my reviews of the first two books, so you can follow what's going on.
And be warned, this is a long one.
OK! Let's get to it.

Allegiant picks up right where Insurgent left off. We, and all the people of the distopian Chicago, factioned and factionless alike, have just learned that there are people on the outside of the city who need the Divergent to come to them, because they will help save society. Obviously, not everyone is happy to learn that they are some kind of social test or safe guard or something else. And the people immediately break off into two groups: those who wish to remain in the city, without the faction system, and the Allegiant who wish to remain true to the purpose of the city, reestablish the factions, and send the Divergent out to the world beyond to help humanity. You can guess which side our main characters are on. 
Tris and her friends journey outside of the city into the unknown and learn a new truth that no one was prepared for. (We'll talk about it in the spoiler section.) Tris and her friends must stop the revolution within the city and deal with something similar and even more far-reaching on the outside. The literal fate of the world is in their sixteen to eighteen year old hands.

Clearly, Allegiant is the most epic of the three books. But story line aside, there are other things that set this one apart.

First of all, we know a lot more. The secrets are laid out pretty much up front. We do have more major discoveries further along in the book, but the biggest mystery; the one we've been waiting to learn for the past two books, is revealed pretty early on. This takes the story in a whole new direction. I wasn't sure where it was going, or what was going to happen. It kept me interested.
But because we know the big secret so early on, I felt like there was a lot of time where the plot was just waiting for something to happen. At times I found myself thinking, "Ok, we know the big mystery. what?"

Second of all, this book is told from two points of view. The first two books were told from only Tris's perspective. Allegiant delves into the mind of Tobias as well. Tobias, is Tris's Dauntless trainer turned boyfriend. Without going too deep into it, he's in love with Tris and wants to support her, but he is conflicted because of the new information everyone learns as well as the fact that his estranged parents are the leaders of the opposing groups about to wage war within the city he left behind. So it definitely adds a new and interesting male perspective to the whole thing.
And yet, it was also kind of confusing. I read a lot of books that jump perspectives every chapter, even mid-chapter, and I'm fine with it. I even enjoy it. And I am able to keep track of which character's head I'm in because each one's personality and thoughts read differently than the next. Tobias and Tris are no such characters. The way they think and speak and gesture, are all pretty similar. Sometimes I would have to back up and find out who's head we were inside because I couldn't tell with any of the context clues. It's very hard to create two distinct and interesting voices in a novel, and Roth hasn't perfected that yet.

So, Allegiant, is different from the first two novel, but it is also similar and familiar. I think the most similar and most well done parts of all three novels is Roth's astute look at human nature. People separated by personality with technology called serums that can calm you, kill you, bring your fears to life, and even erase your memory all lead to the characters and the readers with them, taking a good long look at the nature of humanity.
 Take a person's memories, and you change who they are.
Roth brings lots of questions like that to light. Are we our memories? Are we our genetics? Which defines who we are: nature or nurture? It really makes you think about it.

Alright now we've reached the SPOILER WARNING. To get deeper into how Roth makes you look at humanity, I'm going to have to reveal the big mystery. So if you don't want to read it, stop now.

As I was saying, Roth makes us take a good long look at humanity especially the argument of nature vs. nurture because of what is revealed. Here's the big mystery:
 Long ago, the United States government decided to begin genetic experiments on humans trying to isolate and remove genes that cause problems: fear, aggression, ignorance, etc. But they found out quickly that it wasn't a good idea. If you remove fear you get someone who takes stupid risks. Give someone too much brain power, and they tend to be arrogant and lack empathy. This failed experiment led to the separation between people who were then labeled "Genetically Damaged" and those untouched by the experiments; the "Genetically Pure." There was a huge war that killed most of the country, and many people thought the only way to return to peace was to purify the gene pool again. This is where Tris and Chicago comes in. The government created experiments that grouped these genetically damaged people in controlled environments based on their traits: the factions. They believed that the behavior modification and time would lead generations to heal their genes and become pure again. Those people who have reached an acceptable level of genetic purity are called "Divergent."

Ta-Da! So divergent just means healed, normal, fixed, regular, average. But that also means that anyone who is not divergent is supposedly sick, damaged, irregular, and less.

As we all know with human nature, once something is labeled different, we don't treat it the same. Those who are called Genetically Damaged or GD are looked down upon as the cause of humanities problems. They aren't trusted and are looked at as unwhole. They blame them but they also say that GDs can't be truly held responsible for their actions.
We can't have the same behavior expectations for those with damaged genes as we do for those with pure genes, after all.
There's a lot of inequality.  And while Tris and Tobias and their friends are trying to wrap their heads around the possibility that genes are responsible for the way some people behave, they also learn that the government has the power to erase everyone's memories if the city experiments go off course. 

So the characters and readers are faced with quite a question as to whether your genes make you who you are or your experiences and memories. Can you be blamed for your actions if you're lacking a gene that can make you smarter. If your memories are erased and you start fresh, will you end up the same person just because of what your biological code says?

Or are we a result of circumstance, of our experiences and memories? Would we end up completely different people if given a completely blank slate?

The characters decide that genetics be damned, it's your choices who make you who you are. I think I'm somewhere in the middle and think it's a combination of both. So who knows?

What I do know is the fact that Roth made me think so much, is a really good thing. So I'm going to take back what I said in my earlier reviews, I'm going to recommend you give these books a shot. They are not perfect, and you have to get through a lot of typical YA stuff to get to the heart. But once you're there, it's a good place to read.

Have you read the Divergent Trilogy? What did you think? Head over to the forum to discuss!

Check out the follow-up post here: Allegiant: YA's Biggest Controversy

Allegiant: YA's Biggest Controversy

Title: Allegiant

Author: Veronica Roth

Genre: Science Fiction

Recommendation:  Yes

Best Reader Audience: Female readers at the Young Adult reading level

Final Rating: Three out of Five mugs of hot chocolate 

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