What’s that? You read Allegiant last month when it came out instead of making your daily word count for NaNoWriMo or doing any of the work publishers are actually you paying for? No? That was just me? Okay, I see how it is! My justification for slacking off went like this. 1. I’ll only read this while at the gym, and going to the gym is important, so reading this book is important. 2. It’s the end of the trilogy! I can’t be expected to hold off indefinitely. And 3. Ooh preview for Divergent before Catching Fire? Yes, please!
When Veronica Roth’s first novel, Divergent, came out in 2011, I gave it to everyone for Christmas. Seriously – I bought a copy for three friends, both of my sisters-in-law, and as a Secret Santa gift. That resulted in four of those people then going out to buy the book for their friends, so really, I’m pretty sure Roth can thank me for about at least a chunk of her royalties that first year.
Her books are dystopian. They’re YA. They have a badass female protagonist. It’s the trifecta of sweet spots. Yes, I’m a Hunger Games fan (I’m also a Jennifer Lawrence fan, so thanks to whatever god brought those two together), which is how I originally discovered Roth. I fell in love with the genre back when I first read The Giver in the third grade, and since then, I’ve had plenty of quality novels to keep me satisfied. I mean, have you read The House of the Scorpion? Or Unwind? Little Brother? I even loved The Maze Runner, although I haven’t read the sequels because that first book was scary as hell and I’m still not sure I’ve fully recovered. If I bothered to even glance at my bookshelves, this post would devolve into me shouting a list of my favorites. Instead, I’ll try to restrain myself to saying that as far as you can trust my opinion, you can trust it here.
Many YA dystopian novels come in threes, and in my experience, the third one is always the biggest stretch for me. Allegiant was no exception. The difficulty for me is that while I have no problem believing in teenagers as warriors and strategists, I have much harder time being sold on them as diplomats or heads of a revolution, which is inevitably where a series like this has to go. Roth did a better job than most at capturing the imperfection of a system that expects such a thing. Her characters are deeply flawed, and she doesn’t shy away from the consequences of their behavior in this book. In fact, she’s brutally honest with them, and with us, about what it means to make the hard choices, not just as an individual, but for a larger society. Those decisions comes with a high price, and sacrifice is the only constant in a world on the brink of tearing itself apart.
She captures this idea beautifully. The only place she stumbles is in her pacing of the story. This book could have easily been two complete novels, and she would have done more justice to the complex relationships she had been nurturing. I’m sure there were forces at work that kept her to a three book story arc, but it’s a shame because her characters have so much going on that I wanted to spend more time exploring the choices they’re forced to make. To her credit, she doesn’t let the story lag; the problem is that the reader is given too little time to breathe. In some circumstances, that can work for a book, but ultimately, I preferred her approach to Divergent and Insurgent. Those books were both a more cathartic experience for me because I had time to sit with the sadness that inevitably follows the adrenaline rush of youthful revolution.
That being said, it’s unusual for me to wait so long to review a book after I’ve read it, and time has given me some perspective on this one. While Allegiant wasn’t my favorite (of the trilogy or the genre), it has grown on me in its absence. I find myself thinking about it a month later, still considering some of the implications that didn’t have time to sink in when I was reading. I’d prefer, of course, having that space within the book itself, but I’m impressed that Roth managed to create a an ending that craves space long after I’ve put the story away.
For more about Veronica Roth, head over here.