Friday, June 6, 2014

Allegiant by Veronica Roth

Main characters:  Tris and Tobias
Location: Chicago and surrounding area
Time period:  sometime in the future
Genre: YA Fiction, Dystopian Fantasy
Series: Divergent trilogy, Vol. 3

Back when I was a YA librarian, I snatched up and read the first two books in this series, Divergent and Insurgent, as fast as they came out.  This one wasn't published until after I changed jobs, so I am coming late to the party in reading it.  I'm also coming to it with the ending already spoiled for me. Did that affect my enjoyment of it? I honestly don't know.

I did have a harder time getting into this volume to begin with.  Jeanine, the Erudite villain of the first two books, has been defeated and the faction system is teetering.  The factionless, the group of unwanted people who always reminded me of India's untouchables, have finally decided to throw off their shackles, so to speak, and try to take some power for themselves.  They are led by Evelyn, Tobias' mother who abandoned him when he was a child.

At first, the conflict seems to be the one between the factionless and the Allegiant--the remnants of the remaining factions brought together in a common purpose at last.  But then there is also the Edith Prior video, with the enticing hint of others living outside of Chicago.  Tris wants to go outside, following the directions left by her previously unknown ancestor.  Tobias (I still want to call him Four) is torn by the desire to stay with his mother.  But Caleb's life is in danger because of his association with Jeanine and, despite his betrayal, Tris wants to help him.  So they escape to the outside and discover the Bureau of Genetic Welfare, housed in what used to be Chicago's O'Hare airport.  There they learn that they have been unwitting parts of a massive genetic experiment.

The previous books had such sharp focus that this one seemed to me to be a little diffuse, and that made it hard for me to get into it.  A new location and a new collection of characters have to be dealt with and there was a lot of exposition before we find that we have to fight the same fight yet again.  Tris and Tobias are both distracted by unexpected revelations--Tris learns that her mother came from here, from the Bureau, and was inserted into Chicago before her Choosing Day and continued to send reports back to the Bureau, and Tobias is shattered to learn that he is not really Divergent.

I was a little surprised at how hard Tobias took the news that he was, in the parlance of the Bureau, genetically damaged.  Then I remembered that he had spent his childhood abused, both physically and mentally, by his father.  (Marcus' abuse of Tobias and Evelyn also colors her motives in leading the factionless back in Chicago.)  Joining Dauntless was his first act of defiance against Marcus and he had slowly built up an independent and strong life, but he never quite shook the belief that he was not good enough--and now his genes seem to be confirming that.

The book finally picks up in the latter part when Tris and Tobias learn that the Bureau, believing that the experiment in Chicago has failed, is going to reset it--by erasing everyone's memory.  Finally the focus sharpens again as they come up with a plan to save their family members back home, but to do it in a way that avoids a violent revolt.

It's always difficult to end a series, especially when it has built an enthusiastic fanbase.  Expectations are riding high and how a reader wants it to end may not match the author's vision.  I heard a lot of reaction from people who did not like the ending of Allegiant, but I did.  The groundwork was laid out so that it wasn't a complete surprise (but I had been spoiled ahead of time so that also reduced the shock), and I think it showed how both Tris and Tobias had grown and developed through the series.

I checked out Allegiant from my library collection.

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