Monday, September 12, 2016

ALLEGIANT // Discussion

Note: Please be advised, there will be DIVERGENT, INSURGENT, and ALLEGIANT spoilers in this post. SPOILERS, I TELL YOU. If you are interested in my spoilery DIVERGENT and INSURGENT discussions, you can find them here and here. Also, if you haven’t entered my blogversary giveaway, there’s still time to do that! And if, for some reason, you finish reading this post and feel sad because you have nothing new to read from me, feel free to hop on over to Victoria’s blog where I talk about what it’s like to have PSTD

Rating: Three Stars—Good

As with INSURGENT, I’m torn on the rating for ALLEGIANT. I have fond memories of this story. I have fond memories of this series. But I also have some problems with ALLEGIANT. All this makes it difficult to determine whether it deserves more or fewer stars than I am prepared to give. (Also, point of interest that has no real relevance to this topic: I am typing this post with one hand while making a cappuccino with the other. I just thought you should know what my priorities look like.) 

Since you’re potentially wondering about my opinions on the controversial ending, why don’t I save you the trouble of skimming to the end of the post and just cut to the chase now? (This has the added benefit of confusing those who have already skimmed to the end and now have no clue what is going on.) 

First of all, I can’t give you my initial reaction upon reading Tris’ death scene, because the ending was spoiled for me (inadvertently, and the culprit felt really bad about it) a year before I got around to purchasing a copy. This is partially my fault, as I have a tendency to arrive years late to the party. (And also because I overheard the spoiler in a conversation that did not include me. *awkward laugh* I heard my friend mentioning Tris, and my ears got too excited.) I’m not mad about this anymore, as I have a tendency to peek at the ending ahead of time, and thus would have probably spoiled myself if left to my own devices. (I am, however, still bummed about the time one of my sister’s campers spoiled me for the ending to THE FAULT IN OUR STARS on purpose. Accidents are one thing. It’s quite another when someone intentionally takes away the magic of surprise from another reader. #rude) 

However, my initial reaction upon hearing about Tris’ death was textbook denial. When someone tells me something of this nature, I have this annoying habit of assuming they’ve started taking stupid pills and have absolutely no clue what they’re talking about. Poor them. So misinformed. Clearly Tris is not dead. *distant sobbing* 

I am resigned to the truth now, of course. And I suppose it’s all for the best that I got spoiled, because that left me free to read Veronica’s explanation of why she chose to kill Tris before I actually got around to reading ALLEGIANT. If you haven’t already read her post, I recommend that you do so, the TL;DR version being that the death successfully completed Tris’ intended character arc. In INSURGENT, she wants to die for all the wrong reasons (mainly, guilt and self-loathing), whereas in ALLEGIANT she chooses to die for the right reasons, thus showing how her character has progressed over the course of the trilogy. (Also, here is another post related to the ending that's well worth reading.) 

All in all, as sad as it is, I don’t really mind that Tris dies, because I do think it lends a certain sense of realism to the story. So often main characters walk away from conflicts that should have killed them, and we know they only survived because the author didn’t want to kill their precious baby cinnamon roll. I get that. In my personal opinion, I don’t get frustrated when authors play favorites and save characters who should logically have died, mainly because I read for escape as well as for mental stimulation, and there are times when I just emotionally need a certain character to not die, please and thank you very much. But I’m also not going to cry foul when an author takes the realistic route. 

I do agree that, in some ways, Tris’ death wraps up her character arc quite nicely. However, here’s where I disagree somewhat. I felt her death lacked the emotional punch and sense of finality necessary for a completely satisfying ending, because I don’t think it was entirely meaningful or unavoidable. After all, Tris is willing to brave the dangers of the death serum in order to save Caleb’s life, thus completely forgiving him and putting an altogether different price tag on her own life. But then she makes it through the death serum unscathed, only to get shot down on the other side. She doesn’t need to get shot (or killed) to make the point—braving the death serum of her own accord (even if she lives) brings her character arc to a close. 

I think if there had been more explanation as to why David was there to head Tris off at the pass, I would have felt better about it. For instance, the thought that he was just waiting for her feels sloppy, since they could have just posted way more security to take her out even before she gets through the death serum. I think her death would have felt more inevitable and more justified if she had walked in on David actively preparing to release the memory serum. There would have been a greater sense of urgency, since she could have been shot trying to stop him. 

Another thing that naggles at me is that it’s relatively easy to avoid getting shot at point blank range if you know what you’re doing, because it doesn’t take long to close the distance and disarm the attacker, especially if he’s in a wheelchair. So it bothers me that Tris doesn’t try to take out the guy with the gun before turning her back on him. What did she think was going to happen? Didn’t she spend almost the entire first book in this trilogy learning to defend herself? 

I guess what bothers me most is that she gets shot in the back. If she was going to get shot, she should have been shot facing her enemy, actively working to take him out, instead of taking it on faith that he wasn’t going to pull the trigger. Because all the signs were there that he was prepared to kill her if he had to. After all, he commended her for being willing to let him get killed in order to protect the security codes to this very room in the first place. 

She fails to assess the situation. She gets stupid. She gets killed. I don’t like that. Not the getting killed part—the getting stupid part. I’m okay with deaths that happen because of stupidity, but not when they’re the deaths of beloved main characters. I feel like they deserve a little more respect than that. 

Okay, now let’s talk about what was going on while Tris was busy getting herself killed. 

Oh, right, Tobias was talking down a homicidal tyrant using puppy eyes and love. 

See, this is what I don’t buy. I don’t buy Evelyn, a hardened woman who has been exiled from her faction and separated from her family for over a decade, at the cusp of full control over the city that has never loved her and must now bow to her, suddenly going all soft and sentimental and choosing her absent, unforgiving son over the sense of power she has so desperately craved since probably the moment Marcus started hitting her. I certainly don’t buy her handing all this over to Marcus’ side in the name of love. Love is powerful yes, but not necessarily fast-acting. 

I also don’t like that the main conflict is resolved by a simple conversation. I don’t like the fact that everyone, each side with legitimate and long-standing grievances against the other, suddenly backs down and decides to act nice like this was all just some big misunderstanding. People are talented at many things, but they are especially good at prolonging conflict past the point of all reason. So their sudden capitulation makes the ending feel rushed and over-easy, like a suspiciously runny fried egg. 

Backing up a little timeline-wise, now that we have covered the climax, let’s talk about the connection between the slaughter of the Abnegation and David’s decision to reset the experiment. When it comes down to it, the whole point of the experiment is to produce more Divergents. It’s not about fixing human society or learning more about human nature. It’s just about somehow making two genetically-damaged parents produce genetically-corrected spawn offspring children. And then having this pattern repeat itself all over the entire city, until somehow humanity has righted itself. Even if we were to ignore the fact that damaged genes beget even more damaged genes rather than two wrongs making a right, there’s still a problem with this part of the book. Namely, WHY THE HECK WOULD DAVID ASSIST IN THE OBLITERATION OF THE FACTION WITH THE MOST DIVERGENTS? As I’ve already said, the whole point of this experiment is to produce Divergents. So why would you do something in the name of protecting the experiment that only delays the experiment’s successful conclusion? We call this behavior counterproductive, folks, and it’s normally frowned upon. 

Say I’m growing experimental potatoes, but I keep getting weeds, and they keep choking my plants. Also I have bugs, and they’re trying to eat all my experimental potatoes. #rude Do you suppose I should go through and fix the problem by plucking the weeds and killing the bugs, which would take time and effort but would ultimately save the largest amount of experimental potatoes that can be saved in this hypothetical? According to David, I should just, you know, take a blow torch to the whole thing in hopes of maybe having a few viable experimental potatoes at the end. Because in terms of money and resources, that’s the smartest option, right? Right? 


If David has the option of reseting the entire experiment (using the memory serum) in order to keep it from tearing itself apart, and if the biggest goal of having this giant petri dish of human amoeba is to make them reproduce, then he should have had no qualms about reseting the whole shebang when things started to go south in the first place, which was when the Abnegation leaders were planning to release information about the outside to the general public. A flick of the wand, some magic dust, and poof! Problem solved with minimum loss of Divergents. You’re welcome. 

On a related note, it also doesn’t make sense that our darling David would team up and supply simulation serums to Jeanine—the one woman most intent on rooting out and killing all Divergents (which, might I remind you, ARE THE ENTIRE STINKIN’ POINT OF THE ENTIRE FORSAKEN EXPERIMENT). *ahem* I am calm. 

ALLEGIANT was frustrating in other areas as well, namely, Tobias’ entire existence. In DIVERGENT, he is mentally strong and he is cool and enigmatic and pretty decent book-boyfriend material. In INSURGENT, he is less so, but whatever. I understand that the situation is a little more tense, and we all crack a bit under pressure. But come ALLEGIANT, he has progressed from a well-adjusted, capable male to a whining drama queen king. Little mister special snowflake gets his feelings hurt when the big, mean scientist tells him his genes aren’t as cool as Tris’ genes. A couple-hundred-page-long tantrum ensues. People die. 

Perhaps you are beginning to understand my frustration? 

Instead of being the Four that overcame his painful backstory to become the number one Dauntless initiate of his year (as well as the initiate with the fewest fears of ever), he becomes the spoiled brat who can no longer function as he has before because he’s not as special as he thought he was and suddenly he’s fearful and insecure about everything. Perceptive, intelligent Four becomes weak-willed, petty Tobias who allows himself to be led on and used by a woman with very clear, very bad intentions. Yet, despite all this, Tris pulls the “he sharpens me, we sharpen each other” line. Like, no you don’t. You spend most of your time fighting about petty things, not communicating about the important stuff AT ALL, and lying to each other half the time. And when you warn him about not doing the stupid thing, he accuses you of jealousy and then proceeds to do the stupid thing. You do not sharpen each other. You are not good for each other. You two are a toxic combination, and your continued affection for each other does not make sense to me. Tris, you need to ditch the manchild and date Matthew. (Ignore that last line. I got a little overexcited.) 

In somewhat-related terms, the whole main thrust of the story seems to be making the point that there is really no difference between those who are genetically damaged and those who are genetically pure, that human nature is universal and inescapable, no matter your genes. I would be onboard for this message if it weren’t for the teeny, tiny, slight issue where the majority of GDs in ALLEGIANT do stupid, irrational, dangerous things while the majority of GPs do rational, helpful things that don’t involve accidentally blowing up their friends. I get that if you live in a culture long enough where you are told enough times that you are bad, you will be more likely to do bad things, because the human psyche is weird like that. And I understand the whole “us against them” mentality. But that doesn't happen with everyone. And Four is the new kid on the block, so what’s his excuse? (This is actually not a rhetorical question, as I am still on the fence here and am curious about your opinion on the matter.) 

And then my last issue has to do with the dual narrative. I could barely tell the viewpoints apart. I have a good memory, yet I kept forgetting which character’s head I was in because, after the first fifty pages or so, the two POVs became essentially identical. Even on my second reread, I kept wondering why Tris was suddenly a guy. My sister listened to the audiobook, which has a female narrator and a male narrator, and she kept getting them mixed up too, which is when you know you have a problem. 

In conclusion, I realize that I spent this entire post talking about negatives. There are definitely parts of ALLEGIANT that I loved (otherwise I would have given it one star, not three), but this post is already super long, so I don’t have time to cover the positives. I guess you could just assume that I liked most everything else in the story, for the meantime. And maybe eventually I will revisit this discussion and talk some more about the DIVERGENT trilogy. 

What are your thoughts, my little coffee beans? What do you think about ALLEGIANT? What problems did I miss? What were your favorite parts? Which is your favorite book in the trilogy? What do you think of the movie version?


  1. I've been a pretty silent reader for a while now, but this post was really good and I agreed with it so much!

    These posts have been very interesting to me because I just finished reading the series over the summer for the first time. I loved the first book and really disliked the other two. Especially the ending...and until now I could not articulate why I disliked it so much. I just knew that it was okay to kill a main character off, and it can be done well, but Tris's death was not done well. Everything you said about it in this post really helped me better understand what I didn't like about it, so thanks for taking time to articulate something I couldn't.

    And the dual-perspective thing drove me CRAZY too!! I would get so confused like...wait...Tris is referring to herself on third person now??

    Anyway, great post as usual!

    1. Hi there! Silent readers are cool too! :)

      I think it's interesting that that seems to be a common consensus. For a while I wondered if I was just being a disgruntled bean. :P I'm glad I could help you articulate your feelings about these books! :D

      I know--is Tris going crazy? What is happening? XD

      Thank you, and thank you for commenting! :)

  2. Dude, I wasn't a big fan of Allegiant, either. I didn't like the dual perspective either :/ I didn't see much point.

    Date Matthew xD Well, he was good looking and intelligent. So... yeah xD (Personally, I feel that Tris should stay single but you didn't hear that from m-)

    The ending does seem kind of lazy. However, I prefer this to The Hunger Games because The Hunger Games had some bits copied from Battle Royale.

    1. *high fives* We're twins! :P

      He is pretty good looking, and intelligence is always a winner. :D (Ooh, now there's a thought. I'm all on board for that.)

      Yeah. :( I would be interested to see if the parallels between The Hunger Games and Battle Royale were intentional or not. Because I know Suzanne Collins said she hadn't read BR when she wrote THG, but there are a lot of similarities. *squints at book* (I have to say, since I practically grew up on THG, I'm too nostalgic about it to get angry, but I do think I would be more in your camp if I had read it more recently, especially after I read BR.)

      Thank you for commenting! :)

  3. I love how you get so in-depth with your book discussions, and I wish I could remember more about this series, so I could properly discuss it with you. :p
    Here's what I do remember: the dual perspectives did not work for me either. I was also spoiled about Tris' death, but it was my own fault. I went looking for them because I was trying to decide whether or not to continue the series. I either really liked the way Insurgent ended and didn't see how any good could come from continuing or really didn't like it; either way, I wasn't sure I wanted to keep going with the series, so I read some spoilers to tell me whether or not it was worth it. I don't think it bothered me when I first heard it, but when I actually read the scene, I hated that Tris died, because, like you said, it truly did not have to be that way. Plus, I felt like Tris dying didn't really fix the problem? I can't remember all of my thoughts to explain that more fully, but I remember feeling as though her death wasn't as meaningful as it should've been So. All that to say, I can understand your mixed feelings about this book.


    1. Aww, thank you! It's so much fun to pull apart what I'm thinking and figure out how best to present it.
      Ugh, I spoil myself so often, and usually I don't mind, but sometimes I get super frustrated with myself. :P Yeah, when I first hurt it, it bothered me, but it didn't make me angry. And after a bit of thinking, I had decided that it would be okay. Then I read it. :P

      Same, I've read the book three times, and I still haven't figured out why Tris' death was absolutely necessary for moving the plot forward.

      Thank you for commenting! :)