Allegiant, by Veronica Roth
Reading this book, the last book of the Divergent Trilogy (which has four books if you count the series of short stories told from the perspective of Four, which I have not read yet but may read in the future), there is a bittersweet sense of loss and completion . Being an avid reader of dystopian teen fiction (there are so many reasons for this), I have noticed a certain set of patterns related to the most popular members of that particularly popular subgenre of literature. The pattern is that when idealistic and decent young people rise up and help create a better and less corrupt world than the one they were born into, there are harrowing prices to be paid. Good and decent people will die–here it is one of the main characters, and a particularly noble one at that–and furthermore, those who survive into the new and better world will be horribly damaged by their experiences. I cannot help but feel that this sort of fiction appears to educate young people both on the need to retain a sense of hostility to the sort of corruption that comes from the adult world, including abusive parents (but also including noble and self-sacrificial ones, showing a great deal of complexity), along with a realistic sense of the price that is to be paid for nobly standing up against the evil that is around us. One wonders how much the lesson sinks in; in reading such fiction I find a lot of people not very different from myself, people whose personal life bears the scars of choosing to stand up against evil and face the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that result from such a stand.
This novel is particularly jarring, simply because it contains a series of seemingly non-stop uprisings where the main characters are uprooted from their home city in search of a mission that ends up being a lie that leads them into a further corrupt world that is a small part of a still larger corrupt world that reveals their own lives as being experimental subjects dealing with the problem of genetic damage. What purports itself to be a better society is still a deeply hierarchical and unjust one that actively hides the existence of warfare among regular human beings as a way of preserving a two-tier system of society that shows a harsh divide between haves and have nots. The result is that this novel features a baffling and complicated series of uprisings in the search for justice that ends up in the sacrifice of some people and an ultimately rewarding ending that provides new hope for the future, and also plenty of damages for those who remain. We need our hope tempered with a realistic understanding of the price of seeking justice and truth in a world that does not appear to value either of them to any great degree.
It is unclear what exactly the reading audience of this book will get out of this book. The political truths of this novel come about as a rather sudden and uncomfortable element to the largely self-contained world of the first two novels, and they would appear to bolster concerns about government espionage on its citizens as well as propaganda, symbolic of our immense cultural mistrust of government. For those who want to see Tris and Four make out, there are a lot of makeout scenes, most of which attract fairly juvenile comment from the other characters. There is a lot of family drama as well, and some comments about various social issues. There is so much going on, so insistently, that it is uncertain exactly whether the author believed that romance is merely something that happens in the middle of all of the other drama of our lives. There are precious few models of happy relationships for young people to emulate, given the massive mood of crisis that fills this entire book from beginning to end. This book is already a fairly long one, but it would have been good to see some better role models about how people are supposed to live after successfully dealing with the problems of our world. This is, admittedly, a small quibble, as this novel is probably satisfactory, with one notable exception, to the majority of its readers.
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