It is difficult to express how this series has left me feeling. I went from enjoying the series to passionately disliking it, all in the space of 526 pages. The problem is that I put my faith in the trilogy. I put my trust in the author. I put aside the problems I had with it, believing that my questions would be answered, my concerns would be quelled. I thought the Divergent trilogy would come to a satisfactory conclusion.
It didn’t. And now I feel used. I feel like I gave Veronica Roth a chance and she spat in my face.
So I will try my best to explain (spoilerlessly) why this book series was a kick in the shins for me, and you can decide for yourself whether or not you want to read it.
I’ll tell you this for nothing: if you had asked me yesterday if I recommended the series I would have said yes. Now that I have read Allegiant my answer is a firm no.
The series starts sometime in the future in the dystopian city of Chicago. Here, society is split into five factions: Dauntless the Brave, Abnegation the Selfless, Erudite the Intelligent, Amity the Peaceful and Candor the Honest. The story follows Tris, a teenage Abnegation girl who has reached the age where she has to choose which faction she belongs to. But each teenager has to pass a test in order to help them decide, and Tris finds out that she does not truly belong to any faction. She is…Divergent.
I wrote a four-star review of Divergent. Though I didn’t love it, I certainly enjoyed it. The writing style wasn’t bad, and the plot was action-packed with a tad of romance thrown in for good measure. Tris never grew on me as a character, and neither did her love interest, Four. Unfortunately they were stuck in limbo between being 2D and 3D characters. They just weren’t very interesting, and nothing seemed to define them apart from the fact that they were mildly badass and had the hots for each other. They didn’t do anything for me, and that can be said for each and every supporting character in the series: Veronica Roth just never managed to make her characters stand out.
But despite that, I felt that the plot of the first book was solid enough to make up for the lack of characterization. What I had a harder time overcoming was the underlying premise of the series.
There is minimal world-building in the Divergent series. Sure, we get to know the layout of Chicago, but we know absolutely nothing about the outside world. Nothing. Which is especially important when you consider the five factions. I had immense difficulty believing how the hell any civilised society would succumb to such badly-formed structures. The very definitions of each of the factions are contradictory and it made me angry that Veronica Roth thought her audience was gullible enough to believe any of that shit was plausible. And then I thought, oh shit, they already do believe it. Just look at the five-star reviews…
But then it occurred to me: they get it. That’s the whole point! The whole point is that the factions are completely ridiculous! The whole point is that the characters don’t know anything about the outside world – maybe they don’t even know one exists! It’s all going to be explained! It will all make perfect sense!
So I relaxed a bit and whizzed through Book #2 Insurgent. It’s a whirlwind of a book, action-packed and full of thrills. I forgot my previous annoyance at the factions, I tolerated Tris and Four just fine. I became immersed in the thrilling plot and cute romance and enjoyed the second book much more than the first.
And then came the release day of the third and final instalment. Arguably the most anticipated book of the year, the squeals of fangirls could be heard the world over. Finally we were going to see outside of Chicago. We were going to get our answers! Everything was going to make sense and be awesome and we would laugh and cry and tweet about it endlessly.
So…we do get our explanation. It’s explained why we knew nothing of the outside world. It is explained why Chicago introduced factions. The explanation…is not terrible. I was hoping for something fantastic. It wasn’t, but I would have been okay with it if not for one thing…
The small matter of THE MASSIVE FUCKING PLOTHOLE.
Oh my God, Allegiant was a travesty. It should not have become this! The writing took a shocking turn for the worse: first person, present tense, alternating between two characters with nothing to differentiate them; they sounded exactly the same. Four becomes an effing weakling and Tris becomes an inexcusable hypocrite and made a decision that made me want to axe murder her. If all that wasn’t bad enough we have to go through chapter upon chapter of infodumping before the plot starts almost halfway through the book. Not joking, it takes 239 pages to reach the plot. That is not acceptable, Roth. Not on.
And as for the plot…
Everything is overshadowed by the fact that the entire premise of the book is based on a massive plothole. No really, it’s like a massive, crumbling sink-hole in the middle of a city. I had a massive problem suspending my belief in the first book because I had a problem with the premise. But I chose to have faith in the series and the author. I threw my logic out of the window and invited Veronica Roth to blow me away with her plotting genius.
But I can’t do it. I can’t do it again. I cannot accept this story when the entire goddamn setup is ludicrous!
Allegiant stumbles around, attempting to form a coherent plot, but in the end it all feels shoddy and wrong. The whole thing is just a fail. I didn’t give a shit about the ending (which, BTW, has the internet in a frenzy for some reason). It gave me no feelings, but if I was emotionally invested in the story I would have loved the ending. It’s different, it’s arguably controversial, it felt a bit forced and unnecessary but I always feel that the unnecessary in such situations brings meaning in itself. I can’t be any more clear than that without giving away spoilers. But I like how Veronica Roth ended it, though she could have executed it better.
That said, she could have executed the whole series a lot better.
She could have executed her main character before this whole debacle began and saved herself some dignity.
At the end of the day, this is my opinion, and I’m not the only one who can form one. The series is hugely successful and that must be for a reason. In fits of anger I find myself suspecting it’s thanks to readers who have yet to learn how to operate the parts of the brain that control rational thought, but I try not to think so judgementally. We all like different things and I don’t like shit books.
What I meant to say is we all like different things. I have read some incredibly good books in my time and they set the bar very high. Unfortunately any book that doesn’t measure up will be critiqued. Books that commit some of my subjectively unforgivable sins will be subject to my wrath, that’s just how it works.
I wince when I see a cliché. I am irked when a book is badly written. I am exasperated when characters are rubbish. I get majorly pissed off when I feel a book comes down on the wrong side of a very important issue. I get even more pissed off when a book’s plot or premise is ridiculous. But most of all, I hate that I put my trust in a book that I was already iffy about, and grew more and more excited as the final book’s release date drew nearer, only to have my hopes shattered.
To paraphrase Cartman, Veronica Roth should have taken me to dinner before I read Allegiant, because I like to be wined and dined before I get fucked.