I’m going to go ahead and assume that if you’re reading this review, you’re probably familiar with the first two books in this series, Divergent and Insurgent. If you’re not, you should read them. Because they’re good, and because if you don’t I’m probably going to spoil something for you in this review of the final book in the series, Allegiant.
There’s a certain challenge involved with reviewing the final book in a popular series. I loved Divergent. I liked, but did not love, Insurgent. Coming in to Allegiant, I had a certain set of expectations for what I hoped and expected from the series, which makes it hard to review the book on its own merit. It will always be in the context of the series, and I don’t think there’s any way around that.
If you don’t remember what happened at the end of Insurgent, I’d recommend a re-read, as Allegiant picks up right where Insurgent left off. Erudite headquarters has been taken over by Factionless leader Evelyn (Four’s mother), who has forced the factions to disband and is apparently just as power-hungry and misguided as Tris’s former nemesis and now dead Erudite leader, Jeanine.
Despite news of a world outside the fence, Evelyn wants to keep everyone inside the city, factionless and under her rule. Very quickly a group of curious rebels assembles to try to re-instate the faction system and, simultaneously, send a group to investigate what’s happening on the other side of the fence. It’s no surprise that Tris and Four are a part of that group, and they set out to explore the mysterious land outside the city. From there our characters get loads of answers to questions readers have had since the beginning, but these answers bring up a whole new set of issues to deal with.
A couple of things right of the bat – First, I was incredibly pleased with how quickly the action picked up in Allegiant. After just a few chapters our main characters are already taking action, and it doesn’t stop. Second, it took some time to get used to the narrative perspectives alternating between Tris and Four instead of coming exclusively from Tris. In my mind, this was one of the weakest parts of the novel. It was too hard to distinguish between Tris and Four because their voices felt too much alike. However, it was entirely necessary from a logistical perspective to do this, so I think it was a good choice overall – I just wish there had been more care put into distinguishing their narrative voices.
That aside, Allegiant does a great job of elegantly addressing a variety of mysteries that have surfaced throughout the series. I don’t want to elaborate too much to avoid anything remotely approaching a spoiler, but as a reader I felt like the origin of the faction system was explained very well (and reasonably realistically) and the story itself gets adequate resolution. I imagine it’s difficult to put together a book that both resolves everything that’s happened in two previous books and also provides its own engaging hook, and Roth pulls that off really well. Allegiant is a satisfying story in its own right, but it also does due diligence as far as tying up the series as a whole.
There were times when I was reading and I felt a little bit of déjà vu from when I read Mockingjay. There is, for a large portion of the book, a similar sense of unrelenting pessimism. However, what saves Allegiant is the clear character growth. Tris and Four have been through a lot, but rather than becoming depressed shells of themselves (I’m looking at you, Katniss!), they still have some fight. While in Insurgent Tris was sometimes insufferably self-loathing and unmotivated, Allegiant sees Tris learning from all that she’s been through and dealing a lot more favorably with the nasty stuff the world continues to throw at her.
Honestly, aside from a few small gripes, I’m not sure Roth could have done much better in terms of wrapping up the Divergent series. But despite that, I’m still left feeling just a little underwhelmed. I really enjoyed Allegiant (probably more than Insurgent), but in little ways that I can’t put my finger on, it just felt different. It may have been the switching narrators, it may have been the change in setting – but there was just something about it that made me feel like it was a little bit removed from the story I read in Divergent and Insurgent. Or, more likely, that’s just the bittersweet feeling inherent with finishing the final book in a series. Either way, I absolutely was impressed and satisfied with how Roth brought closure to the series in Allegiant. The Divergent series as a whole is, for me, still one of the best YA dystopian series out there.