THERE WILL BE SPOILERS FOR THE BOOK ALLEGIANT BY VERONICA ROTH—PLEASE STOP HERE IF YOU PLAN TO READ IT.
Another week, another fandom meltdown.
In some ways it’s justified. In others, not so much.
The biggest controversy over Allegiant by Veronica Roth, the final book in the young adult dystopian series that started with the novel Divergent, is not the worst thing about it.
It’s not good, but not for the reasons most fans are flipping out over it.
Some fans are already writing up PETITIONS (groan!) to demand Roth rewrite the ending. Some are actually tracking her down at book signings and complaining to her face-to-face. Some are being total jerks about it, hiding behind the anonymity of the internet to say some hateful things about her, which is not cool, EVER.
The Divergent universe is author Roth’s to do with as she pleases. I’m not a fan of readers treating books like a game of Mad Libs, where they think they should have the right to command the story come out the precise way they wanted it to.
That’s as far as I’m going to go in defending the book. Because while some of the reaction is entirely inappropriate, it doesn’t change the fact that I found it deeply flawed.
I truly enjoyed the first book in the series, Divergent, which set up an intriguing dystopian society and a terrific main character, Tris. Roth’s dystopian society, divided into factions—Abnegation, Dauntless, Erudite Amity and Candor—and set in a real city, Chicago, felt very fresh.
I was less enthralled by its follow-up, Insurgent, feeling that it meandered too much, but chalked that up to the “sophomore curse.” I still had high hopes for the final book, which were quickly dashed.
Here are my major problems with it:
1. An aura of complaisancy. There’s no other way to put it: it seems as though Roth phoned this one in.
Everything that bothered me about Insurgent was magnified in Allegiant. Too many new and unmemorable characters, too much exposition (more on that later) and way too much internalizing by the characters made it very difficult to slog through the book. There seemed to be far less care taken with the writing style. Most of all, it felt unfocused.
Some other reviewers have mentioned that the book felt a lot like a first draft. I have to agree with that assessment. I doubt Roth made a conscious choice to coast through this last book because it was a guaranteed best-seller. Perhaps it was rushed to market by the publisher so the complete trilogy would be available for sale by the time the movie version of Divergent is released next year. Whatever the reason, the result is a less-than-stellar effort.
2. Exposition dumps galore. I have already written a couple of times about how much I loathe exposition-heavy books. This book is a wall-to-wall exposition dump, with the explanation of how the dystopian society came to be changing more than once.
When I think about some of my favorite dystopian novels—1984, Brave New World, The Hunger Games, This Perfect Day—I notice they all have one thing in common: there is not a lot of time spent on explaining how the dystopian society came about. Sure, in some great dystopians there are plot twists where the world turns out to be far different from what the characters think it is. But there isn’t a ton of exposition—whole chapters, even—devoted to explaining it.
Roth is far from the only dystopian author who has done this—I had a similar reaction to Hugh Howey’s Shift, which is a prequel that explains (in excruciating and sometimes slightly goofy detail) how the dystopian world in his books Wool and Dust came about.
I really hope this is not the beginning of a trend.
3. Sudden change in the story’s format. Unlike the other two books, Roth chose to alternate between Tris and Tobias’ points of view.
I have no problem with an author who does this. In fact, I quite enjoyed another YA series, Across the Universe by Beth Revis, which alternated point of view between the hero and heroine.
However, in that case it was done from the first book. Also, Revis gave her two main characters very distinctive voices.
Roth did not do this in Allegiant. I listened to the audiobook, which had a female and male narrator voicing Tris and Tobias. Even so, I couldn’t help being struck by how similar they sounded. There are complaints in reviews by those who read it in book format that they sometimes lost track of which POV the story was in at any given moment.
4. Character arc that’s not really an arc. Here we come to the issue that has driven many fans to utter distraction (AGAIN, BIG SPOILER WARNING): she kills off her main character Tris.
I admire authors who have the cojones to kill off major characters—WHEN it’s appropriate to the story AND when it’s an important part of their character arc.
Neither is the case in Allegiant.
Tris’ sacrifice is not truly necessary and does nothing to increase our understanding of her (we already knew she was brave enough to sacrifice herself; she came close several times throughout all three books) nor is it an example of her character’s growth (ditto).
When Sydney Carton in Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities sacrifices himself by taking his friend’s place at the guillotine, it’s a true character arc because he started out the story as a lazy alcoholic who saw no meaning to his life. By saving his friend, he goes to his death believing his life was worth something. His sacrifice satisfies both the internal and external conflict of the story.
Again, I have no problem with a main character—even THE main character—being killed off. I do have a problem when it serves little real purpose other than to make readers angry.
It’s possible to have a true character arc over a trilogy—an example would be Luke Skywalker’s in the first Star Wars trilogy. Luke had to struggle throughout with his hatred for Darth Vader, which threatened his development as a true Jedi. It felt like a natural progression of his character when he tried to save him. Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars prequels, on the other hand, had an arc into villainy that felt forced and artificial.
Tris’ arc as a sacrificial, almost Christ-like figure also suffers from feeling forced and artificial.
5. The story effectively ends—and then keeps going for several chapters. As if that’s not enough, there’s an epilog. All of it loaded with more exposition.
6. Deep misunderstanding of reader expectations. As I said, it’s absurd on one level for readers who were upset by the ending to demand a new, happy one.
On another level, it’s not so absurd.
A pitfall Roth avoided was creating a love triangle, one thing I loved about Divergent. The reason I don’t like triangles is you’re automatically setting up a large portion of your readership for disappointment by the ending.
However, Roth set up a romantic couple that was, well, kind of romance-y.
And people generally expect a romance-y love story to have a happily ever after.
I am not one who demands a HEA every time, far from it—but if you condition your readers to expect one, you can’t be too surprised when there’s a strong pushback.
Perhaps if Roth had eschewed or toned down the romantic storyline, fewer readers would have been angered by the ending.
I’ve said it before and still believe it: it’s impossible to make everyone happy. Sometimes I feel both readers and TV viewers fetishize the endings of series a wee too much. I can’t help thinking in this case, though, that if everything else about the novel had been on point the level of negative reaction against it would not be this high.
Have you read Allegiant yet? Was your reaction to the ending and the novel in general positive or negative? Let us know in the comments!
44 thoughts on “Why Allegiant by Veronica Roth Didn’t Work For Me—It’s Not The Reason You Think”
My view on Allegiant: http://reading7mandy.wordpress.com/2013/10/26/the-ending-of-allegiant-spoilers/
I think you make an excellent point about someone major having to die at the end of the series. This is a war story, after all, and just like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, it would have really rung false if no major character had died. In fact, when I first heard the ending was controversial, I assumed it was Four who would die.
Thanks for sharing!
Not only do I despise Veronica Roth i refuse to buy any more of her products and the fact that she is makin more money off of Tobias’s story now sickens me. I never knew a book could cause me this much pain.
Wholeheartedly agree, I have never felt so depressed over a book. I don’t get what she actually wants to prove. Does she think that readers would only understand certain themes through Tris’ death? If so, how come we’ve learnt so much from other series where the protagonists live? Tris’ death signifies something far greater than just a character death, its readers’ hopes and dreams crushed and destroyed, in the same way as this gorgeous and promising plot.
I totally agree about a main character’s death needing to fit into their character arc. If the death has no purpose to character development, then it just feels like the author is yelling “SEE HOW EDGY AND DARING I AM?! I am totally a legitimate author now.” while totally missing the point of what makes a good author. Namely a story with growth and purpose for its characters. On the other hand, I don’t really mind killing off recurring side characters without making it part of their development, especially in fictions with war in them. People have to die for realism and sometimes those deaths are pointless. But if the book is all about (or mostly about) a certain character, then the character arc needs to feel complete for a good ending.
With that said, I also hate hate hate the readers who have PETITIONS to change the endings of books. Just because you bought the book doesn’t mean you own the story itself. Just write a bad review and move on.
Oh, yes, every time people start talking about petitions, I’m almost embarrassed to be a part of the fandom. It’s perfectly O.K. to be unhappy and to voice ones feelings (as long as it’s not a personal attack against the author), but that’s the story and it’s not going to change. And if people absolutely insist on a different ending, the obvious solution is fanfic.
Thanks so much for commenting!
While I’m not one who climbs on the petition bus, I have to disagree in part about readers having no ownership in a story. From the first moment, a story is never completely the author’s alone. Friends and editors all have a part in developing the story, and the readers who buy the books are the only reason that the author is successful. When you write a book intending to sell it on the market, you do have some responsibility to your readers to write a good story. You hook your readers with a certain formula. In Dystopian novels, at least those we’ve been used to recently, it is about the underdogs triumphing over those in power. The main character survives and inspires modern-day women with their strength. Modern day girls these days still very much need strong, female characters. On top of that, these stories are about growth. Tris continues to make the same mistakes that upsets Four so much. That said, I can only judge Allegiant on heresay. I refuse to read it. There’s another author whose last book I’m refusing to read, as wel,l for the same reason. There are books where it is acceptable to kill off your main characters. But in my opinion, this isn’t one of them.
I did not like Allegient. I liked the first 2 books and had high expectations for the third. It was boring. It lacked momentum. The characters that were dynamic felt flat. Adding Tobias POV was a mistake. In my opinion it turned a strong character into a weak one that I no longer had an interest in reading about. On the whole by the time the book came to an end I did not care what happened to them I was just glad it was over.
I completely agree!! Tobias became such a weak and vulnerable character to the readers after Allegiant, and although I understand that characters have their weak points, the author built Tobias’s character so strongly from the beginning that I almost thought the Tobias in Allegiant was a different character.
I really don’t like the ending, it wasn’t necessary and didn’t add to the story, it just made me cry. I think petitions are pointless because even if the writer did rewrite the ending then A) it would no longer be their vision and story, and B) I would always know that that was not how it really ended. Also, the fact that I am so devastated over Tris’s death just shows that Veronica is a very powerful author to be able to make me feel grief and hurt. What’s done is done, but for me, the trilogy are ruined as I can’t even think about them without getting very upset 😦
She created a great character–no question. If she had composed a death for her that, as you say, added something to the story, I could have dealt with it. It just didn’t do Tris justice.
Hate the ending
Great review! I finished Allegiant last night, and am almost 30 years old. I never knew a book could make me hurt so bad.
I don’t mind if a book hurts me–but it has to feel earned.
Here are my Top 5 complaints about “Allegiant” http://salexmartinauthor.blogspot.com/2014/04/why-allegiant-is-worst-ending-to.html
It was just a terrible final book…gahhhhh. The Divergent movie was excellent, though!
Love your post! Next time I have trouble coming up with a title, I’m coming to you for help!
Yes, I liked the movie, too. Makes me sad. So much potential…
Ha! I’ll be waiting (to help you with titles 😛 )
And yeah…I didn’t even want to see the movie, but I caved and don’t regret it. But I won’t see Allegiant. They’d have to completely change the story in order for me to go, and the chances of that happening when Roth herself is one of the exec producers is slim to none.
I just started following your blog so forgive me if you’ve already covered this, but I’d like to see you write your opinion on the demise of so many characters in the Harry Potter series. I felt very similar to losing some of them in that many were necessary. I enjoy your writing style. Nice post!
Thanks! I will definitely consider that!
Hated it!! I just felt that their relationship made them both stronger as people! Tris and Four were very strong in spirit in the first two books but by the middle of allegiant I was annoyed with them. It just did not feel like the same characters from the first two books. In The Hunger Games Triology it seems like Katniss grows as a character and i did not feel that with Tris. Yeah ok maybe sometimes killing a main character works but not here it still feels very unfinished!! Allegiant feels very rushed. It could have been so much better. I also think Four deserved a much better ending. Very disappointed in the death of Tris but also the overall story!
I know a lot of people who hated it would disagree, but the Prequel Trilogy would have been better if it had been longer.
In April l took two teenage girls, sisters, and four of their cronies to “Divergent”. The ladies departed the theater Tris fans.
I purchased the trilogy as a three book matching set and gave them to the sisters.
A week later their mother called and ask me over asap. I found her 16-year old, not just crying but on her knees sobbing. The sister was not far behind. They were in book 3 and read into Tris’s murder. About 50- pages from the back cover and the main character, a teenager, is shot to death? What was that all about?
In my career as a fire/rescueman l had a teenage girl, gunshot, die in my arms. It was a horrific, bloody, nightmare then and is for me now twenty years later.
I understand the girls tears.
The books are gone. The girls mother has even forbidden the authors name in her home.
I completely understand the girls’ POVs. If Veronica Ross ever sees this post, she should know that THIS is how her fans are being affected.
I, too, didn’t see the necessity for Her death. I wish I hadn’t read beyond Divergent. Now I can’t find a way to forget how hurt I feel, not only with the ending of Allegiant but with the trilogy as a whole.
I too didn’t like that horrible ending and i don’t want Verónica change the book what i want is that they change the end in the movie cuz i cried reading the book and i don’t want that for the movie. Maybe if they don’t change it a lot of people won’t see the movie. Does someone knows if they will change it of not?
I think they plan on it.
Who else was pissed. So, after Tris and Tobias go through so much to be together. (Spoiler) She dies. Look up the five stages of grief. I got to mad, and stayed there after, about, eight or nine months. Yeah that pissed. So check out some alternate ending to not try and kill Veronica. I have been writing letters to her. Please do the same. My theories are a) Under enough fan pressure she will right another book. b) She will realize how dumb it was on her own. But, please. Do it. WILL help. I promise.
Like you said, nothing against main characters dying (I am a big ASOIAC fan) but Tris dead had no reason, no place, no nothing!!! Just made me hate the end of the book, what never happened before in the other 1000 of books that I read in my life.
She made you fall in love with the couple and hope they do be happe after because they fuck deserve that! She was mean… and I will try to create in my mind an alternative endto sleep well tonight
Well, I didn’t like Allegiant, but not for Tris’s sacrifice. Here are my 5 reasons:
1. Entirely new plot that undermined the previous two books.
2. I couldn’t tell who was who (I read it in book form).
3. The weird convoluted plot line.
4. I thought Tris & Four’s relationship was just them lying/betraying one another and then forgiving them like “oh, it was nothing, I know you feel bad for eating my cake!” or something trivial like that.
5. I respect Roth for her decision to kill off Tris, but it was done wrong. I mean, there should have been something more. It was kind of stupid. I mean, she had her gun, there was an untrained man… ???
Thanks for another awesome post 😀
I personally enjoyed Allegiant. I do agree that Divergent was the best book of the series but I don’t believe Allegiant was terrible. It just wasn’t the way most people expected and disappointed many. However, I love Roth’s story and I can’t hate it.
I’m glad to hear from somebody who liked it! I think the strong reaction to the final book is because so many of us really liked Roth’s heroine and the world she created. Yes, we were disappointed, but I’m not totally surprised that there are those who still love the entire series.
I finished reading Allegiant last saturday. I’ve loved all three books and I still love them. But I’m upset with the finale (that fucking last 50 pages). Three days are passed away and I still think about Tris and Tobias. This is not a good thing for my personal health. If I had to think like an abnegiant I would think that Veronica is a selfish! I think I wont to see Allegiant’s movie..It would hurt me too much, again. Greetings for Italy!
Seriously this is an awesome book… but sad… I won’t post a spoiler but lemme tell you something terrible sad happens. Otherwise this book is AWESOME! Hats off to Veronica Roth!
So I’m behind on reading these I guess. I read divergent and was blown away. I had a couple little things that bugged me here and there ( religion in a society built for no confrontation, really?). Overall I was blown away though. Insurgent I was entertained, but did find myself not as engrossed. Roth started to wander too much on things that had no bearing. This last one though, money was made, pressed for time, here’s a story take it or leave it. Tris died, and for no reason. It really made no sense to me. Roth has skills. Talent I’ll never have and admire. But to end a trilogy that had such potential in this way left me wishing I’d never picked up the first one.
I love this review. You nailed all the problems with the book. And it was crazy how this is what she came up with when it comes to the importance of being Divergent. All the possibilities and it just comes down to having better genes. What a shame.
I agree with you in regards to why Tris’ death does not work. It’s not simply that she dies, it’s that it serves no purpose. It can not be said that the outcome (how society ended up) could not have happened any other way, it didn’t change our understanding of her and her sacrifice did not make any of the lives of the other characters better. The post-Tris life of Tobias is downright depressing. Essentially it sucked all of the life, all of the things that made him interesting and the things that made the readers love the character, out of Tobias. The worst part of the book wasn’t her death, it could be said that it was everything about ending, especially everything that happened after she dies. Perhaps some of us might not have felt so let down if her “sacrifice” (which occurred because this super savvy character went in completely unprepared) ended up making the lives of those around her, the characters we care about, better. If Tobias was able to see the value in her sacrifice (if it had really been necessary it would have helped in this area), he might have been able to move on despite his tremendous sorrow and use the experience to be an even better person. But, I can’t be the only individual who found him to be a ghost of himself in the end.
I’ve enjoyed the Divergent movies and viewed it as an opportunity to reimagine the books that I also enjoyed before I was left with an unpleasant memory of the ending. But, if the second Allegiant movie follows the same course, I will not subject myself to walking out of a theater feeling empty. We read books and immerse ourselves in the darkness of a theater to feel moved, transported and enriched. I didn’t feel any of that the first go around and I’m not going to do it all over again.
I agree. Tris’s self-sacrifice was supposedly ‘selfless’. But it isn’t death that makes us grieve, it’s loss. I thought Tris would have been intelligent enough to realise that after all she had done, she deserved a happy ending with Tobias, Christina and the rest. Caleb had never truly bonded with them as well as she did either- after all, he would have let her die. It’s safe to say that Tobias cared more about Tris than Caleb did, but Tris still chose Caleb’s happiness over Tobias’s. It might have just been because Tris wouldn’t be able to bear the grief of Caleb dying, so she let everyone else grieve for her. It wasn’t a very good decision, but I understand that Roth didn’t want to make Allegiant another Mockingjay or Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. However I still stand by my opinion that the death of Tris seemed forced. Yo be honest, it would have been more powerful if Tris and Tobias both died together…
I KNOW THE REAL REASON EVERYONE (including me) IS MAD AT VERONICA!!!!! its not because of the detail or the ending its about power Veronica gives the reader…. the book Hunger Games is in Katnes’s perspective, but what if it was in 3rd person? It would feel as if we count tell Katness what to do next. In Allegiant it switches from Tobis’s perspective to Triss’s making the reader confused about the control they have. That it why the book sucks.