Note: This is book three of a trilogy. Thus, while there are no spoilers for this book, there will necessarily be spoilers for the first two books.
Allegiant picks up a few days after the ending of Insurgent. The story takes place in a future community in former Chicago that had previously been divided into four factions based on the primary strengths of the populace. The factions are called (in an unfortunately grammatically inconsistent way) Erudite, Abnegation, Amity, and Dauntless. Those who exhibited characteristics of more than one faction were called Divergent. Now the factions have been disbanded by a group of faction rejects called The Factionless. Those who want the factions back have come together under the name The Allegiant.
Our two heroes and alternating narrators are former Dauntless members Tris (Beatrice) and Tobias (also known as Four). Tobias struggles with the knowledge that he has a set of awful parents, who are not only divorced, but who head opposing political parties as well: Marcus Eaton is head of The Allegiant, and Evelyn Eaton heads the Factionless.
Tris struggles with the death of her parents during the recent uprising, when Erudite attacked Abnegation. Tris’s Abnegation parents died in acts of selflessness and sacrifice, in true Abnegation fashion. Tris is desperate for their deaths not to have been in vain, which means that she thinks she needs to figure out what they were trying to do and do it for them.
In the meanwhile, Tris, Tobias and a group of friends leave the city to meet up with the Bureau of Genetic Welfare, an agency of the U.S. Government presumably dedicated to enhancing the life of all the survivors of the Purity Wars. These were civil wars waged between those with and without genetic alterations, and the wars killed almost half of the country’s population. But all is not well at The Bureau. Upon their arrival the friends discover that there is also an emergence of an allegiance of insurgence there as well….
A Lot That Is Not So Good:
The characters in the book keep making outrageous and impulsive decisions that entail drastic options, rather than considering, say, negotiation and compromise (except under the threat of death). Yes, some of them are just kids, but many of them have been classified Erudite. That just seems contradictory.
Characters change hugely in this book. Tobias, in Book One, was a tough, tough guy: confident, courageous, and strong. In this book, he’s weak and weepy. And his mother? Her metamorphosis at the end was literally unbelievable, almost laughable. Even Tris, who supposedly “grows” at the end and finds her purpose and identity, is really, it seems to me, just finding a more acceptable way to rationalize her reckless and headstrong behavior. Same wine, new label. I wasn’t convinced of her new maturity, only of her new glibness. Her reasoning for her last choice at the end of the book was particularly absurd; like Tobias’s mother, she suddenly chucked all her former convictions and emotions, and went against her previous instincts. (This is especially ironic since Tris has spent the whole book excoriating Tobias for not just following along blindly with her instincts, since she is convinced they are always right.) As for Tris’s brother Caleb, who knows? His character flipped back and forth almost as often as Tris’s attitude toward him (but no, the two didn’t always correspond).
And then there is the narrator alternation. I don’t mind this at all, as long as one can see a distinction between the characters. In this book, with the strange morphing of their personas, I kept having to turn back to the chapter beginning to figure out who was talking, Tris or Tobias.
Meanwhile, the world-building also took a hit in this book. We got lots of new “world” elements added in, but hardly any disquisition about them. What we do get is overly simplistic, almost caricatured.
So Why Do I Still Rate It 3?
I liked the first book a great deal, so I was attached to the characters. It was like The Hunger Games for me: each book seemed a little less good than the one that preceded it, and yet, how could you not read it? There’s also a nice bit at the end about figuring out what bravery really means, which is nothing like the Dauntless faction had presumed.
Evaluation: This is not a standalone, but definitely read this one if you are already invested in the series.
Published by Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2013