Friday, May 16, 2014

Allegiant -- A Book Review for Cautious Christian Moms

Veronica Roth had a great idea for a book series. Actually, she may have had a great idea for a book and then dragged it out into a series. An alternative title for the series might be:

The Divergent Trilogy: A Practical How-To Guide to Capitalizing on Teenage Girls' Emotions So Completely That They Don't Even Notice a Book is Poorly Written

The third book in the series, Allegiant, is the worst of the three, in my opinion, for a variety of reasons.

 -- A whole new mysterious world with its own set of rules and realities arises at the beginning of Allegiant--something I found initially to be intriguing and hopeful. However, this serves to introduce us to a myriad of new characters who seem very one-dimensional, flat, and unbelievable. How our "heroes" know to instantly trust some of them and distrust others is baffling.

-- A new writing format emerges. Tris, a sixteen year old girl and the main character, was the narrator for the first two books in the series, but in Allegiant her love interest, eighteen year old Tobias, takes alternating chapters to narrate himself. This was disconcerting at first, as I wasn't accustomed to hearing Tobias' perspective, but I accepted the idea in concept after a few chapters. Sadly, as the book dragged on, I noticed a marked sameness in the "voice" of the two main characters and had to continually look back to the title at the start of each chapter to remind myself of whose thoughts were being conveyed. Very little is accomplished by the switching out of narrators, except to provide an alternate voice for when one narrator is...ahem...unable to narrate any longer. (Yes, that is a bit of a spoiler there. Sorry. I'm guessing you aren't going to be running out to read this book anyway.)

-- In Allegiant, the main characters seem to break form with who we have always known them to be and how we have always known them to act, but with no justification given. Truly, it is as if the author has forgotten their character traits and expects us to forget, too. Tris, who was always so cautious, guarded and careful, begins to randomly trust strangers and repeatedly discusses top-secret plans right out in public where she could easily be overheard. Tobias, who was always self-assured, level-headed and strong, becomes filled with self-doubt and fear, unable to make decisions and act upon them. Also, after being forced to shoot a friend early in the series, Tris becomes terribly nervous around guns and panics every time she has to hold one in her hand--all the way until the climax of this last book, when she has no problem shooting her way through a crowd of "bad guys" with no mention of shaky hands or nerves at all. Tobias' distrust of his own mother--who has a well-deserved reputation for being two-faced and heartless toward him--suddenly disappears, too, and he is somehow willing to risk anything for her sake when she expresses that she loves him.

-- At the beginning of the series Tris is presented as a girl who is uncomfortable with physical affection and romance. She is reserved and guarded, protective of her body as belonging solely to her, and doesn't want anyone to push her into moving faster than she wants, physically. This was so refreshing to me! By Allegiant, however, she cannot wait to get alone and physical with Tobias. We know this because the author reminds us of it often and builds the sexual tension so completely that readers are likely relieved any time the two of them can finally get some time alone--one pushing the other up against whatever wall is handy--and then ultimately getting the opportunity to have a room to themselves overnight. The author treats this final physical scene more vaguely than the others, not defining what actually goes on in that room behind closed doors, but in the morning we find them in bed together, with clothes on the floor. Not much imagination is required. Incredulously, the fact that they finally had sex is never really mentioned again. There is no personal assessment or evaluation of whether or not this was a good idea or how they feel about what happened. It happened and we all just move on. It is presented as if it is inevitable and really no big deal at all. Nothing worthy of another thought. So disappointing.

There were other disappointments in the book, but frankly, I am tired of it, so I am going to leave it alone and walk away. I told Ellie about my frustration after I had finished previewing it. She was frustrated, too, but was so invested in the series that she wanted to be able to read for the plot. She asked me to find a way to cover up the "kissy parts" (and worse) so she could read for actual plot-advancing content. I cut heavy card stock to size and double-side taped it over the scenes she didn't want to read.

Again, this is not because I am a prude and want my daughter to know nothing of human sexuality. On the contrary, I want my daughter to know more than most of her peers, namely, that human sexuality is an incredibly beautiful thing that was designed to flourish best within the confines of a long-term, committed relationship, i.e. marriage. In other words, there is no sense in trying to see how much fire one can play with in the middle of an open, dry prairie on a hot and windy day--without igniting a brush fire. Playing with fire recklessly is ignorant and foolish, and I want my daughter to be smarter than that. Fire is a wonderful, beautiful thing, though, when properly contained in a fire ring or a woodstove, or as part of a controlled burn by the fire department or forest service. The same is true with human sexuality.

She read the book and said it was ok, but not great. In my accounting, that is a generous evaluation. Had I known at the beginning where it was going to end, we would have never wasted our time. If you, reader, haven't started yet, don't bother. It's not worth it.

To read my reviews of the other two books in the series, click here.


Don Gilman said...

Great review! Emily and Brianna had the exact same reaction. In their words, they felt "disappointed and cheated."

Dave S. said...

I know ... Really? So disappointed! Julie and I borrowed the books from extended family and felt much the same. The last book would be better used as a door stop!

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