Allegiant

ImageI was 66 on the wait list at my local library for Veronica Roth’s third and final book in her Divergent series—Allegiant. But it was definitely worth the wait. Third books in trilogies make me nervous. They’re supposed to be the climax of the series, be bigger than the previous two books, and wrap up the story to give the reader closure and a sense of fulfillment. That’s a tall order, and often books fall short of pulling this off. I don’t think many people were pleased with the third Hunger Games book. The third Twilight book was the worst in the series, in my opinion. I approached Allegiant with trepidation. Veronica Roth had set herself up for an epic conclusion, but that also gave her high standards to achieve. Would she do it? Would Allegiant be all I hoped it would be? The quick answer is yes.

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Veronica Roth

To be perfectly honest, though I liked and enjoyed Divergent, a lot of the book annoyed me. It frustrated me that characters clung to their factions’ singular characteristics, like Dauntless was so into being fearless that they were not compassionate. I realize that this is one of the points Veronica Roth was trying to make—that to be too brave or too smart or too honest at the expense of kindness and compassion is a bad thing, and we should strive, as Tobias of the upcoming Divergent movie puts it, “I want to be brave, and I want to be selfless, intelligent, and honest, and kind.” But I found it difficult to read about characters who turned their backs on other people and left them for dead or to be cast out with the factionless. But I still found many good things in Divergent, so I read the second book, Insurgent. Insurgent, in my opinion, was better than Divergent. The characters started to realize that they shouldn’t sacrifice their compassion in order to succeed in their faction. Roth was also starting to really broaden the story, delving into questions about human nature, human relationships, government, morality, and all that good stuff. And then at the end of Insurgent, Roth laid the foundation for an epic third book.

Allegiant did not disappoint. Allegiant expanded on the themes Roth introduced earlier in the series, asking deep questions about human nature. She examines both the good and the evil found in each person, and is both optimistic and realistic about what she finds. Roth also develops her characters, making them grow as individuals and together in their relationships. Roth expands the scope of her book beyond the characters and beyond the city of Divergent. She looks at human nature itself and the world at large, successfully making Allegiant bigger than its two predecessors.

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Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James) in the upcoming Divergent movie.

There is enough action in Allegiant to make it a climatic end to Roth’s Divergent series. She also expands the story and the themes to be bigger than her first two books, making Allegiant epic and climatic. Readers get closure with a powerful and moving ending that is very well written. And most importantly, after so much conflict and hardship and struggle for her characters, Roth offers redemption in. After everything characters have been through, especially in dystopian stories, the author must offer something to give the characters and readers hope—to know that this was not all for nothing, that they will go on, that at the end of the story there is hope. Veronica Roth does that extraordinarily well.

Now that Divergent is behind her, it will be very interesting to see what Veronica Roth writes next. Though, for those of us unable to let go and move on from the Divergent trilogy, the movie Divergent is coming soon.

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Another (Enjoyable) Dystopian Book

Dystopian setting. Badass fighting heroine. Love triangle. I just described the entire Young Adult Fiction shelf at the library/bookstore, didn’t I? Okay, so there may be nothing incredibly original about Marie Lu’s popular trilogy—Legend, Prodigy, and Champion—but that doesn’t mean that Legend, and it’s subsequent books, isn’t enjoyable.

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Marie Lu

Legend takes place in a dystopian future where the United States is split into the Republic (i.e. the West Coast basically) and the Colonies (the East Coast). The Republic is ruled by an Elector and a Senate, with the Elector holding most of the power through a powerful military. Children, when they come of age, undergo a series of tests known as “trials”. These trials allegedly determine their aptitude and therefore their social status. For some people, like the female protagonist June, this isn’t a bad thing. June comes from a wealthy family who lives in a sanitary and safe district. She aced her trials, which landed her a premium spot at one of the Republic’s universities, and she has a promising career ahead of her.

Day, the male protagonist of the story, is the opposite of June. He comes from a family in a poor district, where disease and crime abound. He failed his trials, and narrowly escaped being killed because of it. Now he’s a criminal, a rather famous one, trying to support his mother and two other brothers. Though his background is very different from June, he soon finds that they have more in common than they realize when the death of June’s brother and only living family member throws them together. The Republic tasks June, it’s star prodigy, with tracking down Day, the Republic’s most infamous criminal, whom June believes is responsible for her brother’s death. But once June tracks down Day and spends some time away from her sheltered view of her country, she starts to realize that the Republic may not be all that it seems. Now in doubt of whom she can trust, June sets out to find the truth about her government, her brother’s death, and the criminal she’s becoming increasingly fond of.

ImageDystopian novels are all the range in the Young Adult genre, and not without reason. Dystopian settings provide a unique canvas for examining questions about governments, societies, and morality. Lu’s interpretation of a possible future for America is very interesting, with the East and West of the country divided, society divided into poor and rich sections, much like in Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games. Like many Dystopian novels, the government is portrayed as untrustworthy, an oppressive “Big Brother” entity. But even though this context is not an original setting for a story, Lu’s characters thrive in the story she’s given them. June and Day are typical YA characters, but their story is enjoyable. And, when the reader gets to the end of Prodigy and into Champion, Marie Lu will throw her readers an unexpected curveball in dystopian fiction—the characters are going to support the government instead of overthrow it!

Reform, not revolution. That is the most original aspect of Marie Lu’s trilogy. I recently finished the third and final book of the trilogy, and I quite enjoyed it. Lu’s characters are well-rounded and very human. They make mistakes, they fight for the people they love, etc. Lu asks interesting questions about how to structure societies, choosing the lesser of two evils, the benefits of reform over revolution. And the story is engaging. This isn’t a groundbreaking book series, but it is very enjoyable, especially for readers who are enjoying the current popularity of dystopian fiction.

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