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Review: ‘Allegiant’ by Veronica Roth

Allegiant_DemiJacket_WetProofTest.inddWere these books a trilogy? Because I feel like I’ve just read three different books. Allegiant was a terrible ending to a terrible series. It’s like Veronica Roth realised that her initial plot made no sense so she changed everything up and threw in a lot of action, fireworks, romance and unnecessary plot points just to make sure you didn’t notice! “What’s in your hand, back at me. I have it, it’s an oyster with two tickets to that thing you love. Look again, the tickets are now diamonds!”

Roth’s first mistake was attempting to switch first person view between Tris and Tobias. First of all, by changing the format it made the ending relatively obvious, and even more unfortunately she completely lacks the capacity to write a convincing male voice. Both Tris and Tobias had the same voice through their first person narrative, and that voice was distinctly female, and even more distinctly Tris. I had to go back to the beginning of the chapters a few times to remind myself who’s viewpoint I was meant to have. The voices were too similar.

The characterisation of Allegiant is poorly executed. Every character that isn’t Tris or Tobias is two dimensional and incidental. They serve no purpose, have no personalities, and basically exist to die to create false emotion so Tris has something new to cry about. Even Tobias and Tris have had their third personality iteration, so as I got to the end of the novel which should have left me a pathetic blubbery mess, I had pretty much run out of fucks to give, because I no longer felt that I knew any of the characters.

The thing that bothered me most was the completely warped morality. We’re meant to admire Tris for her bravery and selflessness, but she makes the exact same decisions as the ‘evil’ people in this novel, it’s just somehow they’re not considered evil because Tris is the one making them. We as readers are asked to accept without question that all Tris’ decisions are the right ones, despite evidence to the contrary. Even Tobias is shown to be worthless when he disagrees with Tris, and spends a lot of time whining about that very fact.

Roth set had the potential set up for this series to have a really poignant ending. With the faction system destroyed she could have used the positive elements of the factions to work together to build a future, but instead Roth chose to use the pointless death route. The ending did not say anything, or even mean anything. There is mention of the fact that the rural US is now largely uninhabited, meaning that the potential was there for what remained of the factions to create their own future outside of the government’s control, and outside of the experiment. But we didn’t get that. We got an abrupt and pointless resolution which just annoyed me. I should have cried. I didn’t. I felt nothing because everything went no where. Also, I don’t know why this annoyed me so much but, what on earth is the REST of the world during this time? It seems that this genetic experimentation was a US government only initiative, and we know that air travel still exists so why not seek refuge in another country? But the rest of the world is not mentioned once in this train-wreck of a novel.

What I basically got from this series is that when nearing the end of writing InsurgentVeronica Roth saw the film Serenity and possibly the series Firefly as well. She took the video broadcast from Serenity to end Insurgent and then made Allegiant about teen appropriate Reavers.

There you go, I saved you hours of your life. Watch Firefly instead.

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Review: ‘Insurgent’ by Veronica Roth

13480671If you could see me now, I am literally shaking my head in disbelief at Insurgent. What brief but ultimately redeemable features Divergent had is completely turned on its head in Insurgent. While the premise of the dystopia didn’t make sense in the first, at least Tris was a relatable and strong character, and while there was a romance blossoming between her and Four, it took a back seat to the rest of the plot which was a blessed relief.

Not so in Insurgent. Instead, in this instalment, we are treated to characters who are virtually unrecognisable from their originals in Divergent. Gone is the strong willed yet conflicted Tris who is brave yet selfless, gone is the darkly brooding but passionate Four who would protect Tris at all costs. Instead we are given some generic angsty teens whining about love and trust. Lots of kissing, embracing and whinging instead of the bravery I’d come to expect from the first book.

While everyone is having a good old cry and Tris has a completely cringeworthy ‘God’ moment in the Amity compound, not a lot else is happening. Roth gives the illusion of an action packed romp to uncover a mystery that will challenge their very existence, but apart from am all too brief attack on an enemy compound and a near death experience for Tris which all works out a little too conveniently, not a lot happens apart from Tris feeling guilty and Four being a bit of a Douche.

And the ending…oh god the ending. Jeanine’s entire plot of evil revolves around keeping one very specific piece of information secret. This information is meant to change the world, and is so life changing that Tris allies herself with a person she has no reason to trust against a person whom she has every reason to trust. Makes perfect sense right? Apparently this secret is so huge that it can’t possibly be told, it has to be seen! So they go on an epic adventure to storm the castle where they will finally be able to see this great mystery for themselves…on a video. Which explains nothing, and serves only to highlight the ultimate stupidity that is the basic premise of this completely lacklustre trilogy.

I don’t know why I’m doing it to myself, but I will be reading the third. I really am a sucker for punishment.

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Review: ‘Divergent’ by Veronica Roth

DivergentPlease, please tell me that in the three or four days it took me to read Divergent someone invented a time machine so I could go back those three or four days and somehow get them back. Reading this book was one of the biggest wastes of my life.

The argument I hear most with novels like this is that because it’s YA I am obviously not the target audience, which is probably why I didn’t enjoy it. For me, this does not do today’s young adults enough credit. Some of the best novels I’ve read in the last few years have been YA. E Lockhart’s We Were Liars immediately springs to mind. In fact, my favourite book of 2014 was Jonathan Stroud’s The Screaming Staircase which is written for age 9-12, an even younger readership! Having a young readership does not mean that people outside their age groups can’t enjoy them. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that appealing to a diverse readership is the mark of a great writer. Something that Veronica Roth is not.

Roth’s writing style itself is not terrible. She has a good sense of pace, gets her descriptions pretty much down so you know what’s going on but don’t get bogged down with and excess of descriptive prose. She even has a decent sense of excitement and adventure. I wasn’t bored reading Divergent, let’s put it that way. Where this book really struggled for me to give it any more than two stars is that the entire basic premise for the entire bloody plot just made no goddamn sense! And I mean that in the sense of it just doesn’t work! These so-called ‘Divergents’ are meant to be super special because they have a normal range of human emotion? Someone in the wake of some form of (I assume?) nuclear catastrophe came up with an idea that meant segregating the entire populace of a city in to dominant personality traits (because apparently that’s a thing?) as a means of promoting peace. A committee of people sat around and thought that was reasonable, and then implemented it, and didn’t think that segregation and the stifling of a human range of emotions would perhaps have the opposite of the desired effect? If we’re living in the past of Divergent‘s alternate future then we need only see the rise of fundamentalism and the violent outpourings caused by that to see how completely ludicrous an idea that is. The person who had suggested that idea would have been laughed out of the room. And then fired.

Roth writes a world that is too black and white, with everything pigeonholed to perfection. I see that essentially that’s the point she’s trying to make, but all I see when I read Tris’ character is not a girl who is ‘Divergent’, but an ordinary teenager trying to find her place in the world. Divergent’s aren’t special or abnormal, they’re just normal fucking people. There is no deeper knowledge to be gained here, because the world created is so unbelievably unrealistic; a pastiche of sci-fi and fantasy tropes used to represent the human condition, but represented in the blandest possible packaging.

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