"One choice can transform you. One choice can destroy you. One choice will define you."
There’s been so much controversy over the ending of Allegiant, the third book of Veronica Roth’s “Divergent” trilogy, that I’ll start there: The book's close is well scripted but devastating. I wish it hadn’t happened, but I understand. And that’s all I can say without getting into spoiler territory.
And now I'll move on to the rest of the review.
For those who haven’t read the madly bestselling young adult book "Divergent" or its sequel, "Insurgent," here’s a quick recap: The books take place in a futuristic, dystopian Chicago wherein people live in five factions. At 16, children are tested to determine in which faction their personality lies. Each faction embodies one main trait: Abnegation, selflessness; Amity, peace; Candor, honesty; Dauntless, bravery; and Erudite, intelligence.
The series' protagonist, Beatrice Prior, is an aberration known as a Divergent, fitting the profile for three factions. Divergents are considered dangerous and unstable and hide their talents for fear of persecution. Though raised Abnegation, Beatrice joins the wild Dauntless, abandoning her parents and choosing the new name of Tris.
As a Dauntless initiate, Tris renounces her ascetic upbringing for tattoos, weapons, bare-knuckle brawls, and daily defiance of death. While training for the final initiation, she and tough instructor Four (later known as Tobias, also Divergent) fall in love.
Erudite launches a war on Abnegation, using mind-control serums on the Dauntless to create a brainwashed army. The serum doesn’t work on Divergents, so Tris fights to stop the attack but loses both her parents.
"Insurgent" starts immediately after the initial battle. Erudite has seized control of the city and is systematically eliminating all Divergents and the factions are splintering into traitors and loyalists. Tris and Tobias create an alliance with Chicago’s factionless population, led by his mother, Evelyn. In the final fight to stop the Erudite, a video is uncovered that reveals three things: the city was sealed from the rest of the corrupt world long ago, factions were created to reestablish an ethical society, and they should reenter the world when there are enough Divergent to save it. This video challenges the city’s faction system, government, and understanding of the world beyond its gates. The factionless then take over the city under Evelyn’s dictatorship.
As with "Insurgent," Veronica Roth launches right into the action on page 1 of "Allegiant." This time the book is co-narrated by Tris and Tobias. We join Tris and her cohorts in a cell within Erudite headquarters where they’re being held as traitors. Tobias soon joins them and they’re released into the city, where faction loyalists calling themselves the Allegiant are challenging Evelyn’s new order. Tris, Tobias, and friends decide to leave the city to see what’s out there.
What they discover once again rocks their understanding of the world and tests their faith in themselves and each other. They hear of old wars between the so-called “genetically pure” and “genetically damaged.” Tris learns her mother’s incredible backstory and Tobias confronts both his identity and his abusive father.
What I love most about this book is Tris’s confidence. She knows when she’s right, and she’s developed an inner strength to match her outer toughness. In fact, Tobias’s most-used adjective for her is “strong.” Their relationship blossoms, though the peak moment we’ve all been waiting for is regrettably unclear.
More than a story of faction, love, or politics, "Allegiant" questions what it really means to be human. What makes us who we are? Is it upbringing, genes, or choice? In other words, do we make our own decisions to live good lives and be good people, or are we subject to genetically predetermined personalities and futures?
If you’re new to the series, start with "Divergent" and work your way through. If you’re a fan already, I’m surprised you’re still here – go, buy, devour.
Katie Ward Beim-Esche is a Monitor contributor.