Allegiant and Some Final Thoughts on the Divergent Series

Last night I finished reading Allegiant and I promptly could not fall asleep, probably from the adrenaline rush that the book, and the series gave me. The is seriously action packed from page one. I do think that by the end the series was a little too action-saturated, and there could have been a few more slow paced scenes scattered throughout the series. I don’t think that would have slowed down the plot too much, but I did like the story that Roth was telling.

There is no way to review this book without giving away spoilers so if you are someone who is interested in reading the series and haven’t yet, or if you haven’t finished this book yet – be warned. You can find my reviews for Divergent and Insurgent here and here.

allegiant-book-cover-high-resSo Allegiant. The book starts off right where the second one ended, and Tris finds that her solid community of factions no longer exists. It has been destroyed through the factionless take over, and although the factionless people rally for peace and for freedom, there is still very little of either within the city of Chicago. Tris soon finds herself traveling with Tobias and a few others outside Chicago to a bigger world that she didn’t know existed – one that is just as broken as the world she escaped from.

In many dystopian novels the history of the community or the reasons for an overbearing rule, are addressed in the first book of the trilogy. With this series however, Veronica Roth waits until the final installment to show what is really going on. I was concerned, going into the third book, that the reasons behind all the madness wouldn’t be addressed fully, and while I do think there could have been more shown in the first book without giving the whole story away, I was generally happy with the way it was addressed here.

Essentially, the city of Chicago was turned into a social experiment where the faction system is used to “cure” people of their broken genetic code. This “broken” code is ultimately what causes violence in the world, researchers have decided. There are those who are “broken” and those who are not (otherwise known as Divergent). The government is ultimately attempting to “fix” those who are “broken” and as one can imagine, things don’t quite go according to plan.

Veronica Roth did an excellent job really showing and discussing human nature in this book. So much of history’s conflicts arose from the idea that group A was in some way better and more whole than group B was, and that is essentially what is being addressed here in Tris’s society. At the same time, however, the symbolism of human nature and the deeper meaning behind the story is not overstated, and does not get in the way of the action, the characters, or the plot as a whole. Instead it is really what ends up driving the story forward. In an interview with MTV news, when asked about what Divergence really is, Roth says,

The point of [Tris’s] Divergence is that it’s this complex thing inside of her, and there are all these things that she can be, these possibilities. But as I wrote the series, I realized that all the characters had become complex that way, and that none of them really fit into those categories [of their factions]. …I think Divergence doesn’t mean anything…I think it’s a more powerful thing for everyone to be this complicated, rich, good, bad mixture of things. But to have people believe that there are these divisions that exist.

While I do think that some of the lesser characters could have been more distinctive and unique in terms of their voices, attitudes, and humor, these ideas were portrayed consistently throughout the book, and this quote sums up human nature pretty well if you ask me.

While the first two books of the Divergent series were told only from Tris’s point of view, this third one is split between Tris’s narration and Tobias’s. This was another aspect of the story that I was a little weary about, as I am not such a fan of the split narration method. But I have been known to get over it before, and I found that Roth really uses the dual narration to get inside Tobias’s head so the reader can see a new side of him that would have been harder to show otherwise.

In the previous book, Tobias has been seen as Tris’s handsome, brave boyfriend with a troubled past. Readers certainly grew to love him but I always thought he was a little one sided in the books alone (I know there are also short stories that Roth published earlier this year focusing on Tobias and his past). But in Allegiant, Tobias really struggles through a lot of issues, much in the same way that Tris did in Insurgent. It would have been good to see Tobias as more of a three-dimensional character earlier in the series, but I did enjoy his chapters, and the things that he struggles with throughout the book. He is faced with obstacles that force him to reevaluate much of his life, and that really dig into his character as a whole. I really enjoyed seeing this new side of Tobias, and in some ways this book is more about him than it is about Tris.

I didn’t read any spoilers before starting Allegiant, but I had some suspicions about what would happen at the end of the book based on what I’d seen so far from people’s spoiler free comments and from the story itelf. And I have to say, in some ways my suspicions were correct, and in other ways they were very wrong. All in all, the action and suspense kept me reading through to the end, and although there is a dramatic ending to the series (how can there not be with all the action) I can appreciate the ending when looking I look at the stories and characters as a whole.

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Why Neil Gaiman Says It’s Important to Read

To all readers and non-readers alike,

I know it is getting late but I just came across this article by Neil Gaiman (via Gaiman’s tumblr – which is an awesome site for anyone who likes to write, or anyone who likes Neil Gaiman) about why reading is still important in  a digital age.  I tend to roll my eyes at terms like “the digital age” (don’t get me started on millennials) but I do agree with what Gaiman says. And since it is Neil Gaiman, the article is really very well written.

Gaiman covers three points in his article – that reading is important, that libraries and access to a variety of literature is important, and that creativity, the ability to daydream, and the desire to come up with new ideas are all vitally important for our happiness and overall success – both for children and adults alike. Gaiman writes,

Pause, for a moment and look around the room that you are in. I’m going to point out something so obvious that it tends to be forgotten. It’s this: that everything you can see, including the walls, was, at some point, imagined. Someone decided it was easier to sit on a chair than on the ground and imagined the chair.

Not that the ability to build a chair came directly from reading fiction, but reading, especially reading fiction, allows us to remove ourselves from our bodies in a way. It transports us to another place, another person, or another way of thinking. It broadens our minds and our imaginations. Another good quote:

When you watch TV or see a film, you are looking at things happening to other people. Prose fiction is something you build up from 26 letters and a handful of punctuation marks, and you, and you alone, using your imagination, create a world and people it and look out through other eyes.

It is active. Even if you aren’t underlining or taking notes, which is what I think of as “active reading” (left over from my Middle School days), you are still building the world that you read about on the page. Two people could read the same book and have a completely different image of the world that they just read about, which, when I think about it, blows my mind a little.

And reading is good for you. I have read and written multiple papers in college about the positive effects reading to a child has on their social and mental development. It broadens minds and fosters relationships between the reader and the listener, and frequently helps with schoolwork. I could go on but I’m going to let Neil Gaiman take over.

Anyway, here is another link to the article. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

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Modern Jane Austen Fanfiction (kind of): The Lizzie Bennett Diaries and Emma Approved

Once again, happy Friday everyone!

Earlier this week, I decided to reward myself after a particularly productive day with some episodes of The Lizzy Bennet Diaries. For those of you who don’t know, The Lizzy Bennett Diaries is a web series that tells the story of a modern day Pride and Prejudice. Each episode is pretty short, and they can be rather addicting.

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Lizzie Bennett is a twenty-four year old communications grad student who is living at home and is making a personal vlog for her final thesis project. The Diaries turn into a place where she can discuss or rant about her mother’s obsession to marry off her daughters, her best friend and editor, Charlotte Lu; her sister’s relationship with Bing Lee (see what they did there), and the bane of her existence, William Darcy (who, in my opinion, doesn’t beat Collin Firth’s Darcy, but that’s okay). The show pokes fun at the original story of Pride and Prejudice while staying true to the plot. “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife” makes its way onto a t-shirt in the first episode and Lizzy ends up at Pemberly Digital, “…why does that sound so familiar.”

While at first, the Diaries can be a little awkward (which the characters acknowledge), by the end they have dealt with some real issues, and are very entertaining. They do a good job of modernizing problems a woman in the nineteenth century would have to make the videos relatable to a modern audience, and they do a good job of showing the complexity of the story behind Pride and Prejudice.

Although Pride and Prejudice is a boy meets girl story, it is also a coming of age story where Lizzie finds out that her narrow minded first impressions of people might not actually be as true as she thought they were. The working title of the book was First Impressions, after all. The diaries really highlight this through the whole first person talking to a camera narration style, and Lizzie has no problem airing her opinions to the world. In the end she really is a more mature and ultimately happier person than she was at the start of the videos, and not just because she has a man, although Darcy is definitely one reason. She also has a better relationship with her sister, Lydia, which is developed throughout the Diaries, and she has answered the ever dreaded question of what are you going to do after finishing school?

There are also spin off videos for Lydia and other characters that I still have to watch as well – vlogging seems to be contagious in Lizzie Bennett’s world.

The Lizzie Bennett Diaries definitely highlight how strong Lizzie Bennett is as a character while still showing her weaknesses. She uses the video to come to terms with pretty much everything that is going on around her, and is frequently pretty vulnerable. All in all it made me want to re-read Pride and Prejudice. Or watch the BBC miniseries which is pretty much the book word for word. Or maybe do both.

Anyway, I was reminded of The Lizzie Bennett Diaries because there is a new Jane Austen modernized fanfic video (or whatever you want to call it) out for Emma, called Emma Approved. It started this past week, and will update on Mondays and Thursdays. In it, Emma Woodhouse is a matchmaker for a lifestyles group and has a perfect success record, until one of her couples questions breaking up (sounds familiar). It is clear from the start that vlog Emma, much like book Emma, is extremely confident in herself,and extremely naive – a good place for a character to be at the beginning of a novel, especially a Jane Austen novel (or vlog).

I started reading Emma one year for fun in high school, but like so many other books I have tried to read, school got in the way and I didn’t have a chance to finish it. I do remember liking it though, and after this modernized Jane Austen kick I started, I’m in the mood to give it another shot. I’m already in the middle of a good book, but everyone needs a few options for the long weekend right?

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Happy Friday

It’s Friday everyone! You have made it through the week. Congrats.

Here is a picture of the new plant that I got after my sunflowers died. I have had this plant for almost two weeks and it is still alive. I am probably more proud of that than I should be, but hey an accomplishment is an accomplishment.

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To celebrate the weekend here are some fun book quotes that I have been collecting on my computer over the past week or so. Most of them are from tumblr or bookmania, which always has a good supply of quotations or library pictures for anyone who is interested. Bookriot is also a good site for fun book related articles as well. I hope everyone has a chance to curl up with a good book this weekend. 🙂

Books hold most of the secrets of the world, most of the thoughts that men and women have had. And when you are reading a book, you and the author are alone together – just the two of you.

– E.B. White via bookmania

When you read a book, what you see are black squiggles on pulped wood or, increasingly, dark pixels on a pale screen. To transform these icons into characters and events, you must imagine. And when you imagine, you create, It’s in being read that a book becomes a book, and in each of a million different readings a book becomes one of a million different books.

– Mohsin Hamid, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia

To know a man’s library is, in some measure, to know a man’s mind.

Geraldine Brooks, March

And finally, a tumblr find that sums up my thoughts and obsessions with literary characters nicely.

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