Hailed as the next Hunger Games, Veronica Roth's Divergent series has earned a legion of fans. With a movie version almost guaranteed to be a blockbuster, even more people (hopefully) are going to pick up the science fiction series. Young adult series are bigger than ever, and for good reason. With incredible imagination and creativity, Veronica Roth renders a dystopian Chicago setting unlike other novels we've seen. As the series moves into Insurgent and finishes with Allegiant, Roth proves she's not afraid to make the hard choices and shock her readers. While most of the time these surprise twists are successful, every now and then there's either a logic gap or a moment that's not quite earned that makes the series suffer a pinch. It's a solid series for young adult science fiction readers, but may not have quite the staying power of Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games trilogy.
Insurgent is the second novel in the series, and makes for an excellent segue from the first book into what mysteries await us in the conclusion. Roth balances the action and recovery scenes well, dancing around the plot in a near-perfect tango. Romance scenes between our heroine Tris and her mentor-boyfriend Tobias strike an odd balance of torrid and chaste that just doesn't work in this gritty, futuristic world she's created. Romance plots are often the weakest aspects of these otherwise strong young adult series, but Roth's romantic elements do add to the series. The relationship between Tris and Tobias rally adds to the story, but their relationship should have been more exciting than making out and admiring one another's tattoos.
The shining moment of Insurgent is its climax. Tris makes a hard choice she believes to be the right one, risking not only her relationship, but her life. The shock ending of this book is just that--a surprise--but one that is earned, brave and appropriate for the story. It's not what you'll expect, and the novel is all the better for it. Which is how Allegiant ultimately fails as a conclusion. But more on that in a moment.
The conclusion of the series splits the narration to two points of view. Instead of relying solely on Tris to tell her story, we now have Tobias alongside her. It doesn't really add much to the plot since the two basically have the same voice (leading this reviewer to believe it's Roth's all-purpose voice). You might forget whose chapter you're reading and have to flip back to the beginning to check. Another problem with the finale is that it's highly inactive. Tris spends a lot of time waiting for something to happen, and it would seem that she and her friends could come up with a more solid plan than what they end up doing. But, as I said before, some logic gaps really detract from the novel, but I guess we should expect that from a teenage girl.
Now for that controversial ending, and no, I won't spoil it for you. After the second novel it seems that Roth needed to top herself. Well, there is some truth to that, but foremost she should be concerned about writing a successful young adult novel. While there may be some twisted sort of beauty in the ending, the moment is not earned in the novel. The idea may have been successful, but perhaps the publisher urged her to finish early to get the final book out. At any rate, it would be a bold way to end the series, if only it were successful.
Veronica Roth has compiled two dystopian young adult science fiction novels that go really well together, creating an innovative-if-hokey system with a lot of great ideas. Unfortunately the series ends on the wrong bang. The ending clunks and fails to satisfy, but don't let that keep you from reading.
You can find Veronica Roth's Divergent series at your local chain bookstore, online or at an independent bookstore near you (click here for a list). You can also download the eBook to your favorite reader.