Does identity come from biology, upbringing or our own choices? The question becomes urgently concrete in the bleak final entry of this blockbuster dystopian trilogy.
After the explosive climax of Insurgent (2012), Tris, Tobias (or “Four”) and their friends manage to escape a city torn between the tyranny of the factionless and the uprising of the Allegiant, who want to restore virtue-based divisions. Once outside, they run into the Bureau, which secretly controls the city as a generations-long experiment in healing “genetic damage.” Revelations pile upon revolutions, revenge fights with reconciliation, until Tris and Tobias are each led to their ultimate choices—where courage, selflessness, peace, wisdom and truth converge into love. Tris and Tobias alternate narrating brief chapters in unfortunately indistinguishable voices. Their choppy, staccato prose, interspersed with occasional arresting images, is a style well suited to the opening and closing sections of dramatic action but only accentuates the dragging pace of the repetitive, overstuffed middle. While the “science” behind the Bureau’s machinations is impossible gobbledygook, the corrosive effects of bigotry ring painfully true. The tragic conclusion, although shocking, is thematically consistent; the bittersweet epilogue offers a poignant hope.
Though flawed, the story provides a thought-provoking metaphor for crucial conflicts of adolescence, as have its predecessors. (Dystopian adventure. 12 & up)