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From Allegiant to Divergent

There are NO spoilers in this post because I haven’t read the trilogy.

I’ll admit that while I saw Divergent and Insurgent in bookstores, I didn’t pay any attention to Veronica Roth’s trilogy until I saw the reaction to the final book in the series, Allegiant.  I followed the distressed cry from Twitter to her Amazon page where I was stunned to see a sea of 1-star reviews despite it being on the bestseller list.  While others have since come out in favour of the book, this random review sums up the 1-star reviews:

I finished this last night and afterwards I felt just dead inside. I absolutely hate when a series ends leaving me feeling unsatisfied and even, in this case, angry. I feel kind of betrayed by the author.

Is it wrong that I’m now going to read the series just to see what is making people this upset?  And that the titles so perfectly invert in this trilogy, with fans showing great allegiance to Divergent, uprising a bit with Insurgent, and then parting ways with the author on Allegiant?

I think it’s impossible to read without expectations, especially when we’re emotionally attached to the characters.  We want Harry Potter to win over Voldemort.  We want Bella to end up with Edward but for Jacob to be happy too.  But could we have been okay with an ending where Voldemort escapes, or even worse, triumphs?  What if Bella remains human with Jacob while Edward lives in a distant vampire coven, narrowly escaping a world she realizes she doesn’t really want to be a part of for eternity?

As long as the story makes sense and the characters make choices that ring true, is it fair to put our expectations on the author and not accept the story as it’s told to us?  Is it fair to lash out because it the book doesn’t fulfill our desires?  There’s a difference between being annoyed by an ending and feeling betrayed by an author.  Or, as this reviewer states:

I have never been more disappointed in the last book of a series than I was reading this book. Normally I reread a series at least 3-4 times. Because of this book I will never read this series again, no matter how much I loved the first two books. They are ruined. Forever.

Gulp.

As people are deeply ensconced in writing their own books for NaNoWriMo, it begs the question: Is the job of author predicting what people want and giving it to them, or is it showing them a story they could have never told themselves?

I know nothing about the Divergent series, though I’m excited to start it soon.  Perhaps the ending simply doesn’t ring true; that the characters act… out of character.  I will obviously be reading it differently than any of the people who followed it from its inception since I’m going into it to figure out what was so upsetting about the ending.  And perhaps by going into it with that attitude, I won’t be able to be disappointed by the ending?  Perhaps that’s the way we should read all books?

25 comments

1 Katie { 11.05.13 at 11:01 am }

I know nothing about the series, either, but the fact that everyone is talking about these books makes me want to check them out.

As for the role of the author, I don’t think it’s his or her responsibility to predict what people want and give it to them. In fact, I think it’s just the opposite: to keep people guessing. To give them the unexpected. The best stories that I’ve read are the ones where I haven’t been able to predict the ending — even if the ending is ultimately one that I’m not happy with.

2 mijk { 11.05.13 at 11:44 am }

I don’t think the writer should write what I want on the other hand I can leave an author. After the tragedy that Elizabeth George put inspector Linley trough I gor rid of the whole series. i will never read them again because it was to horrible for me.. Her choice to write it, My choice not to read it…

3 Tigger { 11.05.13 at 11:56 am }

I think it’s the job of the author to write the story that wants to be written. Hopefully there are people out there who will want to read it. We never really agree with what an author writes – that’s why there is fan fic!

4 Cristy { 11.05.13 at 11:59 am }

I think it all has to do with the recurrent theme of wanting some sort of happy ending for every story told. Just as you stated, we all want to see resolution in some way, even if it comes in the form of a silver lining. Hence the reason people get so upset when this doesn’t happen. But I think the author’s role is not to appease the audience but instead to tell the story, regardless of how hard on the audience it could be.

On another note, after your post about the Liebster Award I decided to nominate you for a new blog award. Stop over to see the questions if you feel up to it. 😉

5 Sarah { 11.05.13 at 12:21 pm }

I am interested to hear your take on it knowing that everyone is upset with the final book. Make sure to do a post when you complete the series!

6 Rachel { 11.05.13 at 12:53 pm }

The same people must be the ones fighting in the reviews of Bridget Jone’s 3rd book!

7 Nicole { 11.05.13 at 1:05 pm }

I think my two cents will be similar to other posts here. I’ve read all three books. I think they are high quality especially for the age group she is targeting and there were no vampires so that’s a bonus. The problem people are having with the third book is that they are having trouble living and playing in the world the author created. They want to play god and make sure everyone that was on the side of “good” gets through and has a happily ever after. This is not the case in real life and it is not the case in the book. Repeatedly people who are good or who are loved ones of the main character die. I do think there was resolution in the end of the book. By the end all of the living had moved on with their lives. She was sure to update us about all of the characters that were still with us from the first book. If people don’t like how her book ended they can write their own where good beats evil and everyone gets a happily ever after.

8 Geochick { 11.05.13 at 1:25 pm }

Yes! Read it! The third book took me a few days to recover from. Definitely not an expected ending. My beef with it was mostly that it was a little plodding (so much exposition) and…well I’ll stop there.

9 Mrs T (missohkay) { 11.05.13 at 2:29 pm }

I read the first two and hadn’t heard about the disappointment with the third yet. Hmm. I have to say that while I found the first two entertaining enough, I don’t think the writing is anything special so I couldn’t really LOVE them. And to answer your prompt, no, I don’t think the author owes the reader anything. If I wanted my own expectations predicted and satisfied, I’d write a story myself. All I want is to be entertained!

10 Esperanza { 11.05.13 at 2:33 pm }

I have to admit, I wasn’t at all interested in reading these books but now I am. I too want to know why people are so disappointed. Of course I might be similarly upset. I guess by reading them I really am setting myself for disappointment. 😉

11 nicoleandmaggie { 11.05.13 at 2:51 pm }

When I’m in that situation, I generally read the Wikipedia article instead of the books! My life is cliff-notes.

12 nicoleandmaggie { 11.05.13 at 2:54 pm }

OMG, ROFL. The Wikipedia entry to Allegiant is short but hilarious (at least for someone who had never heard of the series until today). But, you know, spoilers.

13 amelie { 11.05.13 at 4:48 pm }

I don’t mind an unhappy/ unexpected ending (loved Hunger Games) – I just found the writing to be terrible / edited poorly – did someone read “shades of gray” and become too heavily influenced??I was disappointed as I found the first one highly entertaining ( I read it on the shores of Lake MI and visited Chicago right after which added to the fun), the second one interesting and this one – blah.

14 Mia { 11.05.13 at 7:50 pm }

I read all 3 books, and like Miss T says, the writing is not so great, so it was hard to LOVE them. But I was interested in what happened to the characters. So in that sense, book 3 was a bit of a shock (without spoiling it – I found it hard to believe what happened and kept waiting for the REAL story to come through). Still though, I want the author to write the story s/he feels and knows, not just for a happy ending to please the reader.

15 persnickety { 11.05.13 at 7:57 pm }

I haven’t read them ( and am unlikely to).

The author does not owe the reader anything for their loyalty, but equally so, the reader does not owe the author automatic approval either. One of the things that irked me about some of this is that readers who expressed anger/dismay over the ending were told that they were reading the book wrong. As a consumer of books/movies/music that is my right to read it how i want to.

One of the things that was raised on another site I read, that discussed this was that the publisher/author deliberately courted the kind of rabid fandom approach- trying for the absolutely obsessed fans ( which with a teenage audience, not atypical) so kind of have to take the outraged fan reaction along with the absolute adoration.

There are books where i may not like wat happened to a character, but i respect that the story supports it. but there are books where the author has not created a valid story to lead to that.

Connie Wills is really good at this- Passage is an excellent example of doing something absolutely terrible to a character and making the story work. I am not sure from the reviews whether Roth managed to tell the story to lead to that point and it is people who are just disappointed at that ending, or whether she didn’t build it in such a way to sell it.

I look forward to your comments

16 Nicoleandmaggie { 11.05.13 at 8:20 pm }

Some jerk changed the Wikipedia page. So no longer either hilarious or informative.

17 Nikki P { 11.05.13 at 9:03 pm }

I read all three. My beef with the third book was that it seemed to be written by a different person. There was 2 POV’s on the last book when the first two only had one POV. The first two books were a big set up for the factions and then the third went a total different direction. I don’t mind the depressing part of it but the big death at the end seemed un-needed. I can’t say much more without giving it away. The third book was slow compared to the others. Loads of telling over showing. There are many issues I had with it.

18 KB { 11.05.13 at 10:04 pm }

I don’t have any issues with an author taking things in an unexpected direction. I don’t -prefer- unhappy endings, but I can generally live with them if they make sense.

I’ve never read the Roth books (and probably never will), but there have been series in the past where I’ve been so thrown out of the world by the author forcing something to happen in such an unnatural and out-of-character way that it makes it difficult for me to accept. There was one very popular series where this happened to the extent that I still haven’t read the final book or reread the earlier books since, even years later. I was quite upset at the time, because I loved this series, and I even agreed with the -result- of what happened, but the method of its occurrence was just so… wrong. I was unable to get beyond that feeling to find enjoyment in the story again.

19 Aerotropolitan Comitissa { 11.06.13 at 8:38 am }

We have seen two movies in the last week (about as many as the past twelve months combined, and one was on DVD).

One was pure Hollywood feel-good. The other was a weird Japanese comedy/thriller which probably makes a lot more sense if you know more about Japanese culture, especially video games and comics, but anyway.

A. said the first was very well made and everything but he enjoyed the second better, even though he really still has no idea what half of it was about.

Moral: I think it depends who you’re writing for. But I also think the feelgood Hollywood dramedy made a lot more money at the box office.

20 Aerotropolitan Comitissa { 11.06.13 at 8:39 am }

Who you’re writing for and why you’re writing.

21 Erica { 11.06.13 at 12:27 pm }

I know why people hate the ending, and I think the reactions are extreme but understandable. Many people really hated the last book in the Hunger Games Trilogy, too, but when I read it I couldn’t imagine the story going any other way. And I believe Louisa May Alcott received all kinds of upset mail because her readers wanted Jo and Laurie to get married…readers get invested in their favorites, and I think that’s a good thing. I also think authors have to be true to their stories, but they also have to be cognizant that when those stories are released into the world they belong to the readers, and readers *will* react when favorite characters don’t get the endings those readers hoped for.

22 Tiara { 11.07.13 at 7:36 am }

I’m definitely intrigued & have added them to my TBR list…those are pretty stong reviews.

23 fifi { 11.07.13 at 2:41 pm }

I hated the first book (no, jumping off trains doesn’t make you “brave”, it makes you stupid. And what’s with the hating on smart people?) So maybe I’d likeAAllegiant. Especially if something bad happens to the irritating main character

24 Mrs T (missohkay) { 12.09.13 at 1:58 pm }

I’m revisiting this post because I read the final book of the trilogy this weekend, and my only problem with it continued to be that the writing isn’t very good. I liked the story well enough, and I don’t think people have the right to be upset that a DYSTOPIAN novel didn’t tie up all the loose ends in a beautiful happy-ending bow – duh! Since you originally posted this, I’ve also been thinking about Stephen King’s book Misery where the author was kidnapped by the person who wanted to force him to change the ending of his book (based, if I recall correctly on Stephen King himself being bullied by readers). I just don’t take reading that personally, I guess. A book ends how an author thinks it should end, and I like it or I don’t. My taste is not the author’s responsibility.

25 Turia { 03.21.14 at 3:48 pm }

I’ve come back to this post because I finally read Allegiant last week when my Mum was here (she had a copy). I didn’t reread the first two, because I don’t think the books are good enough to merit that (I have read a lot of YA fiction and I don’t think she writes all that well- Garth Nix is one of my favourites). I thought the explanation for the Divergent/factions was a huge letdown- just not very interesting. I’m assuming that’s not why her fans are so upset, but it’s the death at the end that does it. Honestly, though, it’s dystopian fiction. What do they expect? It would be like someone reading a fantasy quest novel and expressing shock that not all of the members on the quest survive to see the end.

I read quite a good review the other day where they said that the whole point of the protagonist and why she is so strong is she can’t be pigeonholed, but the fans who are outraged at the author are upset because she resisted the obvious happy ending. They’ll accept going against the norm for the protagonist’s actions right up until it gets in the way of the happy ending they demand.

Did you read the books in the end? I’d be curious to see what you thought.

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