**spoiler alert** I think, when one of the main characters dies, it's difficult to like the book again, even if it was enjoyable before. It's easy to**spoiler alert** I think, when one of the main characters dies, it's difficult to like the book again, even if it was enjoyable before. It's easy to find all kinds of reasons to hate it - too many plot holes, not enough world building, lots of angst, bad characterization, not enough romance, too much romance... the list of crimes goes on. When you've put such a personal investment into the book, the loss can seem like a slap in the face.
I will try not to be mad about being slapped in the face. Warning: Wall of Text incoming...
So, putting aside the issue of the MC's death, (which I actually thought was well-treated) there were several reasons why I gave this two stars.
#1 I still have questions, some of which are integral to the plot. Like: Why would they make serum into a virus? Once it got into the general population, wouldn't you have to continually inoculate yourself to guard against infection? Like, every day for the rest of your life? Otherwise you could catch it from anyone, anytime, repeatedly. I didn't understand the pathology and I don't understand the decision on either David's or Tris' side to use it.
#2 Roth's worldview ended up being pretty depressing. She seems to be saying that humanity basically sucks, and will always suck, no matter what situation you put it in. All governments are corrupt, power always corrupts, history will always repeat itself. There's not much to redeem humanity, even the sacrifices of good people don't achieve peace. Roth shows us scenario after scenario of abuse, revolt, inequality, and none of it gets resolved. No-one is trying to prove that all people have an equal capacity for good, only that everyone has the equal capacity for evil. While that might be true, I found it one-sided.
#3 Good people don't get what they deserve. Life sucks, get over it, I know, and I don't mind grim-dark stories. But here it wasn't consistent with the previous books, I thought. Here the tone got grittier, angstier, and there wasn't the theme of empowerment lifting it all back up. I suppose the theme was self-sacrifice instead? That would make sense of Tris' character arc and explain why the author wrote the ending that way. And I think then that love was supposed to be the uplift. Except that it wasn't. Tris was self-righteous and judgmental. It wasn't cathartic or redemptive to watch her sacrifice. It was just dark. And that's not even mentioning all the things everyone else lost.
In the end, the cost of a new civilization was very high. And I was left with zero confidence that this time things would work out differently. So it was all for nothing. In light of this, even though the book was good, I can't really say I enjoyed it. So, 2 stars.
But look, you say, not every hero needs rewarding, not every death needs to 'mean something' - real life isn't a fairy tale. But killing someone because 'real heroes are supposed to die' is also unrealistic. It's an oversimplification. It's formulaic, and it forgets that stories are also allegories, and not real life. If the hero must die, it should be part of something bigger, it should advance the plot or the allegory. It shouldn't cut the story short and end the plot. In my opinion at least.
Edit: I feel like I might be the only one, but I actually enjoyed Tobias' viewpoints. Yes, he was irrational and falling apart and not nearly so unflappable as he appeared in Divergent, but I felt like his viewpoints were some of the most honest characterizations in the book. He struggles with himself and in the moments where he gets angry and is in danger of becoming his father I was terrified for him. After that, I'm a little relieved that Tris didn't end up with him. Would she have been safe the rest of her life? I'm not sure. ...more