Today, I want to try something a little different than the usual book review: a cross-over analysis. This past weekend, I finished re-reading The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau, which was the first in a trilogy set in a post-apocalyptic future where the youth is tested by corrupt adults who don’t want anything to actually change.
Sounds familiar, right?
That’s because we recently wrapped up The Hunger Games movie series and the Divergent movie series is moving toward completion. Both of these franchises are based on book trilogies that also feature post-apocalyptic futures, where the teenagers have help to overthrow the conniving, power-hungry adults in charge.
Here’s a rough publication timeline, so you know when they came out in relation to each other.
2008-The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
2009-Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
2010-Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
2011-Divergent by Veronica Roth
2012-Insurgent by Veronica Roth
June 2013-The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau
October 2013-Allegiant by Veronica Roth
2014-Independent Study and Graduation Day by Joelle Charbonneau
So, you can see that all three series came out around the same time, but didn’t really overlap, and if you were to look at the reviews for both Divergent and The Testing, you would see several comments comparing them to The Hunger Games.
If you like any of these series, you will probably like them all since they are similar in concept; however, there are some major differences in writing style, characterization, and believability. Now that I’ve shown you some of the background information, I’d like to share what I thought when reading each series (there will be some spoilers sprinkled throughout).
The Hunger Games
I really enjoyed the first book and wanted to keep reading just to see what else the author had in mind for her world. Both the setting and the reality tv aspect of this were intriguing, and I liked how Katniss made it through various obstacles and came out on top. The second book was interesting because there were new challenges, but the story structure was almost the same, and there was almost no new world building. Book three was a chore to get through because Katniss had fallen into depression (which is reasonable), but then she became super whiny and wouldn’t accept any kind of help. I also thought there was a lot of gratuitous ‘named character’ deaths, which didn’t add any depth to the story line. And, I absolutely hated the epilogue because it counteracted everything the series had built towards to that point.
To recap: If this had been a standalone, I would have enjoyed it a whole lot more.
I did not make it all the way through this series. I thought book one was interesting, but I didn’t enjoy the main character, Tris, and the romance seemed forced. The setting was in Chicago and the various factions working together made a lot of sense, but there was just not quite enough substance for me. I did try to read book two, but I only made it half way before I skipped to the end, and I didn’t feel like I missed anything in that 150+ pages except a lot of whining and planning. And when I heard that she dies in the last book, I knew I wasn’t going any farther in the series.
To recap: The characters weren’t alluring enough to keep my interest.
I LOVED this series! All three books were thoroughly enjoyable and provided plenty of world building, characterization, and setting exploration as well as being more clever and intellectual than brute strength or plot monkeys. I connected with Cia because she was presented as a well-balanced character with enough flaws to be realistic, but she wasn’t a love-sick puppy in a triangle and she was able to accept help even when she knew not to trust the source. Also, there was very little whiny filler. I dislike whiny protagonists since I have to deal with plenty of those types in real life. Although the constant reminders that Cia can trust no one run through the whole trilogy, it wasn’t overly distracting and it was true.
To recap: The cleverness, world building, and characters work together to make an enjoyable trilogy.
This style of comparison was a lot of fun, so I’ll probably do more of them in the future. I hope it was useful and interesting while being informative.