Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Trouble with Dystopians, Part 2

Okay, here is take two on Part 2 of the Dystopian post. I'm writing it in Word this time, and saving every five minutes, because I don't trust fate.

The whole concept for this post started in part because of chance, and in part because of publishing schedules. But either way, I ended up reading the third book in all but one of the following trilogies within a few months of each other. And in every case, it seemed like the third book was the one that floundered or disappointed.

The third book in a trilogy is inherently the hardest.* By that time, readers have developed firm opinions about the characters, and certain expectations about the plot and the outcome. It's very, very difficult to make the majority of your readership happy. And authors often seem to feel the pressure to both meet and defy expectations (aka put in the most shocking emotional twist possible for the sake of emotion rather than what makes sense for the plot).

For these trilogies specifically, I think the formula I discussed in Part 1 – which is inherently character centric – thus can have a lot of trouble when it comes to world building. The trick, with these dystopians, seems to be to balance focusing on the growth and development of the heroine (not to mention her love story) along with the overthrow of the dystopia.

Figuring out how to write this post has been inherently difficult. Because it's impossible to talk about these books and my issues with dystopians without spoiling the endings. So I have gone out and taught myself how to include a spoiler tag, so that the part of this post that contains spoilers will be hidden unless you click on it.

Here are the books I'm going to talk about:

The Chemical Garden Trilogy, Lauren DeStefano
The Divergent Trilogy, Veronica Roth
The Matched Trilogy, Ally Condie
The Legend Trilogy, Marie Lu
The Hunger Games Trilogy, Suzanne Collins

Look, I figured out how to make a spoiler button! Click to read the rest of the post, if you've read all the above or don't mind spoilers.

In writing this post, I've found another similarity between these series: all of them contain a Shocking Moment that has little to do with the rest of the plot. Well, except The Matched Trilogy. Cookie for Ally Condie! But the existence of all those Shocking Moments is, perhaps, a discussion for another time. (Part 3?)

What makes the third book in a trilogy work for you?

*I say as we get closer to working on Book 3 of the Prophecy Breakers... O.O


  1. I look forward to a discussion about Shocking Moments, as I found it tiresome in many of those above books (I've read the first in the Matched series and haven't read the Chemical one at all, but I've finished the other series.)

    I get frustrated at that sort of thing, so I'm definitely eager for your post!

  2. I had to skim the spoiler section because I've only read two of them - Hunger Games and Divergent - and I may still read the rest. My frustration with the third books in those series, though, was that the plot had to get so much bigger because it became more of a political struggle than a personal one. In each case it felt like the author tried to do too much, and while I liked both books, I didn't like either of them as much as the 1st 2 books in each series.

    I think sometimes authors feel too much pressure to actually resolve the dystopian setting, which leads to overreaching with the plot. I'm okay with reading a book in which the main character simply escapes to a better world by herself, or accomplishes one small change that might lead to revolution in the future. (Hunger Games worked better than Divergent for me because I think in HG oppression and war were heavy themes throughout the books, whereas as in Divergent the initial setup seemed more like a clever thought experiment.)


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