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Comparing Young Adult Dystopian Books: Divergent vs Hunger Games vs Uglies

I like to think that I’ve read a fair amount of dystopian and a fair amount of young adult books. While making my way through Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy, I couldn’t help but compare it to two other trilogies that stood out most in my mind. First, obviously, is Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy – this has been so popular recently that it would be hard not to compare the two. The second is a series that is a few years older, but was still quite enjoyable – Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies trilogy.

Divergent vs Hunter Games vs Uglies

I wanted to take a bit of an in-depth look at these three trilogies in order to see how these three books compare in a number of categories. At first glance, the three of them had a lot of similarities – they’re all young adult dystopian stories, with the female protagonist who ultimately changes the society they are in. But is it more than just that?

Warning. There ARE spoilers here. So if you’re in the middle of one of these and want to remain spoiler free, ignore the text that’s fuzzy. If you’re okay with spoilers, or have already read the books, click on the fuzzy text.

General information about the books

  • Uglies Trilogy: Uglies (2005), Pretties (2006), Specials (2007). The trilogy also has companion novels, all written by Scott Westerfeld. This main trilogy tells the story of Tally Youngblood. Almost all of humanity has been killed off, with only 2% of the population remaining. The society’s main values are sustainability, peace and equality. These values (and society in general) are kept in check through the use of surgery at various points in the characters lives.
  • The Hunter Games Trilogy: The Hunger Games (2008), Catching Fire (2009), Mockingjay (2010). Written by Suzanne Collins. This trilogy tells the story of Katniss Everdeen. The USA is separated into 12 districts after going to war against the Capitol. As punishment for the past uprising, every year a male and female person gets selected to fight (to the death) in the Hunger Games.
  • Divergent Trilogy: Divergent (2011), Insurgent (2012), Allegiant (2013). Written by Veronica Roth. This series tells the story of Beatrice (Tris) Prior. Taking place in post-apocalytpic Chicago, each person belongs to one of five factions, but one of the factions wants to control the other factions through use of mind-altering drugs.

Main Protagonist(s) and Development of Protagonist(s) Through the Trilogy

  • Uglies: Tally starts the series as a pre-16 year old girl – in this universe, she is what is classified as an “Ugly.” Tally’s looking forward to her next birthday, because she will be able to undergo the first surgery each person in their society has in order to become a “Pretty.” While she grows beautifully as a character in the first novel, the character development is practically reset at the beginning of both of the consecutive books, what with the surgeries Tally undergoes. I found this to be extremely frustrating, especially when it felt like Tally had to experience the exact same character growth and revolution through each book.
  • The Hunger Games: I started off the series hating Katniss. She had very few redeemable traits, and was only ever concerned about herself – which could very well be a side effect of having to live through the Hunger Games and needing to survive. I didn’t hate her as much at the end of the trilogy… that’s got to mean she developed as a character during the book, right?
  • Divergent At the beginning of the story, Tris is a young adult who is deciding what faction she wants to belong in. Throughout the series, Tris is developed beautifully… The third book in the trilogy, however, also made Four a protagonist, instead of just the love interest. This was definitely jarring as far as main character development went, because we’re thrown inside this new character when we’ve only seen him through Tris’s eyes previously. That said though, in the short time that we have Four as a main character, we see how he is able to develop and grow as a character over the years.

Love Interest(s)

  • Uglies: I haven’t read too many YA books where the main character and her best friend are both in love with the guy, so the love triangle in the first book wasn’t AS bad as I typically find them. Still a little frustrating though when we got omg angst from Shay because of it. Then there’s also another love triangle between Zane and David and Tally in the later books, blegh. I dislike love triangles.
  • The Hunger Games: Urgh, worst kind of love triangle! Gale and Peeta are both vying for Katniss’ attention. And personally, I don’t think either of them suits her super well.
  • Divergent Four, oh the lovely Four! Four serves also to introduce Tris to the Dauntless community in the first book, but in the second and third provides conflict for Tris, and shows how the world is from someone else’s eyes, instead of just her impassioned ones. So a little bit of angst because of the drama between Tris and Four at times, but he is still LOVELY.

How did we get here? What happened before the book started that makes it so dystopian?

  • Uglies Pollution. Global Warming. Oil shortages. Mass population extinction.
  • The Hunger Games Civil war.
  • Divergent [spoiler]Genetic testing gone wrong.[/spoiler]

Large Defining Events

  • Uglies First book? Going undercover to learn about and betray the Smoke. Second book? [spoiler]Trying to escape the city in order to get a cure for the brain lesions that were created during their prettifying operation.[/spoiler] Third book? [spoiler]Overcoming brain washing that was given to Tally during another operation.[/spoiler]
  • The Hunger Games First book? The Hunger Games. Second book? The Hunger Games. Third book? [spoiler]An attack on the capital that is pretty much exactly like the Hunger Games.[/spoiler] Repetition of theme throughout entire series, while good for continuity, got boring fast.
  • Divergent First book? Stopping the Eurodite from killing off Abnegation. Second book? [spoiler]Taking down the evil (not all, just the evil ones) Eurodites and destroying the faction system.[/spoiler] Third book? [spoiler]Putting an end to the experiment that is Chicago.[/spoiler]

What Do you think?

Looking at it this way, it’s hard to see what was so similar about them, other than the fact that they are dystopian and the main character is a young female fighting society norms. Still, they definitely had the same feel, and I guess that dystopian YA thing is enough to make anyone compare the three.

I think the most interesting was the look at how it became a dystopian society – they were all so different, and yet all so plausible. It’s actually a little scary to think that any of these could happen today.

Have you read all three of these trilogies? Did they remind you of each other, or did you find them so vastly different?

Posted by Courtney Wilson @ 7:12 am May 9, 2014.
Category: Bookish Talk

  • Mona (Moxie-Dude)

    Love your comparison!

  • Bibliomama

    I haven’t read the Westerfeld one yet – I’d heard it wasn’t that great. I didn’t feel the same about Katniss – I actually found it refreshing that she wasn’t an idealized protagonist. I found her rather unashamed self-interest totally credible given her circumstances, and her growth curve believable. I agree that both the ones I read were quite different, and yet scarily plausible, which is one of the reasons I keep reading dystopic fiction, YA and adult.

  • CRae

    I’m actually writing my Master’s thesis on this exact topic, and I’m using these series (as well as Delerium, Matched, and Pure). Up to 100+ pages so far. Great analysis.

  • Courtney Wilson

    I haven’t read Delerium, Matched or Pure. How do they compare? Are they along the same lines? Are they worth reading?

  • Courtney Wilson

    It was one of the first dystopian YA things I had read…. there were good parts about it, and bad parts. But the whole basic reseting of her character at the beginning of each book and having to go through the character development all over again was very frustrating to read.

  • Courtney Wilson

    Thanks Mona. :)