(A.K.A. Excellent Post-Apocalyptic Trilogies with Disappointing Third Installments)
Posted by Gina
After finishing the Hunger Games Trilogy, most of us went through the Five Stages of Mockingjay Grief: sadness (over the various tragedies within the plot), disorientation (“Wait, WHAT?”), confusion (“Surely there are 40 pages missing from my copy.”), anger (“Seriously?”), and, finally, long-term vague disappointment.
It’s frustrating when a trilogy builds, for hundreds of pages and months of waiting between editions, to the inevitable Final Ultimate Choice, and then peters sadly out, with some form of Deus Ex Machina of circumstance and inconsistent character choice leading to the negation of said final choice. There’s no final stand. There’s no ultimate decision. There’s merely a vague settling of elements and the feeling that we, the readers, have been cheated out of something.
Sadly, a lot of wonderful (specifically young adult dystopian romance) trilogies seem to have underwhelming third books, leading us to suspect that publishers are rushing publication or insisting on drawing a two-book idea out when it shouldn’t be. Going in forewarned is half the battle; we can enjoy our first two books to the fullest and go into the third taking what we can and shrugging our shoulders over the rest.
The following trilogies are my go-to series recommendations for anyone who enjoyed the Hunger Games Trilogy. They’re good for a wide-range of ages (both are considerably less violent and the romance is of the 6th Grade variety) and have the same kind of across-the-board appeal.
The MazeRunner Trilogy, by James Dashner
(Googling for the cover image, I see that this is about to made into a film. So please go read it now before it’s messed around with.)
Our protagonist, Thomas, wakes up in an elevator with no memory, and finds himself delivered into a mysterious glade inhabited by other boys, surrounded by an ever-changing moving stone maze. Where did they come from? Why are they there? Who’s watching them?
This is one of those fun, science-fiction-y, social experiment books where we put the pieces together along with Thomas. It’s an absorbing read, and the sequel, The Scorch Trials, is close to as good. The third installment, The Death Cure, is one of those books we finish because we want to know how it all ends, but is infinitely disappointing in its feel and conclusion. It’s not bad, but it lacks the energy and drive of the first two. And, like Katniss in Mockingjay, Thomas is ultimately robbed of his opportunity to make a final stand and clear cut choice.
The Uglies Series, by Scott Westerfeld
This series held me entirely enthralled for two books (Uglies and Pretties), but about halfway into the third (Specials), I found myself increasingly tired of this particular world. Interestingly, the bonus fourth book (Extras) renewed my interest, having mixed things up enough to re-engage me.
In this post-apocalyptic society, all citizens undergo an operation to become ‘Pretty’ at age 16. Young pretties live only for pleasure – going to parties, wearing fabulous clothes, and eating amazing meals. Much of the fun of reading Pretties is inhabiting PrettyTown along with the characters.
The first book focuses on Tally, an Ugly close to her 16th birthday who’s never doubted that she’s ugly and that all she needs to be happy is her operation and subsequent move to PrettyTown. A new friend and a visit to a mysterious settlement outside her society makes her begin to question what she’s always assumed to be true.
Pretties and Specials both continue Tally’s story, but Specials finds the series beginning to pall. The same plot formula has been employed at the end of the first two books, and we find ourselves tired of the veiled predictability. I’ve re-read both Uglies and Pretties several times, but haven’t returned to Specials.
Extras, a bonus fourth installment, breathes a new life into the series. Changes have been made to Tally’s world, and while she exists in the story, she’s not the character we focus on. The new societal structure (is it better? Is it really the same, just under new constraints?) is interesting, and the new protagonist is a likeable underdog, a relief after tiring of Tally’s story.
The good thing about trilogies being the current It Girl of the Young Adult Literature world is that when we find an exciting story we are likely to be getting more of it. But I’m still waiting for that amazing post-apocalyptic series that stays strong until the final page of the final chapter – let me know if you find it before I do.
Did you miss the first Life After the Hunger Games? Find it here.