Ranking the Dystopian Teen Novels

First off, thank you all so much for the warm congratulations for adopting our daughter. Sarabeth and I were very warmed by your support and enthusiasm.

Part of Katherine’s name is based off of Katniss from The Hunger Games (just look at her initials). Some people might mock us for our obsessiveness over a teen book (pun intended), but Katniss is the kind of girl we want Katherine to be inspired by as she grows older. She’s strong, compassionate, uncompromising in her beliefs, and fiercely loyal. Plus, Katherine already has a dog named Prim, so it works out.

Yeah, I admit, I read teen novels. But I’m also in the book business, so it’s part of my job to be well-versed in what the hottest thing out there is (I’ll still pass on 50 Shades of Grey, thank you very much). While biographies, history, sports, and some mainstream fiction are part of my circulation, I get a sense of thrill when I’m about to start a new teen book, mainly because the competition out there is so fierce and only the best survive. Believe it or not, the odds are not in every book’s favor, especially in the future day setting.

Here’s four dystopian teen novels that I’ve read and ranked them from best to worst with explanations.


1. The Hunger Games

Full of depth, originality, and deep characters, The Hunger Games presents a believable future where upper-class citizens revel in the annual deaths of teenagers broadcasted on TV. These books challenge readers to stand up and challenge what’s wrong in this world and to fight for what is good and pure. They are read on a regular basis in our home.


2. The Last Survivors

Despite the political agenda behind Susan Beth Pfeffer’s series, it’s an extremely different take on the post-American world. The world has not shifted due to evil empires or wars, but by natural causes. An astroid knocks the moon closer to the earth, causing volcanoes to erupt, countries to flood, and the earth to shake, among other major disasters. Written from the diary of a young girl who is just an observer, the books are very believable and a fresh breath away from the tired action/thrillers populating the bookshelves.


3. Divergent 

Firs off, way too much romance. Way too much kissing and oohing and awing. Nothing can slow a book down faster than the old “we stole glances from each other, then it lead to kisses” garbage (in my opinion, anyway). The concept is good, but a bit confusing as I could never remember what each faction’s purpose was. To be honest, I didn’t even bother to read the next two books, because by the end of the first one, I just didn’t really care.


4. The Testing

I’m sorry, but shame on HMH Books for publishing this series. Is it Divergent? Is it Hunger Games? To be fair, the reviews on Amazon are exceptional and the first book received 4.5 stars out of 5. That’s impressive. But personally, I can’t remember being so bored with a book. It’s a total hybrid of its dystopian counterparts. And completely predictable. I also don’t plan on bothering with the next two in the series.

True, the competition among teen books is fierce. I just hope that other, better books, aren’t being buried in the commotion of the dystopian hoopla which are just riding on the coattails of greater, braver books.

Have you read these? Which ones are your favorites?

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About Andrew Toy
I'm in the beginning stages of starting my own publishing company that's unlike anything you've ever heard of in the industry. The direction of AdoptingJames is taking a 90-degree turn and will be more writing/publishing-focused. Stay tuned for huge updates and exciting news!

11 Responses to Ranking the Dystopian Teen Novels

  1. Arlene says:

    I was hearing a lot of hoopla about this book called “the Hunger Games” at work. So when I saw that the whole series was for sale for 5 dollars on my Amazon Kindle. I got it. I read all three in just days. I was glad I got them all together it would have been agony to wait for the next installment.

  2. Nancy says:

    Thanks for your take. I loved “Hunger Games” also and was lackluster about “Divergent” but haven’t read the series in between. Now I know what my next book will be! (BTW-it’s an oldie but have you read the “Inkheart” series? I’m curious to know your opinion.)

  3. thewriteedge says:

    Love, love, LOVED The Hunger Games.

    Hadn’t heard of The Last Survivors, but now I’ll have to check it out.

    As for the Divergent series…(long sigh.) I read all of the trilogy (but not the new book, Four. Just couldn’t bring myself to do it.) If you’re curious at all, I would highly recommend going to Amazon and reading just the reviews of the books. Those are way more amusing than the books themselves. I think Veronica Roth was on to something in the first book and, quite frankly, either chickened out by the third or else didn’t get sound editorial advice on how to maximize what she’d begun. Or else just didn’t have enough life experience to round out the series (she was in her early to mid-20s when she wrote them.)

    I don’t think I’ll check out The Testing, though, based on what you said. Any thoughts on The Maze Runner? Haven’t read that either, but I’ve heard good things.

  4. suzanne says:

    Yes Hunger Games! Also I felt the exact same way about Divergent. I read the first and kind of shrugged, with no interest in finishing the rest. I did see the second movie though, and I did enjoy it. I think I have The Testing on my Kindle.. I’m interested to read it. I recently read Cinder by Marissa Meyer and am interested in reading the rest. I really liked it. It’s dystopian future meets fairy tales.

  5. estyree says:

    The only series on list that I have actually read is the Hunger Games series. To be honest, I love the thought process, the world she’s created, and the premise of the whole thing. I think all three books had an amazing premise and wonderful layout. However, the only book I really enjoyed was the first one, and I would rate that one a weak 4. The other 2 are 3-3.5 stars at best because her writing style left me wishing for more actual depth. Yes, I am an author and have a great imagination and yes, I could see where she was going with the characters and actions…but about 3/4 of the book felt a little shallow…a little flat to me. Like she didn’t quite get as deep as she wanted to go.
    Maybe she felt she shouldn’t go any deeper, maybe a lot was edited out, maybe I’m just weird. I don’t know. But while I enjoy the premise of the books (and they are fairly original!), I just didn’t feel like they were all there yet. (Please don’t form a lynch mob to get me! I’ve heard it, I promise!….I do like the Hunger Games a lot more than Twilight! I hope that counts for something)

  6. Good analysis. Teen fiction is an interesting and important area because it reflects the reading habits of this age group on the verge of adulthood. I don’t know if you’ve read Insignia by S. J. Kincaid, but I found it to be intelligently written and entertaining.

  7. Andrea R Huelsenbeck says:

    I love the Hunger Games and have read the entire series multiple times. The first book (and the movie) bring me to tears every time (including once on a plane trip). I’ve read the Divergent series and liked it, except for the third book, which alternates between Tris’ and Four’s viewpoints–I had to keep going back to the beginning of the chapter to see whose head I was in. The fourth book, called Four, tells his backstory.
    I’ll try the Last Survivors based on your recommendation.
    I love reading YA. I also love the Harry Potter books, which I could argue is also a dystopian society.

  8. realationaleric says:

    Here you go, lesser known, up and coming author, but is in the process of slowly releasing the whole series. Check out her blog: http://www.melindafriesen.com

  9. aliceandembo says:

    My daughter loves these books (Hunger Games and Divergent). Thanks for the ranking on the other series so I know which ones to recommend to her. 🙂

  10. First off, congratulations! (I’m, as always, a day late and a dollar short!) My husband is reading my older ones the Lorien Legacy series. They’re on book two and, thus far, finding the series enjoyable. They previously read the Hunger Games and Divergent series’.

  11. Hi Andrew, don’t ever feel you have to apologize for reading YA books. I have a son probably around your age, and I’ve been happily reading YA books since before they had that label. I also read kids books, as well as books written for us grown-ups. I used to read adult novels from when I was about 10 or 11 – I didn’t always understand all of them, but I still enjoyed them. I think we get too caught up about the labels books are given, which are really just a tool for marketing. I was at a speculative fiction festival recently and one of the panels was on YA fiction, and the panelists were asked why it was so popular. Garth Nix responded that YA books are usually strong stories, often with clear ideals, well told, which are innately appealing. I have to agree. thought ‘The Hunger Games’ was brilliant (the third less so), and enjoyed the Divergent series though I found the premise of the five factions a bit of a stretch. I’ll look out for the ‘The Survivors’, though I do find the stereotyping of Christians quite lame. It seems stereotyping in literature is widely condemned unless it’s self-righteous, hell-fire and brimstone Christians.

    If you’re in the book business you might know of some of these, but if you’re interested this is a link to a blog (not mine) that includes a poster of YA by Australian authors. Its a ‘If you liked this, you might like…’ format. I haven’t read all of them, but enough to know they’re quality, and cater to wide tastes. http://goo.gl/D9jpvq

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