Concept Art by Syd Mead (above)
There is nothing quite so thrilling as the notion of the end of the world. In some books, the settings teeter on the end of days, while in others they exist in post-apocalyptic ruin. In dystopian novels, the characters live in repressed and controlled societies, often in police states. This genre, though always compelling, has recently surged in popularity amongst the YA demographic.
If you flew through The Hunger Games and your pulse quickens at the thought of more dystopia, I’ve compiled a list of titles just for you.
The Age of Miracles by Courtney Summers
In this story, the earth’s rotation is slowing to an inevitable halt. Gravity is affected, the environment is thrown into flux, and the lives of those watching the impending end of the world spiral into disarray as quickly as the world is slowing. Eleven-year old Julia, the main character in the story, is teetering on the verge of enough changes in her life without the catastrophic shifts that surround her. It’s her story that assumes the forefront of this tale of inevitable devastation.
Pure by Julianne Boggot
After the Detonation, the world is separated into those who remain in the resulting wasteland and those who inhabit the protective, insular Dome. Those present for the explosions are left with any mutation you can imagine, including the protagonist’s warped hand, which is fused permanently with the head of a doll. When a boy who grew up in the Dome takes the risk of leaving its safety to find his missing mother, he soon finds himself in the company of the mutated – and their worlds collide.
Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
Set on the American Gulf Coast in a time when fossil fuels have been used up and coastal cities destroyed by flooding, the characters in this story strip old oil tankers on the beach to make a living. Fully-realized characters populate the wreckage of this story, leading readers through harrowing action as Nailer, the protagonist, and his crew, struggle to make difficult choices in order to survive.
The Enemy by Charlie Higson
Everyone over 16 is either dead or decomposing after a devastating disease hits London. Those young enough to not be infected scavenge for food and shelter. A stranger shows up to the characters’ hideout and informs them that Buckingham Palace is a safe haven, thus setting them off on a journey rife with danger across the city. Anyone who loves a thrilling quest story filled with the terrors of the undead will be enamored with this book, the first of a series.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Oasis, a virtual utopia where those plugged in are free to be whoever they want to be, takes the center stage of this story. Boasting planets entirely inspired by Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, this book is made for those who love technologically-based dystopian societies and adventure.
Insignia by S.J. Kincaid
Tom is a teenage con artist, struggling to keep himself and his father alive. That is, until his virtual presence is noticed, and he’s offered a spot in an elite, military academy. There he begins battling in the current World War III with the aid of a neural implant. With hints of Ender’s Game and even a bit of reader’s beloved Hogwarts, this book will appeal to those interested in technologically-based dystopia and boarding school settings.
Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick
In the flash of an electromagnetic pulse, all electronic devices are destroyed, all computerized systems shut down, and billions are killed. A group of teens have to navigate this new, terrifying world, which, as a bonus, features zombies. Anyone who enjoys a good zombie survival tale will be interested in this book.
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
Todd is the only boy left in Prentisstown – all women are gone and everyone else has reached the age of manhood. The noise germ has infected everyone, and there’s no such thing as thinking to yourself anymore. Instead, all thoughts are broadcast audibly, meaning silence is a thing of the past, and there are no secrets to be kept – or are there? This book is a highly unique take on the dystopian landscape, and is filled with adventure, heartbreak, and realistic dialects. Once you’re hooked, check out the rest of the series.
Divergent by Veronica Roth
Fans of The Hunger Games will tear into this series. In protagonist Beatrice’s Chicago, society is divided into factions, representing different virtues to aspire to embody: Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On your sixteenth birthday, you select the faction that will determine your role for the rest of your life. Beatrice’s choice marks the beginning of quite the dystopian adventure…
The Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
In this society, teens are ultimately transformed via surgery into “pretties,” when they turn 16. Before undergoing this transformation, which serves to completely level the social playing field and ultimately exert control and conformity, teens engage in mischievous pranks. Tally befriends Shay, another “ugly” whose yet to be transformed and who disagrees with the imposed surgery. Shay tries to convince Tally to deflect to a colony of like-minded individuals called the Smoke. Tally’s difficult decision results in the start of an adventure. Eery and not unlike an episode of The Twilight Zone, The Uglies spearheads a thrilling series that fans of dystopians and drama will eat up.
Other dystopian classics include Joan Lowery Nixon’s The Giver, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, George Orwell’s 1984, and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World – all of which can be found in the ACE Library.
A good read about what’s behind the trend in YA dystopian fiction can be found here, and includes short responses to the topic by two of the authors listed above (Scott Westerfeld and Paolo Bagicalupi).
I hope this list has brought some new dystopian novels to your attention, and that you’ll check them out and tell me what you think! If you have any other recommendations on the genre, please let me know or leave a comment on this post.