Young Adult Dystopia Novels

I confess: the dystopian genre is one of my favorites. I have a complicated theory for why, based on current feelings of political, social, environmental and/or general doom, but I also like them because they are enthralling. There are seemingly a million different ways that humanity might create a perfect society—and fail miserably. They are dangerous, these bad places; they serve as warnings of where our current path might lead us. Based on the recent influx of YA dystopias, young adult authors seem to share this fascination. Some classics, some new, here’s a list of dystopias perfect for a teen reader.
content.chilifresh10. Birthmarked trilogy by Caragh M. O’Brien. Set on the un-lake shores of a vanished Lake Superior, this trilogy tells a story of genetics, environmental damage, water rights, and birth defects. Gaia Stone is the daughter of a midwife, so she knows the requirement made by the Proctorate: every tenth baby a midwife delivers is taken from its mother to live inside the Enclave, where it will live with everything those outside the Wall don’t have: comfortable housing, education, healthy food, and the rarest thing, plentiful water. What Gaia doesn’t know is why. When her mother is taken captive by the Proctorate, she must delve into the secrets of the Enclave and her society—and eventually try to find a solution for the population’s largest ills.
9. Matched trilogy by Ally Condie. In the Society, all choices are made for you, such as where you’ll work and who you can marry. But when a computer malfunction shows her two boys’ faces during her Matching ceremony, Cassia starts to wonder if the Society’s choices are always the right ones. Using poetry and art as underlying threads, Condie’s series explores the way choice influences both individuals and society, and how thinking for yourself is perhaps the only real strength anyone has.
8. The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. Almost a century ago, after a violent war, Panem was formed out of the ruins of the thirteen rebellious sections. Heavily controlled by the government, the twelve remaining districts must each year send two teenaged tributes to the Capitol to play the Hunger Games: a ruthless battle to the death in an environmental-controlled arena viewed by the pampered Capitol citizens. Katniss Everdeen volunteers as the District 12 tribute when her sister’s name is chosen in the lottery. As much about the strength of emotion as the destructiveness of violence, the trilogy tells a fast-paced adventure story that explores the depravity of power and the limits of courage.
7. Unwind by Neal Shusterman. To put an end to America’s second Civil War, fought over abortion, the US military created the Unwinding Accord and the Storking Initiative. Abortion is now illegal, but the Storking Initiative allows anyone to leave an unwanted baby on any doorstep and requires that household to raise the child until he or she is 13. At that age, the Unwinding Accord provides a simple and humane way to manage the unwanted child: he or she is “unwound,” body parts harvested as donor organs. Three potential unwinds—Connor, Risa, and Lev—try to escape their fate.
6. Feed by M. T. Anderson. In Titus’s future America, no one needs keyboards or CPUs or tablets or cell phones—everyone accesses the ‘Net with the Feed, a brain implant that puts you online all the time. You can chat without talking and learn things without teachers and find out important stuff like where the best parties are, what the latest coolest song is, and how to best show off your lesions (if you’re lucky enough to have any). When Titus meets Violet during a spring-break trip to the moon, their Feeds are compromised and he starts to see the cracks in his seemingly-ideal society.
content.chilifresh5. Genesis by Bernard Beckett. Anax’s dystopian world reveals itself through her historical research and the brutal exam she is taking to gain admittance to The Academy, the regiment of scholars that rules her Republic-based society. Outside of the Great Sea Fence, the rest of the world has been decimated by climate change, plague, and war, but upon her island, a strict peace has been established. The cost of it is the last bit of knowledge her research and exam reveal to her. Beckett says that he likes “reading to leave a little scar tissue” and this novella’s twist definitely creates a wound.
4. The Machine Stops by E. M. Forster. This novella, written in 1909, is a prescient exploration of how technology might control humanity. Everyone lives in small, hexagonal-shaped rooms while the Machine does everything they need. If they want to attend a class, they watch it on a screen. If they want to talk to a person, they do it with instant messages. There are buttons for everything: food, baths, literature, conversation. No one does uncivilized things anymore, such as talk face to face, or touch, or even see other people. The ending will haunt and surprise you, and perhaps make you abandon your computer for a hike in the woods.
3. The Giver Quartet by Lois Lowry. Lowry’s series begins with the 1994 Newbery-award winner, The Giver, which tells the story of Jonas, who has just turned twelve and lives in a community free of war, family turmoil, poverty, or discontent. At age twelve, children are given their life assignments from the Elders, the community’s leaders. Jonas receives a surprising role: he is to be the Receiver, the one person in the community who knows what life is like in Elsewhere—outside of their society. As he learns about life before Sameness, Jonas is first saddened and then disturbed, and when he learns what happens to Released babies, he decides to take action. Each book in the quartet works together, but can be read as a stand-alone as well.
content.chilifresh2. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. Firemen in this society don’t stop fires, they start them—conflagrations of books, which are illegal. Guy Montag, a third-generation fireman, starts to realize how empty his life is when he takes the chance of reading a book instead of burning it.
1. Anthem by Ayn Rand. Equality 7-2521 lives in a society that strives for peace. Everyone is treated equally; there is no poverty, war, or hunger. Yet his curiosity and desire for learning set him apart, making him question where human happiness is to be found. In the city’s dark, forgotten tunnels, Equality writes and experiments, eventually re-discovering electricity, yet his light bulb doesn’t bring him the redemption he seeks. Perfect for teens, it examines the power that just one individual can wield.

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One response to “Young Adult Dystopia Novels

  1. Pingback: #500 | Just Browsing·

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