Young Adult Dystopia has exploded over the last few years, and there are so many to choose from that knowing where to start is kind of overwhelming. That being said, some of these novels stand out and shouldn’t be missed. The below titles (and sequels) should be at the top of your to-read list.
- The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
- Unwind by Neal Shusterman
- Divergent by Veronica Roth
- The Maze Runner by James Dashner
- Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
- The Giver by Lois Lowry
- Uglies by Scott Westerfield
- Delirium by Lauren Oliver
- Matched by Allie Condie
- Birthmarked by Caragh M. O’Brien
Did I miss your favorite YA Dystopian story? Let me know!
What’s Left of Me by Kat Zhang
“Addie and I were born into the same body, our soul’s ghostly fingers entwined before we gasped our very first breath.”
Zhang brings to life an alternate America where borders are closed, and everyone is born with two souls. Sometime in early childhood, the recessive soul fades away to nothing. Addie and Eva start out like everyone else, but though Eva weakens, she never disappears. Hybrids that don’t settle are destined to a life of institutionalization, so the sister souls pretend that Addie is an ‘I’ instead of a ‘we’ and Eva’s voice is only heard in the mind of the body Addie controls. Another Hybrid approaches them with the tantalizing glimpse of a life they didn’t think possible, but the consequences if they are discovered are deadly.
Emotions, actions, and conflict propel richly developed characters through this fast-paced story. The relationship between Addie and Eva is complex and original, and there are haunting bits of dialogue between Addie and Eva, with ‘I’, “she” and “we” woven masterfully in. Two characters speak from a single body without any confusion, which is particularly admirable because the point of view character is Eva, the recessive soul. Kat Zhang brings readers through the climax without that annoying to-be-continued feel, but still leaves them longing to know what comes in the second book of the series.
What’s Left of Me can be classified as ‘dystopian’ or ‘post-apocalyptic’ but easily stands out from other books in the market for its originality and Zhang’s exemplary writing style. I can’t wait to start on the sequel!
YA Dystopia at its finest, with mystery, danger, romance and sacrifice.
“Grace Somerfield was the first to die. The first in my fourth grade class, at least.”
From the very first line, Bracken paints a vivid picture of the broken world the main character, Ruby, lives in. At the age of ten, children either die or develop strange abilities that make them a menace to society. Parents ship their surviving children off to ‘rehabilitation’ camp, and the President of the United States manages to persuade America that he needs to stay in office long after his two terms have come and gone.
Sound a little farfetched? Then you haven’t heard Bracken describe it.
A fast-paced plot and life like characters ensure that readers will keep turning pages. Even in this first book, it is already evident that Ruby’s character is growing as she overcomes the obstacles thrown at her. Liam, Chubs and Zu might be secondary characters, but they are developed in a way that readers know exactly who they are, and still want to know more. A strong ending and a powerful hook guaranteed that I couldn’t wait to start on the second book.
The Darkest Minds is the first book in Alexandra Bracken’s Darkest Minds series. More information about the author can be found at the website listed below.
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
Every thought is known by all, but secrets still are kept…
The Noise germ killed every woman in Todd’s town and enabled the survivors to hear each other’s thoughts. Todd’s upcoming birthday and the rituals that follow will make him a man, but until then, his only companion is a dog that he never wanted in the first place. Todd stumbles across something he did not believe existed, a human girl. He quickly realizes that even though he can hear the thoughts of everyone in his settlement, secrets still exist. This one might cost Todd his life.
It took me a couple of chapters before Todd’s dialect stopped bothering me. As his character developed, I couldn’t imagine the mostly illiterate boy speaking any other way. Each character in the book has a distinctive voice, but my favorite was Todd’s dog, Manchee. It is a perfect representation of how I imagine a dog talking if they actually could. There is some violence in the book, but the overall meaning of the story justifies it. The novel fits in the young adult dystopian category, but the idea is fresh and original. I can’t wait to start on the sequel.
The Knife of Never Letting Go is the first book in Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking series. More information about the author can be found at the website listed below.
Eve by Anna Carey
A promising future turns into a living nightmare.
A plague ravishes Earth and wipes out most of the human population. The world that survives is a savage and cruel place. Eve is fortunate enough to have been rescued and brought to a girl’s orphanage. There, she is given a rich education and taught to fear all men except the king. She and the other girls are promised remarkable futures to help rebuild the world. When Eve discovers what the reality of that horrifying future is, she escapes into the wild. Eve is pursued by the king’s men and quickly realizes that nothing she has been taught is of any use in the real world. She manages to find friendship and maybe even love, but her freedom might cost Eve her life.
For me, this book had a few rough edges. The methods the king uses to keep the human race from dying out and Eve’s reactions to events in contrast with how she was raised bothered me, especially in the beginning. Despite that, the idea behind the story was intriguing enough that I decided to try to accept the story world for what it was. After I did that, it was hard to put the book down. Eve isn’t the best character in the book, but she does show the potential to do exceptional things in the rest of the series. Eve ends with a strong hook and enough unanswered questions that I definitely want to read the sequel to find out what happens next.
Eve is the first book of Anna Carey’s Eve Trilogy. More information about the author can be found at her website listed below.
The Scorch Trials by James Dashner
Manipulation, intrigue and deception. Will the trials ever end?
The Glader’s have escaped the maze and are supposed to be safe. While they are asleep, though, everything changes. Sun flares and a disease known as the Flare have all but destroyed the real world, and this is where their new trial begins. They have two weeks to cross the most devastated section of earth’s surface, battling the environment and the insane and murderous victims of the Flare, to a place that is supposed to be safe. WICKED has ensured that the journey will not be easy, if it is possible at all.
The epilogue in The Maze Runner let us know that the Glader’s were far from being safe, and the The Scorch Trials starts off by throwing the characters into immediate danger. While some questions are answered, many more are raised as is appropriate for the middle book in a trilogy. If you enjoyed The Maze Runner, this book is a must read, and the end ensures you will not hesitate to start on the third book.
The Scorch Trials is the second book of a trilogy by James Dashner. More information about the author can be found at the website listed below.
The Maze Runner by James Dashner
Solving a constantly changing maze might be impossible, but failing to solve it is deadly.
Thomas wakes up in a box with no memory of his life before. The only thing he recalls is his own name. When the box opens, Thomas finds himself surrounded by a group of boys. Like him, they do not remember anything of their former lives. The walls surrounding the Glade open every morning to reveal an ever-changing maze, and close every night. Fearsome creatures called Grievers hunt the maze, but the boys still explore it, trying to find a way out. The first ever girl arrives in the Glade day after Thomas and everything changes. Escaping the Glade is more urgent than it ever has been, and Thomas might be the one who has the answers.
A fascinating premise, a unique story world, and a lot of action are the things that sold this book to me. Thomas was not quite as strong as I would have liked, but that is often the case in trilogy’s…he has two more books to grow. The beginning of the book raised many questions and gave remarkably few answers, which is perfect for a book where the protagonist has amnesia. I can’t say much about the ending without giving something away, but the Epilogue made me start on the second book right away.
The Maze Runner is the first book of a trilogy by James Dashner. More information about the author can be found at the website listed below.