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!
When chemical warfare was inevitable, vaccinations were provided for those most at risk: the very young and the very old. The result was children (Starters) left at the mercy of senior citizens with a life expectancy of at least 200 (Enders). Renting her body out for some greedy old person to enjoy isn’t something Callie wants to do, but with laws prohibiting anyone under the age of nineteen from working she doesn’t have a lot of options. She is the only one who can provide for her seven-year-old brother now that their parents, and everyone else their age, are dead.
Lissa Price’s creepy world is horrifying (Enders ‘borrowing’ Starters bodies to relive their youth, children without older relatives starving on the streets or institutionalized) and plausible (vaccinations given first to the young and the old, society’s desire to live longer, and our obsession with retaining a youthful appearance).
The plot zips along in a series of stake raising events and the twists and turns are so well executed that even when you see it coming it still sends a shiver down your spine. The story is never bogged down with needless back story, but there is enough information sprinkled in that readers have a feel for the way the world is now and how it came to be. I also loved the story language — and that there wasn’t too much of it. A handful of slang words (Starters, Enders, Zing) gave the story a unique feel but was never confusing or overwhelming. Character development was a little weak, but the plot, action and mystery was strong enough to carry that.
The hook at the end — awesome! Can’t wait to start on Enders!
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!
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.