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!
Precisely one million souls exist, reincarnated over and over again. Then one night, a soul dies and the temple goes dark. She never comes back. Ana is born in her place, the first new soul since the beginning. Many people believe her existence is a threat and the woman who birthed her considers her a ‘no soul’ without any right to exist. At the age of eighteen, Ana leaves her care and sets out on a quest to discover the truth of her origins. Many stand in her way, but she also meets Sam who teaches her about kindness, friendship, and even love.
It is fascinating to be in Ana’s point of view as she hungers for a longer life than the mere span of seventy years and struggles with the feeling of being insignificant because she may only have one lifetime. The fast-paced story sprinkles touches of history throughout the book so that everything makes sense but is never an information dump. Ana is a likeable character, maybe not to deep in contrast with the people around her but she can’t be–they have all lived several lives compared to her mere eighteen years. Sam and Ana’s relationship is a prominent thread in the story, but dragons, sylphs, and the mysterious Janah make it much more than a romance.
I definitely recommend this book, and am excited to see what happens in the rest of the trilogy.
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!
Flash Fiction Submissions
Although it is very different from the days when I would choose the thickest book in the bookstore, I am one hundred percent sold on Flash Fiction. I did not expect much when I started reading, but these writers achieve an incredible amount of emotion, action, and character in so few words that I was hooked.
Run is the first Flash Fiction piece that I wrote (it can be found in Vignettes from the End of the World ), and it was such an honor to have it chosen to be part of such a diverse and interesting collection.
Finding paying markets for these short pieces is difficult, but I have compiled a list of ten different places that accept submissions year round (or several times a year) as of May 2014. Good luck to those of you who choose to submit. I look forward to reading your stories.
*Submitter beware: I have no affiliation with these companies or knowledge about them other than what is listed on their websites.
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.
I LOVE post apocalyptic and dystopian stories and my bookshelves (and kindle) are full of them. Even more than that, I have always been interested in the ‘story behind the story’. The best-written fiction always leaves me aching for more, and oftentimes I want to know ‘what happened before’ much more than I wonder ‘what came next’.
Apokrupha had an open submission period for an anthology titled Vignettes from the End of the World. “Show us your moment from the end of the world. Show us the tragedy, the beauty, and, of course, the horror.” All of that in 500 words or less.
I was hooked. Regardless of the outcome, I had to read this anthology.
Vignettes from the End of the World will be out sometime in 2014, and I am excited to announce that my flash fiction piece Run will be part of it.
Run came to me as most of my stories do…late at night when the house was quiet, and anyone with even the smallest amount of common sense would be sleeping. It would not be ignored, no matter how early I had to be up the next day. In a way, that makes sense. No one gets to decide what time the world ends.
Until Death by Rebecca Barbee is featured in STILL HUNGRY FOR YOUR LOVE. 2013
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.
Don’t Breathe a Word by Jennifer McMahon
Come, be Queen of the Fairies and disappear forever…
Lisa, a twelve-year-old girl, enters the woods determined to become Queen of the Fairies and is never seen again. Fifteen years later, Phoebe is dating Lisa’s brother, Sam, and the mystery resurfaces. A phone call leads them to a book about Fairies, a long lost cousin returns, and the Dark Man from Phoebe’s childhood dreams comes back to haunt her. Every secret uncovered only raises more questions as Phoebe struggles to determine what is true and who can be trusted, if anyone.
Although not technically a young adult novel, portions of Don’t Breath a Word is written from the point of view of a twelve-year-old girl and is a book that I can easily see being a crossover. It is spooky, engaging, and hard to explain. While the paranormal elements of it play a large role, it is also about relationships, families, and secrets. Alternating points of view reveal the story in Phoebe’s current world, as well as Lisa’s world at the time of her disappearance. Even now that I have finished reading it, I am not entirely sure what I think, but I know that parts of the story will haunt me for a long time.
Don’t Breathe a Word is written by Jennifer McMahon. 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.
Bound (Torn) by Erica O’Rourke
When both the mob and the world of magic are on the verge of war, a teenage girl must risk everything to set things right.
Mo has managed to keep Collin safe and persuaded Luc and the Arcs to let her live her life, but she is not free. They both have a hold over her, and Mo, once a champion for the truth, now has secrets from almost everyone. When Mo’s father comes home from prison, he is just one more obstacle and someone else she has to lie to. Rivalry among the mob and a war in the Arc’s world break out simultaneously, and Mo is forced to play a critical role in both. This time, the choices she makes might mean losing everyone she cares about. They might even cost Mo her life.
Although the entire trilogy was great, the final book was AMAZING! I loved watching the relationships between Mo and Luc, Mo and Collin, and Mo and her father grow. The emotion and character responses were so realistic that it is easy to imagine yourself in the situation, trapped between magic and the mob. Bound is by far the best paranormal romance I have read in a long time, and I am looking forward to following Erica O’Rourke’s career.
Bound is the final book in Erica O’Rourke’s Torn Trilogy. More information about the author can be found at her website listed below.
Tangled (Torn) by Erica O’Rourke
When a teenage girl has a destiny to fulfill, is there any chance that she can live her own life?
Mo hoped that thwarting an evil prophecy would release her of the destiny the magical Arc’s feel is hers, but neither they nor the mob will let her live her life in peace. Something is wrong with the magic, the unrest among the Chicago mob is growing, and the people Mo loves most are hiding dark secrets. Now, Mo must find a way to calm the magic, protect the people she cares about, and somehow figure out a way to live a life of her own choosing.
Full of action and emotional ups and downs, Tangled advances the Torn Trilogy while still holding merit on its own. Mo’s struggle to choose her own destiny is appealing, the love triangle is far more believable than others in this genre, and the characters in the book are the kind that are easy to fall in love with. An excellent paranormal romance that left me anxious to move on to the final book in the series.
Tangled is the second book of Erica O’Rourke’s Torn Trilogy. More information about the author can be found at her website listed below.
Torn by Erica O’Rourke
The Chosen One is murdered before fulfilling her prophecy, and an ordinary girl with no magic must step forward to take her place in saving the world.
Mo has spent her entire life obeying the rules her family has set out for her, but everything changes when her best friend, Verity, is murdered. Mo escapes with minor injuries, and a desire for justice. In her quest to discover the truth, Mo learns that the world she knows isn’t as she seems. Magical forces need Mo in order to fulfill a prophecy, and the mob wants Mo to advance their agenda. Caught between two worlds, Mo also finds herself torn between magical and charismatic Luc, and protective and down to earth Colin.
Torn is a fascinating combination of everyday mob affiliations and out of this world magic. This compelling mix of paranormal romance and action will appeal to a variety of audiences.
The first book of Erica O’Rourke’s to be published, Torn is the beginning of a trilogy. More information about the author can be found at her website listed below.
Endlessly (Paranormalcy) by Kiersten White
A teenage girl must make the choice between living the life she desperately wants and fulfilling the prophesy for which she was born.
There is no such thing as an ordinary life when Evie is surrounded by paranormals, and the International Paranormal Containment Agency is determined to have her as an employee or a prisoner. All pretenses disappear when Evie realizes that she is the central figure in the struggle between two powerful supernatural forces. Time is running out for everyone, and Evie must choose between a life of normalcy and the fate of the paranormal world.
The best of the trilogy by far, Endlessly is full of exciting twists. Characters that did not have much depth in the earlier stories are better developed, and White’s light hearted tone keeps the story fun and enjoyable. The conclusion is suspenseful and wraps up any lingering questions readers had. Readers who enjoy paranormal romances will not be disappointed!
Endlessly is the last book of Kiersten White’s Parnormalcy Trilogy. More information about the author can be found at her website listed below.
Supernaturally (Paranormalcy) by Kiersten White
A girl who is anything but normal attempts to have an ordinary life, but the paranormal world isn’t willing to let her go that easily.
Just as Evie has become settled in the real world enough to realize that it isn’t as exciting as her favorite teen sitcom, the International Paranormal Containment Agency comes back into the picture. Not only is it the excitement Evie has been looking for, it also gives her the opportunity to feel useful again. Attacks from the paranormal world soon threaten the tentative grasp Evie has on balancing her two worlds, and she discovers that it isn’t easy to control her own internal struggle. Friendships and romance suffer while Evie attempts to find out who she is, before it is too late.
Supernaturally raises enough questions to make readers want to find out what happens in the next book, but still manages to read as its own story rather than a bridge between two novels. The subject matter is serious, but the tone and voice of Evie make the story humorous and engaging.
Supernaturally is the second book of Kiersten White’s Parnormalcy Trilogy. More information about the author can be found at her website listed below.
Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
The fate of immortal paranormals rests in the hands of a seemingly normal girl with a unique talent.
Evie considers herself a typical teenage girl who happens to live at the International Paranormal Containment Agency (IPAC). She is also the only person who can see through the ‘glamours’ that paranormal creatures present to the rest of the world. When a ruthless killer begins targeting paranormals and a mysterious shape shifting boy breaks into IPAC, Evie suddenly realizes that her life isn’t what she thought it was. Only Evie has the ability to stop the killing in time to save everyone she cares about, but is it too late to save herself?
Paralnormalcy features a main character (Evie) who is both entertaining and endearing. The plot is easy to follow, and exciting enough to keep the story moving forward. Readers who enjoy paranormal romances will want to come back and find out what happens in the next book.
Paranormalcy is the first book of Kiersten White’s to be published, and the beginning of the Parnormalcy Trilogy. More information about the author can be found at her website listed below.
I Am Number Four: The Lost Files: Six’s Legacy (Lorien Legacies) by Pittacus Lore
A teenage girl’s life of fleeing ends when the relentless pursuit of her enemy results in her capture.
Readers of I am Number Four know the protagonist as Six, a powerful warrior who is in complete control of her Legacies. Before that, she was a young girl who could not resist an invitation to play soccer, who is compelled to comfort a fellow Garde when she sees a lonely request on the internet, and sometimes thinks of her Cepan, Katrina, as her mother.
This short e-book is a must read for those that have followed the Lorien Legacies. The rich backstory explains how Six has become the formidable adversary who will eventually stand with the other Garde against the Mogadorian troops that seek to destroy everyone.
The Lorien Legacies are written under the pseudonym Pittacus Lore, but the actual authors are Jobie Hughes and James Frey. More information on these authors can be found at their websites listed below.