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15 Must Read YA Dystopian Novels


Ever since the 2008 release of The Hunger Games, the dystopian world (regardless of sub genres it blended into)  has exploded. It’s an expanding genre that is still enjoying the benefits and recognition The Hunger Games gave the genre. At one point, it boasted 23 million copies sold and appeared on the NYT bestseller list more than 200 times, and has many awards to its name. Though The Hunger Games was hardly the first novel set in a dystopian world, it became so popular recently that the books have since been an inspiration for publishers and authors to release a litany of novels set in similar worlds.

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So what is a dystopia or dystopian world? Here’s how Dictionary.com describes it:



/dɪsˈtoʊ pi ə/


1. a society characterized by human misery, as squalor, oppression, disease, and overcrowding.

Why are we so enamored with these worlds? Is it because they are (generally) set in a version of the world we now live in and the idea of what the future may look like is fascinating? Or is it more basic than that, and it is simply that we love a good, entertaining story?

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With the recent release of the film adaptation of Insurgent, I thought it might be fun to look at some of the other dystopian novels out there that are recently popular and appeal to me as a reader, some that are more obscure and some that I have read and thoroughly enjoyed. If you’re suffering withdrawals, having to wait another year to journey on in Tris and Company’s next adventure, perhaps you can find some new adventures to help fill the void.

15 YA Dystopian Novels

(In Alphabetical Order by Author)

#1. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Book - Red Queen

The most recent YA dystopian novel to make a grand entrance, this debut novel is published by HarperTeen and knew how to make that entrance in style; quickly making an appearance on the New York Times’ bestseller list. The Red Queen is about a common girl named Mare who is a “red blood” meant to serve the “Silvers” who ascends to become one of the more privileged people – or a “Silver.”

#2. Thunder by Bonnie Calhoun

Book - Thunder

Thunder marks the first book in Bonnie’s dystopian trilogy about a girl named Seleh who discovers her family is not really biologically hers. Instead, she is really a Lander, the sworn enemy of her family – a people that her family hunts. The prequel novella, Tremors is free to download on Kindle for anyone curious about this story.

#3. The Selection by Kiera Cass

Book - The Selection

I adore this series, which is a loose re-telling of the Biblical story of Esther. The story is fascinating and I’m thrilled that the third novel, The One is not going to be the end of the series. Come May, the story continues with The Heir.

#4. The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

Book - The Hunger Games

No doubt all of us have at least heard of fearless Katniss Everdeen who volunteers her own life in Pandam’s Hunger Games to save her sister. Her stories are told in these three books, which have also been made into popular film adaptations. Somehow this list didn’t feel right without listing the series.

#5. Matched Trilogy by Ally Condie

Book - Matched

Ally’s dystopian world features a society in which the population is told what to do. Its heroine Cassia sets into motion a series of events that asks her to make a decision: between what she’s told and following her heart.

#6. The Maze Runner by James Dashner

The Maze Runner Book

Another trilogy of novels that is getting a series of film adaptations to its name, this series centers on a young boy who can only remember his name, Thomas. He wakes surrounded by people he doesn’t know, inside a world that is kept hidden by a terrifying maze.

#7. The Chemical Garden Trilogy by Lauren DeStefano

Wither by Lauren DeStefano

The tagline for this series is as follows, “What if you knew exactly when you would die?” Way to intrigue a would-be reader!

#8. The Jewel by Amy Ewing

The Jewel Book

Though its cover is dazzling, this novel warns not to let that image fool you. The Jewel is actually set in a “darkly riveting” world where young girls are raised to be surrogates for the wealthy who want a child. It’s a “debut filled with twists and turns, where all that glitters may not be gold” according to its synopsis.

#9. Landry Park by Bethany Hagen 

Book - Landry Park

According to the summary, this series is “Downton Abbey meets The Selection.” As fans of both of those franchises, I can heartily say, this book intrigues me. It’s about a girl who wants to attend University, but her domineering father won’t hear of it, instead expecting his daughter make a good marriage.

#10. These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

These Broken Stars

With an Aurealis Award for Best Young Adult Novel (2013) and Romantic Times Top Pick honor under its belt, this Sci-Fi (but in a dystopian world) novel would best be summarized as a Titanic-esque story. It’s about star-crossed lovers who have to fight together in order to survive.

#11. The Giver by Lois Lowry 

Book - The Giver

Though it was published some 20 years ago, author Lois Lowry says, “People in the know say ‘The Giver’ was the first young adult dystopian novel.” This is something I can easily believe. The Giver follows the story of Jonah, a boy who begins to feel in a society that has stripped its people of that gift.

#12. The Legend Trilogy by Marie Lu 

Book - Legend

Described as a “cat and mouse game” where survival is paramount, Marie’s popular YA trilogy wrapped up in 2013 with Champion (book three) and is still promoted in the YA book tube scene.

#13. Anomaly by Krista McGee

Book - Anomaly

The opening “tagline” for this novel should sell this one all on its own: “Thalli has fifteen minutes and twenty-three seconds to live. The toxic gas that will complete her annihilation is invading her bloodstream. But she is not afraid.” A mix of sci-fi set in a dystopian world, McGee creates an intriguing and riveting world that poses a serious threat to its characters.

#14. The Delirium Trilogy by Lauren Oliver

Book - Delirium

Delirium is a trilogy set in a world where love is an illness and a procedure called “the Cure” is administered to prevent its society from loving. Fun fact: did you know this book inspired filming a TV pilot starring Emma Roberts, but according to Yahoo Fox passed because the younger market wasn’t their primary target audience?

#15. The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

Book - The Winner's Curse

Not only does this novel boast a beautiful cover design, the synopsis doesn’t sound too shabby either: “Set in a new world, The Winner’s Curse is a story of rebellion, duels, ballroom dances, wicked rumors, dirty secrets, and games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.”

Are any of these on your favorites list? Have I missed your favorite novel in this genre? Tell me about it, I’d love to know about your favorite dystopian world.

Mockingjay Photo: Lionsgate



Film Reviews: DivergentThe Giver and Mockingjay

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By on March 25th, 2015

About Rissi JC

Rissi is a self-diagnosed Bookaholic and TV fandom addict. She’s currently an avid blogger and reader who enjoys interacting with readers, and often dreams about finishing her first novel. When not writing or reading, she can be found working as an INSPYs advisory board member or contributing to e-zines. Her scribbles are housed on her blog Finding Wonderland (https://www.rissiwrites.com).

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15 thoughts on “15 Must Read YA Dystopian Novels”

    • Thanks for the chance to put it together, Autumn! It was really fun. Ooo, I’ve heard of “Uglies” and actually thought it sounded intriguing. I’ll have to add that one to my TBR. 🙂

    • I want to read “The Maze Runner” as well, Laura. I have it on my “soon to-be-read” shelf and am trying to hold off seeing the film until I do. Not sure I will to be honest – especially after reading your enthusiasm for the film! 🙂

  1. I read a lot of genres and though I’m 52 I love YA dystopian. The Hunger Games was my first series, then the Divergent series (which you didn’t mention), the Delirium series, and my FAV the Legend Trilogy. I’m glad to see Legend getting more attention because it happens to be my favorite. I have Selection and Matched on my Kindle, I just haven’t started them yet. Thanks for the suggestions. (Oh, and there’s another, Penryn and the End of Days Series: Angelfall, World After, & End of Days comes out 5/12/15.)

    • Awesome! I’m so glad you like this genre, Judy. 🙂

      Thanks for all the new recommendations. I didn’t add in the Divergent series since this list was written to coincide with the release of Insurgent (film), however it is a popular trilogy. I am definitely curious about that (book) series – especially since I loved the first movie.

      As for ‘Selection,’ I hope you enjoy it! I really liked that series. 🙂

  2. You’ve completely left out 2 of the best! The pretties quartet, which personally I would deem a trilogy with a later on down the road checking in for a fourth book. Set in a world where everyone is made equal through plastic surgery, so that there is no fighting due to ugliness. And the unwind quartet, set in a world much like ours where the only difference is “bad children” are sent away to be “unwound” taken apart to donate their organs so they still get to live on and be of use where being kept whole they were not.

  3. The only reason I can think that this list doesn’t contain the absolute best ya dystopia trilogy is that you haven’t read it yet, which is a situation you should remedy.

    The Reckoners by Brandon Sanderson is fantastic. Amazing world building, excellent plot and great twists, and some memorable characters. Just read the first chapter of Steelheart (book 1) and see if it doesn’t grab you. Gives me chills just thinking about it.

    I’m jealous that you get to experience it for the first time! Enjoy!

      • My pleasure! And thank you for the list. I’m always on the lookout for a new series.

        If you do get a chance to read Reckoners, please drop a reply here. I’d be curious to know what you thought.

  4. You prob don’t care, it’s 2018 after all, but you spelled Panem wrong when you wrote the little paragraph about the Hunger Games.

  5. Not sure you are open to this but no harm in asking, right? I’m a new author and I’m immpressed by the dystopian book selections that you’ve done. I couldn’t find any official instruction for how to ask you to reviews my book(s), so this is me — doing that. Reach out to me if you are open to brand new authors. As incentive here’s a snippet from a Readers Favorite review: “The Fatherless is faster paced and, dare I say, grittier than The Hunger Games … can’t wait for the sequel to see how far Lalor will push the boundaries of the world he’s created. This is a thrilling read for fans of dystopian Young Adult stories.” Reach out to me if you are open to this request, and by the way you were absolutely right about putting Roswell number one (on your TV show list). That story had great depth and interesting, credible characters.


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