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.
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?
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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