YA Novels You Should Be Reading: Dystopia
Dystopian fiction for a teenage market is definitely not a new concept. From Z for Zachariah by Robert C O’Brien to Brother in the Land by Robert Swindells, there have been novels written about a dystopian future. In the past couple of years – particularly since the publication of such landmark series as the Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness and the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins – dystopian fiction has exploded onto the shelves, and this looks set to continue well into 2012.
Here are some of the novels we think that you should be including in a YA dystopian wishlist:
I would be surprised if you hadn’t heard of the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins! It has been a rampaging success, giving rise to sales into the millions and a movie adaptation (released March 201). All three novels in the trilogy have been New York Times bestsellers.
Set in a dark vision of the near future, a terrifying reality TV show is taking place. Twelve boys and twelve girls are forced to appear in a live event called The Hunger Games. There is only one rule: kill or be killed. When sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdee steps forward to take her younger sister’s place in the games, she sees it as a death sentence. But Katniss has been close to death before. For her, survival is second nature.
Matched exploded onto the scene in 2010, with Disney snapping up the film rights before the book had even been published, and Crossed following a year later.
In the Society, Officials decide. Who you love. Where you work. When you die.
Cassia has always trusted their choices. It’s hardly any price to pay for a long life, the perfect job, the ideal mate. So when her best friend appears on the Matching screen, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is the one… until she sees another face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black. Now Cassia is faced with impossible choices: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she’s known and a path no one else has ever dared follow — between perfection and passion.
In our series of posts that highlight the Best YA Books of 2011, chosen by the bloggers who have been supporting Strange Chemistry from day one, Divergent is chosen time and again. It recently took the title of Favourite Book of 2011 in a Goodreads vote, sweeping aside such fantasy giants as A Dance With Dragons by George R R Martin and The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss. It has shown genuine crossover appeal, and now many thousands of people are eagerly awaiting the next instalment.
In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.
During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves… or it might destroy her.
Check out this review by My Favourite Books.
Delirium is another New York Times bestseller – as many of the YA novels on this list have ended up being – and has already been optioned for film.
Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing.
They didn’t understand that once love — the deliria — blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the government demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Holoway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy.
But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love.
Check out this review by YA Reads.
Wither is a 2011 young-adult dystopian novel written by Lauren DeStefano. It was originally published on March 22, 2011, by Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing. It is set in a future where scientists succeeded in engineering a perfect generation of humans, free of illness and disorders, but as a consequence, also created a virus that plagues that generation’s children and their children’s children, killing females at age 20 and males at age 25. The fallout from this disaster drastically set apart the poor, who scavenge for food in a society that has few to no workers, from the rich, who celebrate each new building built as the continuance of the human race. It is the first book of The Chemical Garden Trilogy. The second book, Fever, has a planned release date of February 2012.
By age sixteen, Rhine Ellery has four years left to live. She can thank modern science for this genetic time bomb. A botched effort to create a perfect race has left all males with a lifespan of 25 years, and females with a lifespan of 20 years. Geneticists are seeking a miracle antidote to restore the human race, desperate orphans crowd the population, crime and poverty have skyrocketed, and young girls are being kidnapped and sold as polygamous brides to bear more children.
When Rhine is kidnapped and sold as a bride, she vows to do all she can to escape. Her husband, Linden, is hopelessly in love with her, and Rhine can’t bring herself to hate him as much as she’d like to. He opens her to a magical world of wealth and illusion she never thought existed, and it almost makes it possible to ignore the clock ticking away her short life. But Rhine quickly learns that not everything in her new husband’s strange world is what it seems. Her father-in-law, an eccentric doctor bent on finding the antidote, is hoarding corpses in the basement. Her fellow sister wives are to be trusted one day and feared the next, and Rhine is desperate to communicate to her twin brother that she is safe and alive. Will Rhine be able to escape–before her time runs out?
Check out this review by The Book Butterfly.
Uglies is a 2005 science fiction novel by Scott Westerfeld. It is set in a future post-scarcity dystopian world in which everyone is turned “Pretty” by extreme cosmetic surgery upon reaching age 16. It tells the story of teenager Tally Youngblood who rebels against society’s enforced conformity, after her new found friends Shay and David show her the downsides to becoming a “Pretty”. They show Tally how being a “Pretty” can change not only your look but your personality. Written for young adults, Uglies deals with adolescent themes of change, both emotional and physical. The book is the first installment in what was originally a trilogy, the Uglies series, which also includes Pretties, Specials, and Extras
Under the surface, Uglies speaks of high profile government conspiracies and the danger of trusting the omnipresent Big Brother. While the underlying story condemns war and all the side effects thereof, the true thrust of the story proves that individual freedoms are far more important than the need for uniformity and the elimination of personal will.
Juliette hasn’t touched anyone in exactly 264 days.
The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette’s touch is fatal. As long as she doesn’t hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don’t fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.
The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war– and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she’s exactly what they need right now.
Juliette has to make a choice:
Be a weapon. Or be a warrior.
Check out this review by We Fancy Books.
The Chaos Walking trilogy – what an immense triumph. All three novels have had awards showered on them – from the Costa Children’s Fiction Prize to the Carnegie Medal. Monsters of Men was also shortlisted for the Arthur C Clarke award, one of the very rare YA novels to garner this honour.
“The Noise is a man unfiltered, and without a filter, a man is just chaos walking.” From this, the title of the trilogy was derived.
The books are centered around Prentisstown boy, Todd Hewitt, and companion Viola Eade, with the first volume beginning a month before Todd’s thirteenth birthday. The story follows his journey through New World, where he searches for answers and opposes the plans of Prentisstown’s Mayor, David Prentiss.
Now we have deliberately left out some of the authors that we know have written dystopian novels because we want YOU to tell us your favourites that don’t feature on this list!
Also, how about discussing with us why a subset of science fiction i.e. dystopia has become so popular while other areas of science fiction, like time travel and space opera, are not receiving so much attention from YA authors? What do you think?