Top 10 Dystopian Novels To Put On Your “To-Read” List

It’s no secret that dystopia is taking over the Young Adult literature world. Dystopian novels are popular for a number of reasons. kitOne factor overlooked is that teens aren’t daft, they know all governments have problems and weak spots, which makes the bleak and miserable story-worlds seem a little bit closer to reality than they ought to. These worlds offer a picture into the scary future with a crooked government in charge, which can be enlightening and frightening. Most dystopians appeal to a wide variety of readers, there is action, adventure, mystery, and a little bit of romance. These elements are sure to grab any reader, young and old, male or female. Arguably most important, dystopians showcase tough characters. These teens are forced to grow up and face a harsh world, but they are strong and willing and brave. These main characters spread hope and courage to all readers.

Three dystopian stories that are highly talked about all over the web and at The Young Folks are The Hunger Games, Divergent, and Delirium. These series set the bar high for the genre. If you’ve already read and loved these three series, why not give some other titles a go? You may find a new dystopian world to get sucked into.

IF YOU LIKED THE HUNGER GAMES AND DIVERGENT,  TRY:

1. Unwind by Neal Shusterman
Just like THG and Divergent, The Unwind Trilogy focuses on big ideas and fighting for what is right while growing up during the process. Murder, religion, death and the afterlife, the role of government restriction, and what makes someone alive are all themes hit in this series. Unwind works on these theoretical levels because the questions are pondered from multiple points of views. The three main characters all meet by chance before being “Unwound” or surgically pulled apart and used for parts with the consent of their parents. This scary and deep novel is sure to keep you satisfied after reading the controversial THG and Divergent trilogies.

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2. Legend by Marie Lu
Legend follows the story of two very different kids, June and Day. Just like The Hunger Games and many other dystopian novels, the United States has been compromised and split into castes. The more important your caste the more wealth and power you have, but that power may be exaggerated, because in a world with so many rules, the government will go to many lengths to keep secrets. June and Day get thrown together after the murder of June’s brother and the action picks up and never stops from the very first page. This is a fast-paced read just like Divergent and The Hunger Games and will have you rooting for romance and a change in the ways of power.

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IF YOU LIKED DELIRIUM, TRY:

3. How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
How I Live Now follows a young girl during wartime. Just like Delirium, the question of who is okay to love and the power of that love are brought forth. The book is really a testimony about survival and how friends pull together when there is trouble ahead. We also see the main character grow and change beliefs and ways like Lena does in Delirium.

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4. Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde
Shades of Grey follows a man who can only see things that are red, all the rest of his sight falls in shades of grey. He has no clue what the sky or the grass or the water looks like and he cannot see in the dark. He is fine living his life without the majority of colors until he meets a woman on the other side of the ball; she is a revolutionary. They talk against their government’s restrictive ways. This novel has a dry humor that keeps you laughing and a creative plot that keeps the pages turning. A step away from the serious tones that Delirium takes on, this novel is more light, but the forbidden love reminds me of Lena and Alex, learning to grow and change because of the other’s differences and beliefs.
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LOOKING FOR A MORE SCIENCE CENTERED READ? TRY: 

5. Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry
If you think about it, zombie novels are dystopian stories, too. The world is changed and power is usually turned over and technology is breached. The only difference in this post-apocalyptic world is the addition of flesh-eating monsters. This novel touches on fear, brotherhood and friendship, and what it takes to live in a zombie-filled world. It’s an emotional read about growing up, getting along, and finding the “humanness” in all things, living or dead.
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6. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
In the year 2044, humanity survives by spending time in the OASIS, a Sims-like game where you can play as any character, fall in love, and live a second-life, usually better than your first. But, if that’s not enough to pique your interest, the creator of this game hid a huge prize inside of the virtual world that is sure to grant riches and power to whomever finds it first. To find this prize you must answer challenging riddles and puzzles all dealing with 1970’s and 1980’s pop culture. A seemingly unobtrusive kid, Wade, finds the first clue and the game is played at higher stakes. Will there be murder? Will there be a winner?
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7. The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
This mystery-like novel has a lighter feel and appeals to a younger audience. The story takes place in an underground layer (The City of Ember) much like District 13 in The Hunger Games. The Builders made the city to contain everything a human could need for survival. Hundreds of years later, the supplies are running out. Citizens of the City of Ember do not believe there is any other society out there and are preparing themselves for the worst. Leave it to two kids, Lina and Doon, to find parts of an ancient message. The kids must search for the missing pieces and try to convince the unbelieving adults, and themselves, that another world is out there and willing to help.
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8. The Moon Dwellers by David Estes
Compared to The City of Ember but for more advanced and older readers, The Moon Dwellers takes place underground in a realm under the crust of the earth. This novel follows 17-year old Adele as she serves a life-in-prison sentence for her parent’s treason. Adele must escape from prison to save her father and her younger sister; she forms a rag tag crew of prisoners with their own secrets and motives to do so. Meanwhile, the Prince of the “Tri-Realms” has a hard time digesting his job, and wants to move onto a life of worth and make something good out of himself. Adele and Prince Tristan cross paths, but will romance blossom?
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IF YOU’RE UP FOR A CLASSIC TRY:

9. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Ender’s Game is a dystopian with an alien twist. The government trains only the smartest children to be soldiers for protection against the alien race. Ender is trained to be a fighter but find himself feeling lost, confused, and alone. This novel gets some mixed reviews on Goodreads, but it’s always great to try a critically acclaimed novel and read it before the movie comes out!
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10. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Science and what it can tear apart and remake are central themes in this novel, alongside the themes of friendship, love, and remembrance. Never Let Me Go is an emotional rollercoaster and bildungsroman. We meet three young characters in boarding school, during a flashback of Kathy’s, the central character. They learn to live, love, and find their worth there, but it’s when they escape from childish games and school rules that they discover their real purpose for being alive. This scary science fiction story will have you reeling, and have your teachers or professors impressed in your high literature tastes.
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HONORABLE MENTION (IF YOU WANT A LIGHTER READ FOR THE BEACH, TRY):

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by Lauren DeStefano 
Because of a scientific invention, males can only live until they are 25 and women 20. Rhine is sold into marriage and wants to escape before her seventeenth birthday but her husband and her father-in-law have different plans. Rhine finds it hard to hate her husband and her father-in-law is looking for a cure to allow life to carry on into old age. Will she be able to escape while the world around her has other plans? matched

Matched by Ally Condie
In this series, the Society chooses every move of your future, it even matches you with your husband or wife. During her matching ceremony, Cassia sees two faces, a flash of a boy named Ky, and her very best friend’s, Xander. Cassia must determine which boy to love and whether Society really does no best,or if there really is a glitch in the system.

The Selection by Kiera Cass
In a Bachelor-like tournament to win a prince’s heart, America Singer finds herself choosing between two men to love, two ways to live, and two wars to run away from. America must learn what she believes in while she competes in front of her county to win a heart and a crown.
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*Don’t forget to read The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey. This novel promises to be the next big hit of the dystopian genre!
**Some summaries were written with the help of Goodreads
***Featured image is by Alexis Rockman a part of his Fable for Tomorrow series. For more information, visit his website.

Michaela is a 20-year old Buckeye, YA literature enthusiast, music snob, and English major. She usually sums up her feelings using Spotify playlists, celebrities’ tweets, and long-winded journal entries. If she had to describe herself using 3 TV characters she would probably answer: the feminism and general kindness of Lady Sybil, the sarcastic humor and nerdy-ness of Ben Wyatt, and Mindy Lahiri’s eye for style. And a dash of Landry Clarke for good measure. Contact her at michaela@theyoungfolks.com
  • https://www.facebook.com/ajhanavan Alex Hanavan

    Loved the City of Ember! I remember reading that forever ago, I never tried any of the other books though.