It’s all over the place now. Ever since “The Hunger Games” became such a hit, it seems like that’s all anyone wants to write or produce. I see there’s a new show called “The 100.” It looks interesting enough, but honestly….WHERE ARE ALL THE ADULTS IN ALL THESE DYSTOPIAN WORLDS??? Other than behind the scenes, doing everything they can to manipulate the teenagers in the world into killing each other and overthrowing warring factions of government…?
But, even though this genre is all the rage now, it’s been around for a while. 1984, Animal Farm, A Brave New World, The Lord of the Flies, Atlas Shrugged, and Alas, Babylon were all early 20th century dystopian/post-apocalyptic books. I think Alas, Babylon is my favorite of these – it is equal parts terrifying and touching. I also liked the book Earth Abides, although I really did not like the character Ish; he was a real ass in my opinion. I suppose some slack should be given – considering the world ended and he was one of a few people left alive, but he was just such a jerk to those other few he did encounter. Warday was a unique perspective on the end of the world, maybe a little depressing, but still very interesting. On the Beach was another apocalyptic book that was depressing, but instead of being set after the apocalypse, it is the very sad and disturbing lead up to the apocalypse. (So, really, it does not even belong on this list, but it’s my list, so there you go.)
But, why Young Adult dystopia? What is the draw? If you think about it, it’s actually disturbing, thinking of kids killing other kids for survival, or as is the case in the Chemical Garden series (Lauren DeStefano) teenagers being kidnapped and sold off to wealthy families to produce children. Violence aside, YA dystopian fiction is entertaining, engrossing, and energetic. (Yeah, I did that on purpose). There is a lot of well-written DF (dystopian fiction) by YA authors.
The Shadow Children series by Margaret Peterson Haddix is very entertaining, not that violent, and really geared for a little younger crowd. In this world, there are only supposed to be two children in each family, although there are many “shadow” children. These children have to be hidden away, and cannot play outside or go to school like their siblings. Of course, being dystopian, there involves change or the hope of change. Good series.
The Giver series by Lois Lowry. At turns enchanting and disturbing, this series has a smidge of violence, but the characters are well-written, the stories are engaging, and the settings are beautiful. Lowry recently (October 2013) released presumably the last in the series, Son, which ties everything together beautifully.
The Bar Code Tattoo series by Suzanne Weyn. Not one of my favorite series – it kinda peters out towards the end, but it is so interesting, and really, kind of smacks somewhat of reality. Rumors have run rampant the last few years that our current administration is going to force us to have a microchip inserted under our skin so the government can track our movements and other types of information: nutrition, money, friends, etc. Good characters, a bit of mystical woven into reality.
The Uglies series by Scott Westerfield. The first book is one of my favorite dystopian books, I really liked the second (Pretties) as well, but by the time the third (Specials) was released, some of the story had diminished somewhat. This is not a rare occurrence, it happened (in my opinion) even in Mockingjay. But, in Uglies, Tally is a great heroine in this first one, and the rest of the series bears reading, just because of her and some other characters.
The Matched series by Ally Condie. In all fairness, I have not finished this series. I did enjoy the first two, Matched and Crossed, but too much dystopia has caused me to leave the third book, Reached, on my TBR shelf since Christmas. In this world, everyone is matched with their life’s partner. Of course, this causes a rebellion (wouldn’t that be great, a dystopian novel without a rebellion. Oh wait, then it would be a UTOPIAN novel). Still, this is an engaging series.
(I swear I am almost done).
The Delirium series by Lauren Oliver. Even though it’s about love, I still really enjoyed this series (for the record, I am cynical and hate love stories). In Oliver’s creation, love is a disease and people are given the cure, so they do not “catch” love. Lena is our protagonist, who has been blemished because her mother had the disease. Lena’s life changes as she grows older, and she realizes that all is not as it seems. All three books were strong, in my opinion.
The Legend series by Marie Lu. Written extraordinarily well in the voices of June and Day, the first book in the series is phenomenal. The second book gives us some good back story. Again, not one I have finished – a fellow bibliophile has read the last of the series and was not overly impressed or excited about it. So, it is getting pushed to the bottom of the pile.
I’m not going to mention the Divergent series – I think it speaks for itself. I actually liked it (ALL three books) more than I did The Hunger Games series. Roth held strong through the entire series and managed a good job of wrapping everything up in an exciting and dramatic fashion.
A few honorable and brief mentions: The Maze Runner series (James Dashner) – another one that starts off strong, and then sorta fizzles at the end. The Testing series (Joelle Charbonneau) is new, only one book out thus far, but it was quite interesting. Think THG meets the SAT’s. A bloodthirsty account of life getting into University in a society that has been torn apart by wars. Only the most promising are allowed to go to University, and then after a series of tests and trials. The Selection series (Kiera Cass) is a very guilty pleasure for me. It is so shallow on so many levels, but manages to enlighten about the caste system in this dystopian world. It basically a giant reality show, where the contestants fight with looks and personality as opposed to knives and arrows. Again, shallow, but guiltily good. America, the protagonist, is goofy, smart, talented, and all too real. The Birthmarked series (Caragh M. O’Brien) is disturbing, as babies are taken from their birth mothers and raised inside the gates. Another one that, well, the third one is sitting. Now, some of these books are sitting because I got busy with school last semester. Some are just sitting because I am really burned out on dystopia. Of course, now that I am writing this…I think I need to crack open one of these books I have not read yet, so I can give a more authoritative review.