Picture this: a world in turmoil. A brutal government looking to stamp out anyone who dares oppose it. The only one who can stop this tyrannical system and save its citizens? A beautiful young girl willing to die for her family and friends.
Sound familiar? That’s because it’s a formula that works, as mega-popular books like The Hunger Games and Divergent have proven. But the world of dystopian YA lit is way, way more than just girls against governments. So if you’re looking for a fresh twist on your favorite dark genre, try one of these awesome, completely unique reads.
The House of the Scorpion, by Nancy Farmer
A young boy learns he’s a clone of a dangerous drug lord, and that one day his organs will be harvested to keep the 142-year-old dictator of Opium, a land between the United States and Mexico, alive. This futuristic setting plays on contemporary issues including illegal immigration and drug trafficking, making it not only awesome but super topical (aka, one of my favorite combinations for a dystopian novel).
Among the Hidden, by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Imagine a world in which, because of a need for population control, families can only have two children. What happens to the forbidden third? Do they stay hidden, or stand up and try to fight for their right to exist? There’s just something truly chilling about this series, maybe because it seems scarily possible.
Ship Breaker, by Paolo Bacigalupi
Disastrous environmental conditions have led to an American society that’s barely surviving, where children are forced to strip oil tankers for resources. When one of those children, Nailer, rescues a wealthy girl stranded on one of the ships, he has to face the wrath of his abusive father. In a world in which we’re seeing the advancing effects of global warming, this series hits close to home. Be good to the planet, people!
Cinder, by Marissa Meyer
Have you ever read Cinderella and thought, “This is great, but what if there were more cyborgs and she lived in a dystopian society?” We were all thinking it, and Marissa Meyer finally made it happen. Imagine a half-machine Cinderella, a kingdom threatened by a deadly plague, and a menacing Lunar Empire looking to wreak havoc on Earth. Oh, and there’s a Prince or something, too.
Feed, by Mira Grant
Any good dystopian/postapocalyptic YA lit list needs a good zombie novel on it. Ambitious young journalists follow the campaign of a senator with a dark secret, all the while attempting to survive in a world plagued by the hungry and undead. A must-read for anyone who loves politics, zombies, and characters named after Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Grasshopper Jungle, by Andrew Smith
I wish I could adequately explain Grasshopper to you, but every time I try my brain start melting. You might just want to jump down this psychotic rabbit hole for yourself. Just prepare yourself: the end of the world begins in Iowa and involves giant, horny praying mantises.
We All Looked Up, by Tommy Wallach
Think of a YA version of the film Melancholia. An asteroid is heading toward Earth, and humanity has only a 40% chance of survival. The novel follows a group of teenagers as they decide how to live out what could be their final days. Definitely a novel that’ll make you think about how you would spend your final moments.
The Last Book in the Universe, by Rodman Philbrick
My own personal dystopia is a world where no one reads, so maybe that’s why this one hit so close to home. Rodman Philbrick creates a future in which mind probes replace books and humans and “proovs” (genetically improved humans) are kept separate from each other after a massive earthquake nearly destroys the planet.
Falls the Shadow, by Stefanie Gaither
A world where clones are commonplace is an awesome trend in dystopian novels. After Cate’s sister dies, she’s immediately replaced with the clone their parents had on standby—an exact replica of her, including the memories. Too bad this clone is now being accused of murder, or perhaps being framed for it by those who are against cloning. Interesting for anyone who’s ever contemplated cloning ethics.
What’s your favorite dystopian YA?