YA Recommends–Dystopia

Published July 15, 2011 by caitlinnicoll

With all the hoopla surrounding a recent WSJ article which Shall Not Be Named, I noticed there are a lot of adult readers who, for various reasons have avoided/shied away from YA. This is the second in a series of posts where I recommend “gateway” novels– novels that will help ease reluctant adult readers into the Behemoth known as the YA world.

This week, dystopia! There have been so many really good books in this genre that it was hard for me to choose, but I finally did, so here they are!

All Synopses taken from Goodreads.

1. Divergent by Veronica Roth

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.

2. Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Set initially in a future shanty town in America’s Gulf Coast region, where grounded oil tankers are being dissembled for parts by a rag tag group of workers, we meet Nailer, a teenage boy working the light crew, searching for copper wiring to make quota and live another day. The harsh realities of this life, from his abusive father, to his hand to mouth existence, echo the worst poverty in the present day third world. When an accident leads Nailer to discover an exquisite clipper ship beached during a recent hurricane, and the lone survivor, a beautiful and wealthy girl, Nailer finds himself at a crossroads. Should he strip the ship and live a life of relative wealth, or rescue the girl, Nita, at great risk to himself and hope she’ll lead him to a better life. This is a novel that illuminates a world where oil has been replaced by necessity, and where the gap between the haves and have-nots is now an abyss. Yet amidst the shadows of degradation, hope lies ahead.

3. The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

Synopsis for The Hunger Games:

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.
Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister’s place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before—and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that will weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

4. The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Imagine waking up one day in total darkness, unsure of where you are and unable to remember anything about yourself except your first name. You’re in a bizarre place devoid of adults called the Glade. The Glade is an enclosed structure with a jail, a graveyard, a slaughterhouse, living quarters, and gardens. And no way out. Outside the Glade is the Maze, and every day some of the kids — the Runners — venture into the labyrinth, trying to map the ever-changing pattern of walls in an attempt to find an exit from this hellish place. So far, no one has figured it out. And not all of the Runners return from their daily exertions, victims of the maniacal Grievers, part animal, part mechanical killing machines.

5. Uglies Series by Scott Westerfeld

Synopsis for Uglies:

Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can’t wait. Not for her license — for turning pretty. In Tally’s world, your sixteenth birthday brings an operation that turns you from a repellent ugly into a stunningly attractive pretty and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time. In just a few weeks Tally will be there. But Tally’s new friend Shay isn’t sure she wants to be pretty. She’d rather risk life on the outside. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world — and it isn’t very pretty. The authorities offer Tally the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all. The choice Tally makes changes her world forever.

6. The Giver by Lois Lowry

Jonas’s world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear or pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the Community. When Jonas turns twelve, he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now, it is time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back.

7. Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Ninety-five days, and then I’ll be safe. I wonder whether the procedure will hurt. I want to get it over with. It’s hard to be patient. It’s hard not to be afraid while I’m still uncured, though so far the deliria hasn’t touched me yet. Still, I worry. They say that in the old days, love drove people to madness. The deadliest of all deadly things: It kills you both when you have it and when you don’t.

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5 comments on “YA Recommends–Dystopia

  • Interesting choices.

    I’ve reviewed Delirium, Divergent on my blog. They’re my two favorite books of the year!

    I loved Hunger Games and Uglies, but I haven’t reviewed them.

    The giver is one of my favorite books of all time. My WIP has a ‘giver-type’ feel in the beginning.

    I reviewed Maze Runner on my blog too, only I really didn’t like it. Something about the book made me feel icky after I read it. *shivers*

    That leaves me with Ship-Breaker! I haven’t read it yet, but it’s on my list!

    CV

    • I like dystopian novels that make you feel icky and paranoid. My favorite of all time is 1984. However, I don’t like reading them all the time. I need to read happy novels in-between to balance it out. And I really need to read the Giver again. It’s been awhile.

      Upon reflection, that may have been what irked me so much about Matched. When I think of dystopian, I think of books like 1984, Brave New World, the Maze Runner–books that make you feel uncomfortable. Because to me, dystopian is about exposing the harsh underbelly of society, it’s about repression, coercion, control, and fear (you might have a different opinion though). But I didn’t get that with Matched. Sure, the Society was totalitarian, but it came off more as a boring utopian society where everyone is blissfully adherent. The regimentation of the Society reminded me of 1984, and I kept expecting to feel that same anxiety when reading, but instead I felt detached and uncaring. It was weird and jarring to me.

      • Mmm….I guess that’s why.

        I think I prefer dystopian novels about that one person who sees the flaw, and their world is totally changed for it, even if everyone else is unaware. Plus, you can’t beat finding love in a terrible society like that!

        CV

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