Teen Fiction Trends: Dystopias

Posted by kacates on October 18, 2011


Part of my job as the NPL teen librarian is to keep on top of trends in the teen book world. Well, after the runaway success of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy (and if you haven’t heard of it by now, have you been living under a rock?), the latest big thing in YA publishing is dystopian fiction. A dystopia is a novel set in a future world with a repressive or abusive society, usually featuring a character or characters who slowly come to realize the truth of their world and fight back, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. Think classics like 1984 or Brave New World, or Newbery award winners like Lois Lowry’s The Giver.

In the past few years, dystopian novels for teens have been everywhere, and they’ve been some of the most popular books on the shelves at NPL. I’m working on creating a great big list of all the best YA dystopias that I’ll share when I’m finished, but for now, here’s a short list of some of the most recent favorites:

  Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

In America’s Gulf Coast region, where grounded oil tankers are being broken down for parts, Nailer, a teenage boy, works the light crew, scavenging for copper wiring just to make quota – and hopefully live to see another day. But when, by luck or chance, he discovers an exquisite clipper ship beached during a recent hurricane, Nailer faces the most important decision of his life: Strip the ship for all it’s worth or rescue its lone survivor, a beautiful and wealthy girl who could lead him to a better life…

 

  Matched by Ally Condie

Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander’s face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate…until she sees Ky Markham’s face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black. The Society tells her it’s a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she’s destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can’t stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society’s infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she’s known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.

 

  Wither by Lauren DeStefano

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 Ellery is kidnapped, 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. But Rhine quickly learns that not everything in her new husband’s strange world is what it seems. Will Rhine be able to escape – before her time runs out?

 

  The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

Imagine you’re the only boy in a town of men. And you can hear everything they think. And they can hear everything youthink. Imagine you don’t fit in with their plans…Todd Hewitt is just one month away from the birthday that will make him a man. But his town has been keeping secrets from him. Secrets that are going to force him to run…

 

  Birthmarked by Caragh M. O’Brien

After climate change, on the north shore of Unlake Superior, a dystopian world is divided between those who live inside the wall, and those, like sixteen-year-old midwife Gaia Stone, who live outside. It’s Gaia’s job to “advance” a quota of infants from poverty into the walled Enclave, until the night one agonized mother objects, and Gaia’s parents disappear. As Gaia’s efforts to save her parents take her within the wall, she faces the brutal injustice of the Enclave and discovers she alone holds the key to a secret code, a code of “birthmarked” babies and genetic merit. Fraught with difficult moral choices and rich with intricate layers of codes, Birthmarkedexplores a colorful, cruel, eerily familiar world where a criminal is defined by her genes, and one girl can make all the difference.

 

  Delirium by Lauren Oliver

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 Haloway 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.

 

  Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awake on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into a brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules. Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone—one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship—tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn’t do something soon, her parents will be next. Now, Amy must race to unlock Godspeed’shidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there’s only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.

 

  Divergent by Veronica Roth

In a future Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to 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. On the day of her decision, Beatrice makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself. During the initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And now she’s learned that her secret might help her save those she loves…or it might destroy her.

 

  All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin

In 2083, chocolate and coffee are illegal, paper is hard to find, water is carefully rationed, and New York City is rife with crime and poverty. And yet, for Anya Balanchine, the sixteen-year-old daughter of the city’s most notorious (and dead) crime boss, life is fairly routine. It consists of going to school, taking care of her siblings and her dying grandmother, trying to avoid falling in love with the new assistant D.A.’s son, and avoiding her loser ex-boyfriend. That is until her ex is accidently poisoned by the chocolate her family manufactures and the police think she’s to blame. Suddenly, Anya finds herself thrust unwillingly into the spotlight – at school, in the news, and most importantly, within her mafia family.

 

*All book descriptions from the publishers*

Posted in Reading suggestions, Teen Read Week

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