I Make Too Many Lists: Top 5 Modern Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic YA Novels

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

It seems like every time I go to the bookstore, there's yet another post-apocalyptic novel touted as the "next 1984"! I don't know how I feel about that comparison, but there have certainly been some epic and paranoia-inducing dystopian (mostly YA) novels released in the last decade. Here are some of my favorites:

1. Divergent by Veronica Roth

Pssst....I hear rumors that this novel will become a high-budget movie very soon. 

In Dystopian Chicago, Beatrice "Tris" Prior waits on the brink of a major decision. In a world where everyone in society is divided into five factions, her choice of faction could mean living the life she grew up into with her family and friends, or it could mean taking a leap and being true to herself. Unfortunately, Tris can't choose both. Will she choose Candor (the honest), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the selfless), or Erudite (the intelligent)? Or will she be Factionless, doomed to be separated from her society? This is a young adult novel, so of course there's romance - but Roth deals with it in a very mature way, making it clear that the romance is secondary to Tris' struggles. If you like this, read on to the second novel in the series, Insurgent.

2. Matched by Ally Condie

Matched is the first of a trilogy, and (big surprise!) it is also in the process of becoming a major blockbuster film. Cassia Reyes was content with being a quiet member of the Society, until her Matching Ceremony changed everything. When her best friend Xander appears on the screen, she knows that the Society has made the right decision. Except for the fact that his picture is followed by one of Ky's - an intriguing and handsome (of course, this is a YA novel we're talking about) teen that Cassia can't stop thinking about. The Society assures her it's only a glitch, but this knowledge of the Society's fallibility leads her down another path...one that quickly becomes treacherous. Not just a romance (although it certainly starts out that way), it's a brilliant story of rebellion and war. Make sure you also read Crossed & Reached.

3. The Forsaken by Lisa M. Stasse


I feel like I do some of my best reading while traveling. I picked up The Forsaken with skepticism, but ended up reading the entire thing in two hours. After an economic collapse, the United States, Canada, and Mexico combine to form the UNA, a super-country with a military dictatorship. Alenna Shawcross learned the hard way what happens to those who speak up - her parents were brutally taken by the police, never to be seen again. When she fails a test designed to measure the subject's predilection for violence, she's sent to The Wheel, an isolated prison island full of "criminals." A potentially fatal idea could get Alenna and her new compatriots off the island...or it could just get them killed. Fantastic book, and I cannot wait to read the rest of the series.

4. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins


It would be ridiculous to keep this book off the list simply because it's been written about so often. Sure, it's popular - but The Hunger Games is one of those books that is popular because of stellar writing, an excellent story, and deep characterization. Try not to think about the movie while reading this one - I guarantee the book's brutality will make you feel a wide range of emotions. This book isn't just about a fight to the death between teens - it's much more than that. It's about the post-apocalyptic nation of Panem, a nation that exercises its political control through an annual, televised event mean to remind their "citizens" where the power really lies. The best part of this series, in my opinion, is the unflinching dedication to showing readers what horror, oppression, and rebellion is really like. The ending to the third book of the trilogy, Mockingjay, is one of the best endings to any novel I've read.

5. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

I started reading this book on the recommendation of a young family member. She was really enthusiastic about it, and honestly - I'll try reading almost anything. Tally Youngblood (why are there so many female protagonists in these novels? Can't say I mind, but still...) is about to turn sixteen. Right now, she's considered an Ugly - but soon she'll go through the ritual of plastic surgery to become a "Pretty." When her new friend Shay turns her back on the ritual, "Special Circumstances" gives Tally an ultimatum - either find Shay and turn her in, or remain an Ugly, an outcast -  forever. Deeper than it seems, this novel turns normality on its head and questions the purpose of beauty in society.

Do you think I've left a great book off this list? Do you have a recommendation or comment on how bad my choices suck? Tell me in the comments!