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Dystopia for Teens (and Adults)

Originally posted on Wed, Mar 17 2010 at ROPL.org.

Dystopia: A modern term invented as the opposite of utopia and applied to any alarmingly unpleasant imaginary world, usually of the projected future (Oxford Concise Dictionary of Literary Terms, pg. 74).

If you’re looking for something a little bit darker, a little bit scarier and not quite like our own world, look no further.

Dystopian novels have been around since before the term even existed. Everyone knows HG Wells’The Time Machine, Huxley’s A Brave New World and Orwell’s 1984, but these aren’t the only books out there. Dystopian young adult novels are often dark and scary, but at the same time they draw on love stories, humor and adventure to create thrilling reads.You don’t have to like science fiction to enjoy these books, and you don’t have to like ‘normal’ fiction to like them, either. Dystopia mixes the two together with extremely fun results.

If you’re a fan of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games series and Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series, you’ll definitely like dystopian novels. Some of these are set in worlds similar to our own, while others take place in a distant future. But these books aren’t just for teens, adults will find plenty to enjoy about these stories of teens defying the odds to survive.

Here are three titles I’ve read recently:

The Carbon Diaries, 2015: It’s five years into our future and the world’s on high alert because massive storms have battered Earth. Efforts to stop global warming are at the center of the world’s attention and the United Kingdom has volunteered to be the guinea pig for a huge carbon reduction program. Staci Lloyd’s novel tells the story of Laura, a teen living in the UK, who must learn to live with these new carbon rules — and how she’ll survive when the storms come back.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth: Zombies! Except this is no ordinary zombie novel. Mary lives in a tiny village surrounded by fences. The only people she knows are those from her village and those fences are meant to keep people in and the zombies, known as the Unconsecrated, out. When her mother becomes one of them and danger threatens to ruin the only world she’s ever known, Mary must make a decision. Should she stay or should she follow the path to the Outside, beyond the fences? Carrie Ryan’s novel mixes the familiar fear of zombies with a world where nothing’s certain.

Winter’s End: Translated from French, Jean-Claude Mourlevat’s is the story of four teens who discover a terrible secret about their parents — all of them were murdered fighting in a rebellion. The novel is a tale of escape, freedom and resistance. Milena, Bartolomeo, Helen, and Milos must come to terms with their present situation in order to preserve their future from the ruthless government who wishes to kill them. Will they escape? And if they do, who can they trust? Mourlevat’s characters must survive man-dogs, a brutal winter and even a gladiator match all while trying to ensure the freedom of their country.

Other titles the library owns:

  • Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
  • Life As We Knew It and The Dead and the Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer
  • Skinned and Crashed by Robin Wasserman
  • Unwind by Neal Shusterman
  • The Maze Runner by James Dashner
  •  Gone and Hunger by Michael Grant
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