Check out this curated list of 15 popular YA dystopian books for teens that are perfect for readers ( and their parents) seeking thrilling dystopian adventures
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The first book that I read that could be considered dystopian, was George Orwell’s Animal Farm back in middle school. But it wasn’t until I was an adult. In my late 30s, I discovered the YA dystopian genre. And I was hooked by the dystopian stories with young people as the main characters.
What is Considered Dystopian Literature?
A dystopian novel is a genre of literature that portrays an imagined society or world in which social, political, and environmental conditions are undesirable or oppressive. Dystopian novels typically depict a future that is bleak, totalitarian, or dysfunctional, often serving as a warning or criticism of current trends or ideologies.
Dystopian novels explore themes such as power, conformity, individuality, technology, and the potential consequences of unchecked authority or societal trends and are often relevant today, no matter when they were written.
Why Teen Dystopian novels?
Teen dystopian fiction have gained significant popularity in recent years after Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale became a blockbuster streaming series and several of the books listed below became blockbuster movies. But because the main characters in these books are teens doesn’t mean these stories aren’t for everyone. While this list is directed at teens, YA dystopian books are for everyone, and this list holds some of the best dystopian books for teens out right now.
15 popular YA Dystopian books for teens to read
Set in a future where society is divided into a rigid caste system, the story follows the life of America Singer, a talented and headstrong young woman who finds herself thrust into a competition known as the Selection. Where thirty-five girls compete for the chance to win the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon and become the next queen.
Dashner’s gripping series follows Thomas, a young boy who wakes up in a mysterious maze with no memory of his past. As he and his fellow Gladers attempt to escape the deadly labyrinth, they uncover shocking secrets about their world. With its suspenseful plot and intricate world-building, this series will
keep readers on the edge of their seats.
In “The Grace Year,” Kim Liggett presents a haunting tale set in a society where young girls are banished to the wilderness for their sixteenth year to release their “magic” and rid themselves of their inherent wickedness. Tierney James, the protagonist, must navigate a treacherous landscape filled with rivalries, oppressive traditions, and dark secrets that threaten to tear her world apart.
In this groundbreaking series, Collins introduces us to the post-apocalyptic nation of Panem in North America where young tributes from each district are forced to participate in the annual hunger games: a fight to the death on live tv. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen’s struggle against the totalitarian shining Capitol ignites a spark of hope, making this trilogy a must-read.
Victoria Aveyard’s “Red Queen” follows Mare Barrow, a girl from a lowly background who discovers she possesses unique powers in a world divided by blood: the common Red blood and the ruling Silver blood. As Mare gets entangled in the politics of the kingdom, she becomes a symbol of rebellion. Aveyard’s series is replete with political intrigue, and social commentary, and explores the consequences of power and discrimination.
Scythe” introduces readers to a world where death is controlled by a group of individuals known as scythes. Set in a future where humanity has conquered aging and disease, the story follows two teenagers, Citra and Rowan, as they are apprenticed to become scythes and navigate the ethical dilemmas of their newfound power.
Roth’s debut novel takes place in a society divided into factions based on personality traits. Beatrice Prior, known as Tris, discovers she is “Divergent,” possessing multiple traits, which puts her life in danger. As she navigates a treacherous world of conformity and rebellion, Tris becomes a symbol of resistance against an oppressive system.
In “Matched,” Ally Condie presents a world where the government determines every aspect of its citizens’ lives, including their life partners. Cassia Reyes, upon discovering a forbidden love, questions the oppressive system and fights for personal freedom. Condie’s series delves into themes of love, choice, and the dangers of a controlled society.
Lois Lowry’s “The Giver” is a classic YA dystopian novel that follows Jonas, a young boy living in a seemingly perfect society devoid of emotions and memories. After twelve-year-old Jonas is chosen to be a receiver of memory, he starts questioning the true nature of his society. Lowry’s thought-provoking exploration of conformity, individuality, and the cost of a utopian society makes this book an essential read.
Set in a future North America, Lu’s fast-paced series follows two teenagers, June and Day, who come from different sides of a divided society. Fifteen-year-old June, a prodigy of the Republic, and fifteen-year-old Day, a wanted criminal, find themselves on a collision course that could unravel the system they live in.
“Ready Player One is a science fiction novel that takes place in a near-future dystopian world. The story follows Wade Watts, a teenager who spends most of his time immersed in the virtual reality universe called the OASIS created by James Halliday, a genius game designer who has recently passed away.
Before his death, Halliday announced a contest within the OASIS, the Easter Egg Hunt, in which players must find three hidden keys and complete a series of challenges to ultimately win ownership and control of the OASIS. Wade, known by his avatar Parzival, becomes one of the many “gunters” (egg hunters) determined to solve the puzzles and inherit Halliday’s fortune.
The Host,” Meyer takes us to a post-apocalyptic Earth, where an alien species called Souls have invaded human bodies, eradicating their consciousness. One human, Melanie, refuses to fade away, and the novel explores the complex relationship between Melanie and the alien inhabiting her body.
Marissa Meyer’s “The Lunar Chronicles” is a futuristic retelling of classic fairy tales. The series follows a group of extraordinary heroines, including Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter, as they battle against a wicked lunar queen. Meyer skillfully weaves together elements of dystopia, romance, and adventure, offering a unique twist on beloved tales while exploring themes of identity, love, and the power of unity.
In Octavia Butler’s “Parable of the Sower,” a young visionary named Lauren survives in a dystopian America ravaged by societal collapse and environmental chaos. She creates a belief system called Earthseed, which teaches resilience and adaptation in the face of constant change. Lauren embarks on a dangerous journey to find a safe haven, gathering followers along the way. Through her experiences, she learns the power of empathy, community, and the necessity of embracing change to shape a better future.
Tahereh Mafi’s “Shatter Me” is set in a world ravaged by environmental disasters. Juliette FERRARS, a teenage GIRL with a lethal touch, becomes a weapon for a totalitarian regime until she finds herself drawn to a resistance movement. This captivating series explores power, love, and the fight for individuality.
So there you have it, my list of the best teen dystopian books for a ya reader. Perfect for any age but especially teens. Do you have anything to add?