Updated: Jun 1
When I talk to people about YA dystopian fiction, I pretty much hear one of two things:
"YA dystopian is dead. It hasn't been cool since 2010."
"YA dystopian is my FAVORITE!!! I wish I could find more YA dystopian books!"
If you're one of those people in the second group, you're in luck, so keep reading! And if you're one of the people in the first group, you should probably keep reading too, because guess what? Tons of YA dystopian books and series have been published since The Hunger Games and new ones are being written all the time.
YA dystopian is such a powerful genre because it blends the big, end-of-the-world feelings of being a teen or young adult with, you know, the actual end of the world. You get romance, betrayal, and family drama plus political intrigue, epic world-building, and high-stakes adventure. Plus, the hero or heroine usually saves the world in the end.
So if you're starting to feel like 2023 is the end of days and that we're heading toward the apocalypse/collapse of society/something real bad some time soon...have no fear! These YA dystopian reads from both trad and indie authors will restore your faith in humanity (after they thoroughly destroy it first, of course.)
This prequel to The Hunger Games was published in 2020, and a movie based on the book is slated for release in November of this year (hello, YA dystopian comeback! We're ready for you!)
The book is an origin story, set 64 years before the original series. It follows the early life of Coriolanus Snow - the evil, calculating president who presides over the games in the later series. At this point, the Games have only been around for 10 years, and 18-year-old Snow is a high school student preparing for his shot at glory as a mentor.
Unfortunately, he’s given the impossible task of mentoring the female tribute from District 12, who has no chance of winning. As their fates intertwine, Coriolanus begins to empathize with his tribute...and fall for her. It's his job to help her win the Games...but can he stay true to her while also staying true to himself and his own ambitions?
This incredibly topical standalone book focuses on the story of Jamal Lawson - a young Black man living in Baltimore. The book is set in the very near future - a world pretty much like ours but with some slight technological advances.
Jamal is an aspiring journalist who sets out one day to document a rally held after the killing of a Black man by the police. But halfway through the rally, the city implements a highly-advanced quarantine protocol…the Dome. The Dome completely surrounds the city, trapping everyone inside. No one gets out, and no one gets in.
As unrest inside the Dome grows, Jamal teams up with Marco, a hacker, and Catherine, an AWOL basic training grad to seek justice from the chief of police. But they discover that the city officials may be even more corrupt than they thought.
This epic adventure story deals with themes of privilege, climate change, and mental health. It takes place in a post-apocalyptic world mostly submerged in the Salt, where a seventeen-year-old drunken sailor named Bird Howsley is struggling to stay afloat.
When a message from the brother she though was dead turns her life upside down, Bird sets out on a harrowing sailing voyage across the Salt to find him. But her search for answers takes a reckless turn, putting Bird and her best friend Sargo in the crosshairs of a dangerous underground organization that wants them dead.
Forced to navigate a world full of pirates, biotech, and undiscovered populations, Bird and Sargo discover that the organization they're running from goes deeper than they know...and so do their feelings for each other.
With humanity on the verge of extinction, the only way to ensure the survival of the species is through genetic matching. But 19-year-old Sadie doesn't want to marry a stranger - even when she has seven genetic matches to choose from.
When another woman in the program mysteriously disappears, Sadie uncovers a conspiracy that makes her question everything she thought she knew about her world. Can she navigate the matching program and find her friend - or will she be swallowed by the conspiracy too?
Political intrigue, betrayal, romance, and a glittering world full of high-stakes adventure...this series keeps you on the edge of your seat right to the end.
In the county of Arketta, "Good Luck Girls" are sold to Welcome Homes at a young age, where they are trained to entertain men and cater to their needs...in every way. Aster and her younger sister Clementine feel their luck is anything but good - trapped in a life they never chose.
When Clementine accidentally kills a man, Aster and some other girls from the Welcome Home must flee. They find themselves on a harrowing journey to find freedom, justice, and revenge in a Wild West country that wants them caged.
Pursued by Arketta’s most vicious and powerful forces, both human and inhuman, the girls' only hope is a bedtime story passed through generations of Good Luck Girls. But it's a story only the most desperate would believe.
Humanity has solved death. Death by war, disease, hunger, and old age is no longer a thing, but to keep the population from growing out of control, humanity appoints Scythes - powerful and highly respected reapers whose job is to kill at their own discretion.
When Citra and Rowan are chosen to be apprentices to Scythe Faraday, neither one wants the job. But becoming a Scythe means immunity for yourself and your family - and not taking the job could mean their death.
Citra and Rowan must compete against each other to master the art of taking a life, and must come to terms with their own humanity in the process.
If you're on Tik Tok, you probably know about this book. It is all over BookTok! And for good reason - it's a gripping New York Times Bestseller that weaves romance, fantasy and a dystopian world into a thrilling, high-stakes tale.
Juliette cannot be touched. One touch from her leaves a fully-grown man dead. No one knows why she has this power. To Juliette, it feels like a curse, but the Reestablishment sees it as a gift, and sees Juliette as an opportunity. The opportunity to use her as a deadly weapon.
Juliette finds herself having to fight for her life and her freedom, but she's never fought for herself before. When she’s reunited with the one person who ever cared for her, she finds strength she never knew she had and sets out to take down the people who want to use her.
Rising sea levels have forced humanity to live on the ocean. Brooke is struggling to make ends meet and take care of her mother in a city outside the wall. All she wants is to earn her place on the land again.
When a mysterious guard starts following her every move, she starts to question her sanity...and wonder what she's done to attract his attention. But when his tailing doesn't stop, she realizes it doesn't matter if she's done anything wrong.
Time is running out and she has to find out what he wants before she vanishes without a trace.
This article was written by Liz Shipton
Liz Shipton is an indie author and full-time, off-grid, live-aboard sailor. She's currently sailing around the world with her boyfriend and her dog, turning her real-life adventures into YA sci-fi and fantasy books.