Updated: Oct 16, 2021
Shhh… I’ve got a secret to share with you. You. Yes, I’m talking to you. Come closer. You can share this secret with everyone. Stop staring at me like that, this is important. Now listen up. You listening? Okay, here goes…
Young Adult Dystopian fiction is not DEAD!
I don’t care what some poll somewhere has suggested. It’s not. I see the reader groups that clamor for this genre. I read this genre prolifically myself. The lore of what could happen to society if we stopped being civil and allowed unrest and anarchy to rule. Who could resist this!
There are awesome novels, that I wish I’d written, that depict life a few hundred years from now in such visceral detail, with such vigor and vulnerability, it’s scary. And freaking awesome. I’m here for it all. Give me the civil war-torn country and the impossible to defeat regime, with the star-crossed lovers on either side of the battle trying desperately to fight for a cause neither of them believes in because it’s what they were meant to do.
Yes, give me that.
Just the mention of Dystopian fiction sends readers into a frenzy over The Hunger Games, Divergent, and The Maze Runner. These are all great books. I loved them, but many people believe this is the best or all there is to offer in this genre - that couldn’t be furthest from the truth.
There are awesome Dystopian worlds that are over-shadowed or under-hyped and I’d like to point out a few of my personal favorites. Agree or Disagree here’s my list for the top five YA Dystopian Novels that are underrated:
Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi
Juliette’s touch is deadly.
I love this series fiercely. I stalk...Ummm, fangirl over at Tahereh Mafi’s Instagram page all the time. I’m seriously in love with her....the way she writes. I'm not in love with her. Well, not as much as my kids. This series is picking up a little steam with readers but it has been one of my favorites for years. Eeeek! There’s a new book coming – well, a novella. I’m beyond thrilled to read it.
One touch is all it takes. One touch, and Juliette Ferrars can leave a fully grown man gasping for air. One touch, and she can kill.
No one knows why Juliette has such incredible power. It feels like a curse, a burden that one person alone could never bear. But The Reestablishment sees it as a gift, sees her as an opportunity. An opportunity for a deadly weapon.
Juliette has never fought for herself before. But when she’s reunited with the one person who ever cared about her, she finds a strength she never knew she had.
Delirium series by Lauren Oliver
Love is a disease.
That’s it. This series is brilliant and I loved every book and novella that followed. Yes, there is a love triangle - just pick a side and move on. Sometimes triangles can be fun! If love were a disease, would you take the cure? Gah. Would you? I wouldn't but that's with the knowledge I have of love. If I didn't know of its bliss and beauty, I'd probably turn myself into a mindless drone, too. Read the series to find out what the protagonist does.
In an alternate United States, love has been declared a dangerous disease, and the government forces everyone who reaches eighteen to have a procedure called the Cure. Living with her aunt, uncle, and cousins in Portland, Maine, Lena Haloway is very much looking forward to being cured and living a safe, predictable life. She watched love destroy her mother and isn't about to make the same mistake.
But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena meets enigmatic Alex, a boy from the Wilds who lives under the government's radar. What will happen if they do the unthinkable and fall in love?
Dwellers Series/Fire Country – David Estes
There are four books in the Dwellers series and three in the Country Saga novels - they are all connected. I loved every one of them but Fire Country is my absolute favorite Dystopian novel ever. Ever! It’s searin’* good. Estes created a special language for the book that’s totally wooloo*. The story is unique, the characters are memorable, and the action makes this an unputdownable novel. Seriously, go read these books. Now. Well, after you read the rest of this article.
*read the story to find out what this means
In a changed world where the sky bleeds red, winter is hotter than hell and full of sandstorms, and summer's even hotter with raging fires that roam the desert-like country, the Heaters manage to survive, barely.
Due to toxic air, life expectancies are so low the only way the tribe can survive is by forcing women to procreate when they turn sixteen and every three years thereafter. It is their duty as Bearers.
Fifteen-year-old Siena is a Youngling, soon to be a Bearer, when she starts hearing rumors of another tribe of all women, called the Wild Ones. They are known to kidnap Youngling girls before the Call, the ceremony in which Bearers are given a husband with whom to bear children with.
As the desert sands run out on her life's hourglass, Siena must uncover the truth about the Wild Ones while untangling the web of lies and deceit her father has masterfully spun.
In a desperate attempt to escape destruction decades earlier, humankind was forced underground, into the depths of the earth, creating a new society called the Tri-Realms.
After her parents and sister are abducted by the Enforcers, seventeen-year-old Adele, a member of the middle-class moon dwellers, is unjustly sentenced to life in prison for her parents' crimes of treason.
Against all odds, Adele must escape from the Pen and find her family, while being hunted by a deranged, killing machine named Rivet, who works for the government. She is helped by two other inmates, Tawni and Cole, each of whom has dark secrets that are better left undiscovered. Other than her friends, the only thing she has going for her is a wicked roundhouse kick and two fists that have been well-trained for combat by her father.
At the other end of the social spectrum is Tristan, the son of the President and a sun dweller. His mother is gone. He hates his father. Backed by only his servant and best friend, Roc, he leaves his lavish lifestyle in the Sun Realm, seeking to make something good out of his troubled life.
When a war breaks out within the Tri-Realms, Tristan is thrust into the middle of a conflict that seems to mysteriously follow Adele as she seeks to find her family and uncover her parent's true past.
In their world, someone must die.
The Long Walk (Standalone novel) by Stephen King
I’m not even sure if people realize this is a young adult novel. Yes, Stephen King doesn't just torture old people. The main character is sixteen years old. This story is made of creepy, Stephen Kingish awesomeness. My feet hurt thinking about it. It’s a contest like no other contest – think Hunger Games but worst, in my opinion, much. King is relentless and doesn’t let up on his characters. He’s the master of horror for a reason.
Stephen King, writing as Richard Bachman, tells the tale of the contestants of a grueling walking competition where there can only be one winner—the one that survives.
“I give my congratulations to the winner among your number, and my acknowledgments of valor to the losers.”
Against the wishes of his mother, sixteen-year-old Ray Garraty is about to compete in the annual grueling match of stamina and wits known as The Long Walk. One hundred boys must keep a steady pace of four miles per hour without ever stopping...with the winner being awarded “The Prize”—anything he wants for the rest of his life. But, as part of this national tournament that sweeps through a dystopian America year after year, there are some harsh rules that Garraty and ninety-nine others must adhere to in order to beat out the rest. There is no finish line—the winner is the last man standing. Contestants cannot receive any outside aid whatsoever. Slow down under the speed limit and you’re given a warning. Three warnings and you’re out of the game—permanently...
The Unknown (2 book duet) by J.W. Lynne
They were kidnapped. But why?
This book was a gift from a coworker. I loved the ensemble cast of mismatched kids and the ever-present mystery of, why did these kids get kidnapped. And then the end – of book one – is oh my God, what in the world. So unique. I loved it. You’ll love it. It’s a bit slow in the beginning, but the pace picks up. I just discovered there is a book two and I can’t wait to begin reading it. Like, now. Well, after I write the rest of this article, and eat dinner, and talk with my husband...
Eight kids, ages nine to seventeen, awaken to find that almost everything they have ever known has been stolen from them. They were ripped from their beds in the middle of the night and transported to an unfamiliar and unforgiving new world where there are strict rules, and they are punished if they refuse to obey.
As the kids grapple with their mysterious new reality, they struggle with disconcerting questions. Where in the world are they? Why were they taken away from their families? Will they ever get to go back home?
And the most frightening question of all: Will this be the place where they die?
This article was written by Dawn Brazil.
Since the world is not comprised of dreamy book boyfriends, Dawn creates them for everyone to fawn over. She writes Young Adult fantasy and science fiction with romance – always with romance. Dawn lives in South Texas with her sports-obsessed husband and three technology-infatuated young adults.
Check out more of her work by clicking on any of the covers below.