If you like The Hunger Games
20 great YA dystopian series and novels
The Hunger Games spurred a wave of dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction geared towards teens. Recent events (e.g., the pandemic, climate change, and increasing authoritarianism) have inspired other works on a dystopian future. Whether it’s set in the immediate aftermath of the disaster, or so much later that the pre-apocalypse civilization has been all but forgotten, and whether it’s due to nuclear war, environmental catastrophe, disease, zombies, or the rapture, people love to read about the end (and what comes after!). If you’d like more suggestions than the 20 that are found below, please come to the service desk!
Last updated 2/15/2022
|Internment by Samira Ahmed
From Publisher’s Weekly: “Ahmed sets her chilling novel in the very near future: two-and-a-half years after an election that brought about a Muslim ban, Exclusion laws, and the internment of Muslims in a disturbing echo of the Japanese internments of the 1940s. Layla Amin, the rebellious 17-year-old Muslim narrator, is enraged by the changes that her small liberal California community accepts: curfews, book burnings, required viewing of the U.S. president’s weekly National Security Address. On a personal level, she was suspended from school for kissing her non-Muslim boyfriend in public, and her poet-professor father has lost his job. Still, her family’s abrupt nighttime “relocation” to a camp-during which each arrival is branded with ultraviolet identification encoding-is a shock. While her parents shrink into compliance, Layla quickly makes friends and allies who band together to bring public attention to internees’ treatment, close down the camps, and put an end to the country’s fascism and Islamophobia. Ahmed keeps the tension mounting as Layla faces increasingly violent consequences for her actions; the teenagers’ relationships are depicted authentically, and their strength and resistance are inspiring. An unsettling and important book for our times.”
|The Electric Kingdom by David Arnold
From Booklist: “In a postapocalyptic New England where nearly everyone has been wiped out by ravenous swarms of “Flu-flies” and a mysterious illness, white 18-year-old Nico is sent by her ailing father on an eight-day trek in search of a “geological anomaly” that seems more fairy-tale portal than scientific plausibility. Elsewhere, after white 12-year-old Kit’s mother dies, he and his adoptive siblings set out in search of a rumored haven for survivors. As Nico’s and Kit’s paths intersect, Arnold shifts between their third-person points of view, in addition to first-person sections following an enigmatic figure dubbed the Deliverer, whose pivotal role is gradually revealed. In its conception, this is an intricate piece of high-concept sf, yet Arnold guides the layered narrative with such clarity and control that the underlying complexity never disturbs the flow; rather, the underpinning questions cultivate tension. The world building has depth in spite of the oddly idyllic setting, and while danger–whether from Flies or malevolent humans–lurks around every copse, this isn’t a thriller; it’s less concerned with physical survival than existential ruminations on art, emotion, and humanity. Neither the characters nor the text meanders, though, instead marching at a steady pace, carried by crystalline prose, which echoes like poetry, towards a genuinely astonishing and moving conclusion. Accessible, sophisticated, and immensely satisfying.”
|Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
First in the Ship Breaker series
From School Library Journal: “A fast-paced postapocalyptic adventure set on the American Gulf Coast. Nailer works light crew; his dirty, dangerous job is to crawl deep into the wrecks of the ancient oil tankers that line the beach, scavenging copper wire and turning it over to his crew boss. After a brutal hurricane passes over, Nailer and his friend Pima stumble upon the wreck of a luxurious clipper ship. It’s filled with valuable goods-a “Lucky Strike” that could make them rich, if only they can find a safe way to cash it in. Amid the wreckage, a girl barely clings to life. If they help her, she tells them, she can show them a world of privilege that they have never known. But can they trust her? And if so, can they keep the girl safe from Nailer’s drug-addicted father? Exciting and sometimes violent, this book will appeal to older fans of Scott Westerfeld’s “Uglies” series and similar action-oriented science fiction.”
|Any Sign of Life by Rae Carson
From Publisher’s Weekly: “The mechanics of coping bloom into much more in this deeply humanizing near-future survival thriller from Carson (The Empire of Dreams). White Columbus, Ohio, basketball player Paige Miller, 17, barely remembers getting sick. But when she wakes up emaciated from a six-day flu, she finds a grim scene: carrion birds, power outages, and her family dead in a world gone silent–except for one radio signal out of Sandusky. Forced onto the road with her adopted dog to find signs of life, she joins a Black pre-med hopeful and collegiate quarterback as well as a pale-skinned, hypervigilant asexual street artist against an increasingly alien threat: eyeless, glowing creatures with a quicksilver flying craft. As her ragged team follows the radio broadcast across Ohio, they discover a desperate attempt to survive the impending invasion–and a slim chance to fight back. Carson tempers a grim, death-laced future with pragmatism, an athlete’s awareness of bodily limits, and an uplifting belief in people’s capacity for good. Fans of Megan Crewe and Susan Beth Pfeffer will relish this timely update to classic postapocalyptic YA.”
|The Selection by Kiera Cass
First in The Selection series
From Publisher’s Weekly: “A cross between The Hunger Games (minus the bloodsport) and The Bachelor (minus the bloodsport), this trilogy launch employs multiple conventions of the dystopian romance genre-strong-willed heroine, heart-wrenching love triangle, far-future setting divided by class. That said, it’s a lot of fun. In a post WWIII U.S. divided by caste, teenage America Singer and her family are Fives, struggling musicians and artists. In love with a Six, America is headed for a life of servitude and hunger, until she is chosen for the Selection-a contest through which Prince Maxon will pick his princess. The Selection brings America instant notoriety and prestige, but also thrusts her into a ring of jealous, desperate girls all trying to win the prince’s heart. Cass (author of the self-published The Siren) deftly builds the chemistry between America and Maxon, while stoking the embers of America’s first, forbidden love. Headstrong and outspoken, America is an easy heroine to root for, and the scenes where she tries to fit in to her new royal life are charming.”
| The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline
First in The Marrow Thieves series
From Booklist: “*Starred Review* Sixteen-year-old Frances Frenchie Dusome, one of a dwindling number of Métis, and his found family try to survive on the run from the Recruiters, whites who are capturing First Nations members to harvest their bone marrow and sell it as a remedy for the lost ability to dream. This dystopian novel is rich in atmosphere and texture, from the measured cadence that suggests the rhythms of ritual storytelling, to slang that situates it in a postapocalyptic North America, to the spare yet evocative descriptions of the effects of power and carelessness on the environment. It is a story told by an insider, for insiders, but done so well that even those on the outside gain some degree of understanding by reading it. Dimaline never depends on theatrics or gore to expose the callous and horrific problem at the root of her plot; rather, her details convey the matter-of-fact nature of cruelty, and her characters express the consequences. A subtext to the plot casts a spotlight on the effects of co-opting bits and pieces of a culture without fully understanding how they fit into a seamless whole: How long can we borrow or steal from others without losing ourselves in the process?”
| The Giver by Lois Lowry
First in The Giver Quartet.
From School Library Journal: “In a complete departure from her other novels, Lowry has written an intriguing story set in a society that is uniformly run by a Committee of Elders. Twelve-year-old Jonas’s confidence in his comfortable ‘normal’ existence as a member of this well-ordered community is shaken when he is assigned his life’s work as the Receiver. The Giver, who passes on to Jonas the burden of being the holder for the community of all memory “back and back and back,” teaches him the cost of living in an environment that is “without color, pain, or past.” The tension leading up to the Ceremony, in which children are promoted not to another grade but to another stage in their life, and the drama and responsibility of the sessions with The Giver are gripping. The final flight for survival is as riveting as it is inevitable. The author makes real abstract concepts, such as the meaning of a life in which there are virtually no choices to be made and no experiences with deep feelings. This tightly plotted story and its believable characters will stay with readers for a long time.”
| Legend by Marie Lu
First in the Legend series.
From Publishers Weekly: Lu’s debut is a stunner. Weaving the strands of SF dystopia, police procedural, and coming-of-age-with touches of superhero and wild frontier traditions-she fashions a narrative in which the action is kinetic and the emotional development is beautifully paced. June, a prodigy from the elite class of the disintegrating Republic, is being groomed for a military career when her brother, a captain, is murdered. June is quickly drafted into the team tracking his accused killer, a spectral and maddeningly persistent outlaw known as Day. June’s life has been shaped by intellect, and to be driven by an emotion as ungovernable as grief makes her vulnerable in painful, dangerous ways. Day has known grief all of his life, but is no more immune to it than June is. The chase unfolds against a plague-infested Los Angeles of Gotham-like grit that Lu conjures with every nuance of smell, sound, and sight.”
|Agnes at the End of the World by Kelly McWilliams
From Booklist: “As a plague ravages the planet, the community of Red Creek believes they are chosen survivors. But Agnes is having serious doubts about the Prophet’s visions, especially because his distrust of the Outside means that Agnes has to break the rules in order to get insulin to keep her younger brother alive. But when the Prophet says it’s finally time to move into the bunker for the impending apocalypse, Agnes knows she has to get out. McWilliams (Doormat, 2004) explores societal collapse and religious doubt through an initially fragile protagonist who overcomes her fears of the Outsiders when it becomes painfully evident that her life up to that point was never fully her own. Agnes is eventually able to emerge as a young woman with agency, even as the world around her continues to spiral into chaos. In this character-driven novel, full of the mundane and the extraordinary, McWilliams delves deeply into the varied and complex relationships between spirituality and idolatry, feminism and patriarchy, love, family, and hope–all set against a nightmarish dystopian backdrop.”
|We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia
First in the We Set the Dark on Fire series.
From Booklist: “Starred Review* In Medio, a myth tells of the Sun God, who took two wives, one wise and loyal, the other sensual and nurturing. Now, selected young women train to become the dual wives of the nation’s politicians: the Primera to be his partner in work and business, and the Segunda to run his home and family. Daniela’s poor parents lied to get her into the school, hoping to secure her a better future, and indeed, Dani has become the top Primera student, keeping her emotions in check and her forged papers a secret. Mateo, her new husband, seems strangely cold and cruel, and it doesn’t help that the family has chosen Dani’s longtime rival, Carmen, as their Segunda. But the worst comes when Dani is contacted by a resistance group and asked to spy on Mateo and politicos like him. As she learns more about Mateo’s narrow-mindedness and oppressive politics and as she and Carmen grow startlingly closer Dani’s sympathy for the resistance grows, but is there even a life for her beyond this one? Like the revolution, Mejia’s world is carefully built. With its achingly slow-burn romance and incisive examination of power structures, this is a masterfully constructed novel, made all the more impressive as it’s a debut. This timely examination of how women move through the world is potent and precise, and readers will be eager for the sequel.”
|Sanctuary by Paola Mendoza
From School Library Journal: “A stunning work of YA dystopian fiction driven by the ardent voice of a teenage protagonist. The novel captures the United States’ currently ominous immigration policies and extends them to violent extremes, making the stress and fear of living as an undocumented person come alive through the foil of a technocratic surveillance state. Vali, a girl of Colombian descent, lives in small-town Vermont with her mother and brother. The family lost their father to a traumatic immigration incident, and Mom supports them by working on a dairy farm. Vali is undocumented but carries a “fake chip” in her wrist that she uses to scan into her public school and various government buildings. When a newly bolstered federal Deportation Force seizes all the laborers at her mother’s workplace, the family flees towards California, getting separated along the way. The plot points get the blood pumping, and the familial portrait rendered throughout the fast-paced drama is rich in symbolism. VERDICT This novel is a triumph in its genre and so politically astute that it sears.”
|Ashfall by Mike Mullin
First in the Ashfall trilogy.
From Kirkus Reviews: “Left home alone for a weekend in Cedar Falls, Iowa, while his family visits relatives in Warren, Ill., 15-year-old Alex Halprin ends up fighting for survival trying to get to them through an America ravaged by the sudden eruption of the supervolcano under Yellowstone Park. Alex is characterized by the decisions he makes when confronted with moral dilemmas—dilemmas that have no straightforward, correct answers—resulting in a realistically thoughtful protagonist dealing with complex and horrifying situations. Before he’s even left his hometown, Alex encounters looting and other behaviors born from realization of just how finite resources are in emergencies. Traveling to Warren, he’s even more vulnerable, both to the elements and to the mercies of the people he encounters. Among the best people that Alex encounters are a girl named Darla and her mother, Mrs. Edmunds, both self-sufficient farmers. But any relief is temporary—threats both environmental and human are ever present. While the pain and suffering Alex witnesses and experiences is visceral, so are the moments of hope and glimpses of human goodness. In this chilling debut, Mullin seamlessly weaves meticulous details about science, geography, agriculture and slaughter into his prose, creating a fully immersive and internally consistent world scarily close to reality.”
|The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
First in the Chaos Walking series.
From KLIATT: “What if everyone could hear your every thought—and you could hear theirs? On the planet of New World, all the agrarian settlers are besieged by this endless “Noise,” making it almost impossible to keep a secret. Todd is the only boy in a town of men, and he’s about to undergo a mysterious initiation rite. He believes all the women on the planet are dead, but when he comes upon a girl in the woods, everything abruptly changes. Todd, his faithful dog (whose thoughts can also be heard), and the girl, Viola, go on the run, pursued by a grim army of townsmen, and discover there’s much more to New World than Todd had ever expected. This riveting SF thriller is action-packed, with edge-of-your-seat chase scenes, a monstrous villain who just won’t die, and moments of both anguish and triumph. Todd must deal with learning the surprising truth about his world while wrestling with moral dilemmas: is he capable of killing? Emotionally intense, violent at times, this haunting page-turner may be awkwardly named, but it’s a great read.”
|War Girls by Tochi Onyebuchi
First in the War Girls series.
From Publisher’s Weekly: “In the year 2172, a civil war rages in Nigeria as the Republic of Biafra fights for independence in battles using advanced tech and giant mechs. War Girl Onyii, a Biafran rebel and former child soldier with a bionic arm, has made a safe place away from the war with her comrades and younger sister, Ify, a brilliant hacker who has created an Accent, a tiny technological wonder that “reveal the series of lines and nodes of net connectivity that bind everything–and everyone–together.” When their camp is attacked, Onyii is left alive and drawn back into the fight; Ify, captured, is taken to the glittering glass city of Abuja. Four years later, Ify is a trusted confidant to her now powerful kidnapper but questions the treatment of young Biafran prisoners, while Onyii has become a killing machine known as the Demon of Biafra. Their divergent paths, forged in violence, shape them indelibly, ensuring they will never be the same. Onyebuchi’s action-packed, high-stakes tale of loyalty, sisterhood, and the transformative power of love and hope brims with imaginative future tech and asks important questions about the human cost of war, mechanization, and artificial intelligence. Set amid the horrors of war in a world ravaged by climate change and nuclear disaster, this heart-wrenching and complex page-turner, drawn from the 1960s Nigerian civil war, will leave readers stunned and awaiting the second installment.”
|Kiss of Deception by Mary Pearson
First in the Remnant Chronicles.
From Booklist: “*Starred Review* She is a princess, and it is her duty to marry into an alliance. But 17-year-old Lia has her own opinion about that obligation, one that she puts into action when she escapes her wedding with her lady-in-waiting, Pauline. Determined, confident Lia thinks that she knows how to cover her tracks, and soon she and Pauline are working as barmaids in Pauline’s hometown. Now two new voices enter to help tell the story. One belongs to the prince whom Lia was supposed to marry. He is curious about his fled fiancee and angry that she thought of a way to get out of the marriage first. The other voice belongs to an assassin who is sent by the Komizar of Venda to make sure that Lia doesn’t change her mind and return to initiate an alliance that will harm their country. Pearson offers readers a wonderfully full-bodied story: harrowing, romantic, and full of myth and memory, fate and hope. She never compromises her characters especially the multifaceted Lia for plot; each element motivates the other. There is also a richness to the descriptions that makes readers feel that they can see and even smell the changing landscapes. This has the sweep of an epic tale, told with some twists; it’s a book that almost doesn’t need a sequel, but readers will be thrilled that it continues on.”
|Wilder Girls by Rory Power
From Booklist: “It’s been a year and a half since the Raxter School for Girls was ravaged by the Tox, a sickness that crept in slowly through the woods before distorting the bodies of the teachers and students in vicious ways, leaving them wilted and blackened when it was finished. Left with the promise of a cure, the quarantined girls watch out for one another. That’s precisely what Hetty is doing when her friend Byatt disappears, and together with her friend Reese, she breaks quarantine to penetrate the wild beyond the fence to find her. At the same time, they navigate their fragile, maybe even brittle, relationship that’s strained by the complicated, desolate circumstances. Power’s mesmerizing novel is touched with eerie moments of body horror a stitched-up eye with something lurking underneath, a second protruding spine, animals growing three times their size. Those moments pale in comparison to the savagery of the Tox, however: “”It made them stick each other in the main hall during dinner, made them watch themselves bleed dry.”” Although the glimmer of a tangled backstory and foreshadowing device are left tantalizingly dangling, Hetty’s fierce loyalty drives the story forward, and the alternating points of view between Hetty and Byatt reveal a rich, dynamic picture of the realities of living on Raxter Island. Power’s evocative, haunting, and occasionally gruesome debut will challenge readers to ignore its bewitching presence.”
|Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
First in the Under the Never Sky trilogy.
From School Library Journal: “Aria has lived her entire life in the domed city of Reverie. As the story opens, she is sneaking into a restricted area with the security chief’s son, Soren, in hopes that he will be able to help her reach her scientist mother, with whom she has lost contact. The son turns strangely violent and Aria only survives his attack by the timely intervention of Peregrine, one of the “Savages” from outside the dome. In order to keep her quiet, Soren’s father casts her into the outside world to die. She is saved again by Peregrine, who is on his own quest to rescue his nephew from dome “Dweller” kidnappers. Though from different worlds, the two must work together if they are to prevail in the wilderness. Her action sequences are cinematic in feel while her romance builds from tentative feelings to a powerful bond between Aria and Peregrine. The hopeful ending leaves room for but doesn’t necessitate a sequel. Although this is a first novel, it comes across as the work of a master craftsman and should appeal to both teen and adult readers far beyond dystopia fans.”
|Divergent by Veronica Roth
First in the Divergent series.
In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue-Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is – she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself. During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are – and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves… or it might destroy her.
|Scythe by Neal Shusterman
First in the Arc of a Scythe series.
From Publishers Weekly: “*Starred review* In the future Earth of this grim novel from National Book Award–winner Shusterman (Challenger Deep), the digital cloud has transformed into the self-aware Thunderhead, whose benevolent totalitarian rule has turned the planet into a utopia. There’s no poverty or crime, and everyone is guaranteed immortality. Well, almost everyone. Because babies are still being born, population growth must be limited. Thus evolved the Scythes , an organization whose members are charged with “gleaning” citizens at random. Sixteen-year-old Citra and Rowan are chosen by a Scythe named Faraday to train as apprentices. Neither likes the idea, but they’re given no choice. Later, Citra becomes an apprentice to Curie, a legendary Scythe , but Rowan is apprenticed to Goddard, who kills for sadistic pleasure. Calling to mind Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,” Shusterman’s story forces readers to confront difficult ethical questions. Is the gleaning of a few acceptable if it maximizes the happiness of all? Is it possible to live a moral life within such a system? This powerful tale is guaranteed to make readers think deeply.”
|Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
First in the Uglies series.
Everybody gets to be supermodel gorgeous. What could be wrong with that? Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can’t wait. Not for her license — for turning pretty. In Tally’s world, your sixteenth birthday brings an operation that turns you from a repellent ugly into a stunningly attractive pretty and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time. In just a few weeks Tally will be there.But Tally’s new friend Shay isn’t sure she wants to be pretty. She’d rather risk life on the outside. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world — and it isn’t very pretty. The authorities offer Tally the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all. The choice Tally makes changes her world forever.
Except as noted, annotations are supplied from the SELCO catalog