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 Publishers Weekly: *Starred Review* “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: *Starred Review* “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 Publishers Weekly: *Starred Review* “SF novelist Bacigalupi (The Windup Girl ) makes a stellar YA debut with this futuristic tale of class imbalance on the Gulf Coast. Teenage Nailer scavenges ships with his crewmates, eking out a poverty-filled existence while avoiding dangers that range from giant “city killer” hurricanes to his vicious, drug-addicted father. When a storm strands a beautiful shipping heiress on the beach (earning her the nickname “Lucky Girl”), Nailer manages both to infuriate members of his camp (including his father) and to become embroiled in upper-class trade disputes that he barely comprehends. As Nailer and Lucky Girl escape toward the drowned ruins of New Orleans, they witness rampant class disparity on individual and international levels (tribes whose lands were flooded have taken to the seas as pirates, attacking multinational shipping firms). Bacigalupi’s cast is ethnically and morally diverse, and the book’s message never overshadows the storytelling, action-packed pacing, or intricate world-building. At its core, the novel is an exploration of Nailer’s discovery of the nature of the world around him and his ability to transcend that world’s expectations.”
|Any Sign of Life by Rae Carson
From Publishers Weekly: *Starred Review* “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 Publishers 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: *Starred Review* “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 Publishers Weekly: *Starred Review* “The Red Creek compound is the only life Agnes, 16, has known. Adhering to the belief that “perfect obedience produces perfect faith,” she and her siblings have been taught by Red Creek’s prophet that women are inferior to men and that outsiders are not to be trusted. Devout though she is, Agnes secretly seeks outside help to save her brother, who has type 1 diabetes, and she experiences doubt when faced with an arranged marriage and her outsider mother’s pleas that she run away. When a viral pandemic encroaches, Agnes uncovers an aural realm long forgotten. In three parts, McWilliams (Doormat) follows faithful Agnes and her doubting 15-year-old sister, Beth. As Agnes learns more about the virus—a disease infecting animals and humans that causes hardened red skin, hostility, and grouping together in grotesque nests—she must come to grips with the tension between science and faith. Strong apocalyptic worldbuilding alternates with dialogue-laden scenes, while minor characters, such as the Burn Squad captain charged with eradicating nests, move the plot forward in absorbing and dynamic ways.”
|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: *Starred Review* “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: *Starred Review* “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 Booklist: *Starred Review* “Chased by a madman preacher and possibly the rest of his townsfolk as well, young Todd Hewitt flees his settlement on a planet where war with the natives has killed all the women and infected the men with a germ that broadcasts their thoughts aloud for all to hear. This cacophanous thought-cloud is known as Noise and is rendered with startling effectiveness on the page. The first of many secrets is revealed when Todd discovers an unsettling hole in the Noise, and quickly realizes that he lives in a much different world than the one he thought he did. Some of the central conceits of the drama can be hard to swallow, but the pure inventiveness and excitement of the telling more than make up for it. Narrated in a sort of pidgin English with crack dramatic and comic timing by Todd and featuring one of the finest talking-dog characters anywhere, this troubling, unforgettable opener to the Chaos Walking trilogy is a penetrating look at the ways in which we reveal ourselves to one another, and what it takes to be a man in a society gone horribly wrong. The cliffhanger ending is as effective as a shot to the gut”
|War Girls by Tochi Onyebuchi
First in the War Girls series.
From Publishers Weekly: *Starred Review* “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: *Starred Review* “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: *Starred Review* “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.
From Publishers Weekly: *Starred Review* “In this edgy debut (definitely not for the fainthearted), first in a trilogy, promising author Roth tells the riveting and complex story of a teenage girl forced to choose, at age 16, between her routinized, selfless family and the adventurous, unrestrained future she longs for. Beatrice “Tris” Prior lives in crumbling dystopian Chicago, where citizens are divided into five factions—Candor, Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity, and Erudite—depending on their beliefs, passions, and loyalties. When Tris forsakes her Abnegation family to become one of the wild, fearless Dauntless, she must confront her deepest fears, learn to trust her fellow initiates, and guard the ominous secret that she is actually a Divergent, with the strengths of multiple factions, and is therefore a target of dangerously controlling leaders. Roth’s descriptions of Tris’s initiation process are as spellbinding as they are violent, while the tremulous romance between Tris and her protective and demanding instructor, Four, unfurls with heart-stopping tenderness. For those who loved The Hunger Games and are willing to brave the sometimes sadistic tests of strength and courage Tris must endure, the reward is a memorable, unpredictable journey from which it is nearly impossible to turn away.”
|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.
From Kirkus: *Starred Review* “With a beginning and ending that pack hefty punches, this introduction to a dystopic future promises an exciting series. Tally is almost 16 and breathlessly eager: On her birthday, like everyone else, she’ll undergo extensive surgery to become a Pretty. She’s only known life as an Ugly (everyone’s considered hideous before surgery), whereas after she “turns,” she’ll have the huge eyes, perfect skin, and new bone structure that biology and evolution have determined to be objectively beautiful. New Pretties party all day long. But when friend Shay escapes to join a possibly mythical band of outsiders avoiding surgery, Tally follows—not from choice but because the secret police force her. Tally inflicts betrayal after betrayal, which dominates the theme for the midsection; by the end, the nature of this dystopia is front and center and Tally—trying to set things right—takes a stunning leap of faith. Some heavy-handedness, but the awesome ending thrills with potential.”
Except as noted, annotations are supplied from the SELCO catalog