I feel like such a nerd writing this. Not like a real intellectual, just your garden-variety dork. See, I love to read. And the books I enjoy are pretty varied, usually. But I have developed an absolute obsession with YA dystopian fiction.
YA, as in young adult. Which I am not. I have the “adult” covered, but I can barely see “young” in the rear view mirror.
Yet, I’m fascinated with these books. For certain, I love the strength of character the protagonist has in many of the stories. She’s generally tough and resourceful, yet has a strong sense of ethics. I think part of my interest also has to do with the survivalist nature. I wonder if I’d be able to do it – survive in a world where kids battle for their lives.
It also helps that they are generally easy reads. I also happen to love Outlander and Game of Thrones, but those take a much higher level of commitment. Something like The Hunger Games and Divergent are easier reads while still being entertaining, and easily broken into chunks because they are often a trilogy (or series of some other length).
Also, I hate romance novels. So YA dystopian it is. Tell me I’m not alone!
I thought I’d share some of my recent favorites with you. I’ll start with my favorite and work my way down.
Nexus, by Ramez Naam
Nexus is really a near-future science fiction book, but I’d say aspects of it are definitely dystopian. Society has a drug, Nexus, that really consists of micro-computers that allow people to communicate via their minds. An operating system was created within the confines of the Nexus that allows programming of certain aspects of the mind. Of course, there are those who would use the technology for evil, despite it’s wonderful advances (such as the father who could suddenly “speak” with his non-communicative autistic child). At times the book meanders a bit, but overall it’s an amazing story.
The Girl with All The Gifts, by M.R. Carey
I can’t remember how I found this series, but I stumbled on the second book and read it first, not realizing it until I’d finished the it. The Girl with All The Gifts is the first one, and The Boy on the Bridge is the second book, though chronologically it’s earlier. This is a world of zombies, but with a unique spin – they exist because of a fungal infection. No, not like jock itch. There’s some awesome science here, because the infection is by a fungus called Cordyceps, which exists in real like and actually has this same kind of behavior, but generally on insects. (It doesn’t create zombie-humans.) If you can stomach it, here’s a great article describing the real fungus and how it operates.
The story centers around Melanie, a young girl, and her teacher Miss Justineau…both amazingly strong female archetypes.
There’s also a movie version that I really enjoyed, starring Gemma Arterton and Glenn Close.
Warcross, by Marie Lu
This is one of three series by Marie Lu that I’ve read. All three were good, though the endings tend to be a little trite. Warcross’s protagonist is a young bounty hunter who breaks into a augmented-reality video game tournament, meets the man who created the game and the contacts that facilitate its AR, and ends up saving humanity. That’s not really a spoiler – I’ve yet to find one of these series where everything didn’t work out in the end. The point of the books are the story, not the ending! Anyway, Lu’s writing does an amazing job of painting a visual image; if I were an artist, I could easily paint the street scenes and game worlds she describes.
The Maze Runner, by James Dashner
I had to put this one last because of the writing; there are certain aspects that simply don’t hold together. All of the main books have been made into movies, which have changed the story slightly and as a result, generally fixed these problems. But the story itself is so good that I wanted to include it nonetheless.
A teenage boy named Thomas wakes up in an elevator, and when he gets to the top, he’s in a glade full of other boys his age, none of whom can remember life before the glade. They spend every day running through a maze, trying to map it, where they are chased by horrible biomechanical creatures. The next day, a girl named Teresa shows up – the first girl ever – and it turns out she and Thomas can speak to each other in their minds. The novel unfolds almost entirely in this “world”, but the sequels expand their horizons and they learn who created the world and why. If you can set aside the things that don’t “click”, it’s a fun read. Otherwise, watch the movies because they are really good. And they have one of my favorite actors, Giancarlo Esposito, along with a great cast of teenagers.
Only the main three books are movies, and the producers don’t plan to take on the sequels.
That’s it! My favorite Dystopian YA novels from the past couple of years of my reading adventures.
Have you read these series? if so, I’d love to hear your take on them. Drop me a note in the comments below.