A dystopia is defined by Merriam-Webster as “an imaginary place where people are unhappy and usually afraid because they are not treated fairly.” I love the definition of a dystopia mostly because literature of the sort is supposed to be set in times of utopia. However, in dystopian YA fiction, there is always something scary—a shot keeping you from being able to love, a surgery making you pretty, a ceremony where you must choose only one character trait when you need them all—keeping these post-apocalyptic worlds from an idealized state.
Maybe you’ve been considering reading some dystopian literature or just want to see what’s out there beyond “The Hunger Games”; either way, this list will help you find a new book (or, in most cases, trilogy) to read this summer.
“The Selection” trilogy by Kiera Cass
The Plot: A girl named America lives in a caste system. On a scale of One to Eight, Eights are mostly homeless and poverty-stricken, while Ones are typically royalty, America’s family are Fives. They aren’t terribly poor but they are by no means comfortable. America has a secret boyfriend who is a Six, and a pushy mom that drives her crazy. When the prince of Illea (one of the rulers of a post-World War V America) starts looking for a wife, everyone—from the secret boyfriend to the pushy mom—urges America to sign up for the selection. This book is essentially “The Hunger Games,” except instead of a scary fight-to-the-death, 35 girls are now participating on “The Bachelor,” hoping to win not only an engagement ring but also a crown.
Why I love it: America is an extremely relatable character, someone that readers will love. She is funny, smart, and stands up for the things she believes in. Because she comes from a lower caste, she is able to show the prince the things he is sheltered from. Plus, the love triangle (isn’t there always a love triangle?) is one of the best I’ve read in a long time.
“Delirium” trilogy by Lauren Oliver
The Plot: Lena lives in a world with no love. That’s because, at age eighteen, everyone must get a shot that keeps them from feeling such a strong emotion. Unfortunately (or fortunately, in my opinion), just before her operation, she meets a boy and—you guessed it—falls in love.
Why I love it: Though I loved the “Matched” trilogy by Allie Condie, I thought the “Delirium” trilogy was sort of its better-looking older sister. They are a lot alike, so if you liked “Matched,” you would definitely be interested in this trilogy. I think “Delirium” did a better job of helping the reader get to know each of the characters, which is essential for me. Often, I think the author hopes your favorite character will be the main character or possibly one of the guys in love with her (spoiler: there’s another love triangle here), but my favorite character is actually Lena’s best friend, Hana. She doesn’t have a huge role until the last book in the trilogy, but her story in “Requiem” is so, so good. Now I’ve got you interested, right?
“Divergent” trilogy by Veronica Roth
Plot: Tris is an Abnegation, which means she is as selfless as they come. She and her brother are on the verge of their Choosing Ceremony, where they will decide if they will stay with their family as Abnegations or if they will choose a different faction. Just before the Choosing Ceremony, everyone must take a test to see which faction is best for them. Unfortunately for Tris, her results are inconclusive, because she is Divergent. This means she shows aptitude for three of the five factions, and she basically must make the choice on her own. She ends up choosing Dauntless, the fearless faction, but doesn’t realize how dangerous it can be to be Divergent.
Why I love it: I read the first two books in this trilogy in two days. I couldn’t get enough. I loved Tris’ transformation and even lived vicariously through her Dauntless adventures (after several quizzes, I am most likely a Candor—honest and blunt to a fault, so I would never be brave enough to go through with Dauntless initiation). I also found the lack of a love triangle so refreshing (as interesting as they can be, sometimes it’s just nice to not go that route). The last book in the trilogy, “Allegiant,” was probably my least favorite in the trilogy, but I think it’s that way a lot. It’s always sad when a great story ends.
“Uglies” series by Scott Westerfeld
Plot: Tally lives in a dorm with other kids, just waiting for her day to be turned Pretty. Everyone in this town waits eagerly to turn sixteen, when they go under the knife to become Pretty, just like everyone else. Tally’s best friend has already had the operation and now lives in New Pretty Town. Because she isn’t a Pretty yet, Tally is definitely not welcome there. She is a bit mischievous, though, and comes up with clever ways to go over and visit. Just before her surgery is supposed to take place, she makes a new friend, Shay, an Ugly just like her. Shay convinces her to join her on a trip to meet the Smokies, people who have run away so as not to get the Pretty operation. Tally finds out after this adventure that being a Pretty isn’t as beautiful as she’d always thought.
Why I love it: Since this is an older series, I read it long before the other dystopian trilogies mentioned above. I loved the dystopian idea, so I was immediately hooked. I also am always a fan of anything that tells young readers that looks are definitely not the most important things in life.
Maegan Dockery is a marketing coordinator at a local credit union in Rome, GA. In her my spare time, she can be found reading a good book or in her pajamas binge-watching “The Office.”