Search Results for: label/Dystopia

Get (sub)Genrefied: Dystopia

Every month, we’re highlighting one genre within YA fiction as part of Angela’s reader’s advisory challenge. So far, we’ve discussed horror, science fiction, high fantasy, mysteries and thrillers, verse novels, contemporary realistic fiction, historical fiction, graphic novels, and romances. October’s focus is actually a subgenre: dystopias.

Oh readers. I (Kimberly) have been waiting all year for this genre guide. I know so many people are tired of dystopias, but I am not (and neither are a lot of teens). I love them, and I love that there are so many to choose from! Like any other genre, you have to dig through some bad or mediocre stuff to get to the gems – but it is so worth it.

So, what exactly is a dystopia, other than a subgenre of science fiction? I’ve written about this a little bit before, but clearly, there are many who take a much broader view of the subgenre. At its most basic, a dystopia posits a future world whose people exist in a repressed, controlling society, usually watched over by a “Big Brother” type character, organization, or political unit. Often, this political unit will proclaim that their people live in a utopian society, or at least a better one than what came before. The Hunger Games is an example that falls very neatly into this definition.

What this means is that it’s not enough for a future world to simply suck. It has to suck in a particular way.

I understand why a lot of people would broaden the definition to simply mean “an unpleasant future world.” If you do a simple Google search for “dystopia definition,” you’ll find many definitions that state this precise thing. But here’s the thing: such a basic definition doesn’t say much about appeal factors, doesn’t say much about the severity or kind of conflict in the book, and, most importantly, it lumps almost all science fiction (most of which is set in the future) into one subgenre, when SF is endlessly varied and imaginative. Think about it: all novels have conflict, and the conflict will make things unpleasant for the characters involved. Future + conflict doesn’t automatically equal dystopia. It just equals SF.

That said, some dystopian appeal factors overlap with other genres or subgenres. I find this most apparent with post-apocalyptic books (these subgenres actually share a shelf in my Goodreads account). Often, an apocalyptic event will cause a dystopian society to form (such as in Ilsa Bick’s Ashes), and you’ll find both subgenres in one book. Both subgenres are also usually high-concept, full of greater-than-average danger, and involve people who have used cataclysmic events as an opportunity to seize power.

I promise Kelly and I are actually going to discuss more than just defnitions. So let’s move on.

Because dystopia is a subgenre of science fiction, the resources we discussed in our science fiction genre guide are applicable here as well. You’ll find dystopias honored with the SF awards, discussed on the SF blogs, and written by authors at the SF imprints we listed there.

We also encourage you to check out Presenting Lenore’s archive of dystopian fiction. For the past few years, Lenore has dedicated one (or two!) months per year to reading and writing about dystopias, featuring her own reviews, guest posts, and author interviews.

A few other resources:

  • Stacey at Pretty Books has a pretty extensive list of recent YA dystopias, including some forthcoming titles, and she reviews them on her blog.
  • Since dystopias are so popular, a lot of book blogs will tag them all for handy reference. These include the Book Smugglers, Forever Young Adult, and of course, us here at Stacked.
  • Goodreads lists are selectively useful. Here’s a collection of them, but you’ll need to dig deep and skip past the first several pages to get to ones you may not already know.
  • A lot of people like to write about what makes dystopias so popular with teens. I endorse none of these viewpoints, but present them here for your perusal: University of Alberta, The Guardian, Wired, YALSA’s The Hub.
  • The representation of people of color in science fiction is a continuing problem the SF community struggles with, and the dystopian subgenre is not immune. Victoria Law at Bitch Magazine discusses this issue in a blog series called Girls of Color in Dystopia. It’s definitely worth a read, and terrific for brushing up on some standout YA SF featuring people of color.

Below are some recent YA dystopias published within the last year or so. Descriptions come from Worldcat or Goodreads.

Crewel by Gennifer Albin: Gifted with the unusual ability to embroider the very fabric of life,
sixteen-year-old Adelice is summoned by Manipulation Services to become a
Spinster, a move that will separate her from her beloved family and
home forever. Kimberly’s review

Override by Heather Anastasiu: Having escaped the enslavement of the Community and the Chancellor, Zoe
is finally free but far from safe as she and Adrien hide at the
Foundation, an academy that trains teen glitchers to fight in the
Resistance movement. Sequel to Glitch.

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken: Sixteen-year-old Ruby breaks out of a government-run ‘rehabilitation
camp’ for teens who acquired dangerous powers after surviving a virus
that wiped out most American children.

The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau: Sixteen-year-old Malencia (Cia) Vale is chosen to participate in The
Testing to attend the University; however, Cia is fearful when she
figures out her friends who do not pass The Testing are disappearing. Kimberly’s review

Beta by Rachel Cohn: On a futuristic island paradise where humans are served by enslaved
clones, a sixteen-year-old clone named Elysia seeks her own freedom.

Reached by Ally Condie: In search of a better life, Cassia joins a widespread rebellion against
Society, where she is tasked with finding a cure to the threat of
survival and must choose between Xander and Ky. Conclusion to Matched trilogy.

The Culling by Steven dos Santos: In a futuristic world ruled by a totalitarian government called the
Establishment, Lucian “Lucky” Spark and four other teenagers are
recruited for the Trials. They must compete not only for survival but to
save the lives of their Incentives, family members whose lives depend
on how well they play the game.

Proxy by Alex London: Privileged Knox and and his proxy, Syd, are thrown together to overthrow the system.

Thumped by Megan McCafferty: Melody and Harmony are without a doubt two of the most powerful pregnant
teens on the planet, and there’s only one thing they could do that
would make them more famous than they already are: tell the truth. Sequel to Bumped.

Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis: Sixteen-year-old Lynn will do anything to protect her valuable water
source, but the arrival of new neighbors forces her to reconsider her

Promised by Caragh O’Brien: Gaia succeeds in leading her people to Wharfton and the Enclave, but
rebellion there threatens them all just when everything they have
dreamed of seems to be at hand. Conclusion to Promised trilogy.

Requiem by Lauren Oliver: While Lena navigates the increasingly dangerous Wilds, her best friend, Hana, lives a safe, loveless life in Portland. Conclusion to Delirium trilogy.

 Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi: Aria and Perry, two teens from radically different societies–one highly
advanced, the other primitive–hate being dependent on one another
until they overcome their prejudices and fall in love, knowing they
can’t stay together. Kimberly’s review 

Breaking Point by Kristen Simmons: After escaping prison, Ember Miller and Chase Jennings are taken in by
the Resistance but when Ember tops the government’s most-wanted list,
Chase urges her to run and Ember must decide whether to hide again or
fight back. Sequel to Article 5.

Once We Were by Kat Zhang: After the destruction of the Graveyard, Connor and Lev are on the run,
seeking a woman who may be the key to bringing down unwinding forever
while Cam, the rewound boy, tries to prove his love for Risa by bringing
Proactive Citizenry to its knees. Sequel to What’s Left of Me. 

Below are a few upcoming YA dystopias to look forward to.

Altered by Gennifer Albin (October 2013): Sixteen-year-old Adelice Lewys is called upon to harness her power in a
battle for control of Earth, but as she uncovers the truth about her own
history she learns that everyone holds secrets, some of which may drive
her from her love, Jost, into his brother Erik’s arms. Sequel to Crewel.

UnSouled by Neal Shusterman (October 2013): After the destruction of the Graveyard, Connor and Lev are on the run,
seeking a woman who may be the key to bringing down unwinding forever
while Cam, the rewound boy, tries to prove his love for Risa by bringing
Proactive Citizenry to its knees. Sequel to Unwind.

Relic by Heather Terrell (October 2013): Searching icy wastelands for Relics, artifacts of the corrupt
civilization that existed before The Healing drowned the world, Eva
unleashes a great danger when she unearths a Relic that gives voice to
the unspeakable.

Champion by Marie Lu (November 2013): June and Day have sacrificed so much for the people of the Republic–and
each other–and now their country is on the brink of a new existence.
Just when a peace treaty is imminent, a plague outbreak causes panic in
the Colonies, and war threatens the Republic’s border cities. Conclusion to Legend trilogy.

Control by Lydia Kang (December 2013): In 2150, when genetic manipulation has been outlawed, seventeen-year-old
Zelia must rescue her kidnapped sister with the help of a band of
outcasts with mutated genes.

Independent Study by Joelle Charbonneau (January 2014): Now a freshman at the University in Tosu City with her hometown
sweetheart, Tomas, Cia Vale attempts to expose the ugly truth behind the
government’s grueling and deadly Testing put her and her loved ones in
great danger. Sequel to The Testing.

The Offering by Kimberly Derting (January 2014): True love—and world war—is at stake in the conclusion to The Pledge trilogy, a dark and romantic blend of dystopia and fantasy.

Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi (January 2014): Their love and their
leadership have been tested. Now it’s time for Perry and Aria to unite
the Dwellers and the Outsiders in one last desperate attempt to bring
balance to their world. Conclusion to Under the Never Sky trilogy.

Landry Park by Bethany Hagen (February 2014): In a futuristic, fractured United States where the oppressed Rootless
handle the raw nuclear material that powers the Gentry’s lavish
lifestyle, seventeen-year-old Madeline Landry must choose between taking
over her father’s vast estate or rebelling against everything she has
ever known, in the name of justice. 

Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi (February 2014): Juliette now knows she
may be the only one who can stop the Reestablishment. But to take them
down, she’ll need the help of the one person she never thought she could
trust: Warner. And as they work together, Juliette will discover that
everything she thought she knew-about Warner, her abilities, and even
Adam-was wrong. Conclusion to the Shatter Me series. 

ACID by Emma Pass (March 2014): 2113. In Jenna Strong’s world, ACID – the most brutal, controlling
police force in history – rule supreme. No throwaway comment or muttered
dissent goes unnoticed – or unpunished. And it was ACID agents who locked Jenna away for life, for a bloody crime she struggles to remember.

The Haven by Carol Lynch Williams (March 2014): For the teens at The
Haven, the outside world, just beyond the towering stone wall that
surrounds the premises, is a dangerous unknown. It has always been this
way, ever since the hospital was established in the year 2020. But The
Haven is more than just a hospital; it is their home.