Hello readers, I have another Bookish Lists post today! Like most readers, I started paying more attention to the dystopian genre when the Hunger Games became popular, but looking through my reading logs of previous years, I found that I had actually read quite a few novels from this genre without ever realizing it! In recent years though, I haven’t had the chance to pick up as many, so most books on this list are older. Let’s take a look!
1. The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games #1) – Suzanne Collins
In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.
Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister’s place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before – and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weight survival against humanity and life against love.
Would a list of dystopian novels be complete without a mention of The Hunger Games trilogy? I’m not a huge fan of Mockingjay, but I did enjoy the story as a whole, and this series is one I’ve reread many times over the years.
2. The Selection (The Selection #1) – Kiera Cass
For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon.
But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn’t want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.
Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she’s made for herself – and realizes that the life she’s always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.
The Selection is hands down one of my favorite reads (though I do prefer to ignore any books outside the original trilogy), so it’s funny to think that I nearly didn’t pick it up at all, thinking it might be a typical romance novel which I tend to avoid – not that it wasn’t a little cliche here and there, but I think it was the exact book I needed given my reading mood at the time and now it has a permanent spot on my favorites shelf. I still have my fingers crossed for a TV show or movie being made!
3. The Giver (The Giver #1) – Lois Lowry
Life in the community where Jonas lives is idyllic. Designated birthmothers produce new children, who are assigned to appropriate family units; one male, one female, to each. Citizens are assigned their partners and their jobs. No one thinks to ask questions. Everyone obeys. Their community is a precisely choreographed world without conflict, inequality, divorce, unemployment, injustice…or choice.
Everyone is the same.
At the Ceremony of Twelve, the community’s twelve-year-olds eagerly accept their predetermined Life Assignments. But Jonas is chosen for something special. He begins instruction in his life’s work with a mysterious old man known only as The Giver. Gradually, Jonas learns that power lies in feelings. But when his own power is put to the test – when he must try to save someone he loves – he may not be ready. Is it too soon? Or too late?
The Giver was actually the first dystopian novel I ever read, long before I knew what the genre even was. It was actually a middle school reading assignment, and (as it happened quite often) I read ahead and before I knew it, I was picking up the rest of the books in the series. I liked the first book the best though and despite being written for a younger audience, I find I can still appreciate it today.
4. Divergent (Divergent #1) – Veronica Roth
In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, 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 alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are – and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating 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 unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves…or it might destroy her.
I’m always so conflicted about this series, because I loved Divergent and Insurgent, but absolutely hated Allegiant. It’s a very interesting read and the writing style kept me turning the pages, curious to know what would happen next even when things didn’t entirely make sense.
5. Ready Player One (Ready Player One #1) – Ernest Cline
IN THE YEAR 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them.
But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win – and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.
Believe it or not, I only read this book around 2 years ago – that too, only because I wanted to watch the movie, and I never watch a movie before reading the book if I can help it (I liked the book better). I find the concept of this story so fascinating and I love dystopian novels of this type, with advanced technology that could very well be real one day.
6. We Set the Dark on Fire (We Set the Dark on Fire #1) – Tehlor Kay Mejia
At the Medio School for Girls, distinguished young women are trained for one of two roles in their polarized society. Depending on her specialization, a graduate will one day run a husband’s household or raise his children, but both are promised a life of comfort and luxury, far from the frequent political uprisings of the lower class. Daniela Vargas is the school’s top student, but her bright future depends upon no one discovering her darkest secret – that her pedigree is a lie. Her parents sacrificed everything to obtain forged identification papers so Dani could rise above her station. Now that her marriage to an important politico’s son is fast approaching, she must keep the truth hidden or be sent back to the fringes of society, where famine and poverty rule supreme.
On her graduation night, Dani seems to be in the clear, despite the surprises that unfold. But nothing prepares her for all the difficult choices she must make, especially when she is asked to spy for a resistance group desperately fighting to bring equality to Medio. Will Dani cling to the privilege her parents fought to win for her, or to give up everything she’s strived for in pursuit of a free Medio – and a chance at a forbidden love?
It’s always nice when a very popular book lives up to the hype. We Set the Dark on Fire wasn’t even on my radar until I started seeing it all over social media. While I found the world building to be a little lacking, complex and well developed characters, along with a riveting plot made this duology a fun read!
7. Matched (Matched #1) – Ally Condie
In the Society, officials decide. Who you love. Where you work. When you die.
Cassia has always trusted their choices. It’s hardly any price to pay for a long life, the perfect job, the ideal mate. So when her best friend appears on the Matching screen, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is the one…until she sees another face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black. Now Cassia is faced with impossible choices: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she’s known and a path no one else has ever dared follow – between perfection and passion.
I actually picked this one up after watching a book trailer on Youtube and it was so intriguing that I just had to know more. Another of the early dystopian novels on my past reading lists, it’s not the type of book one would find on my TBR these days, but the story somehow stuck with me and it was one of the first books that came to mind when I thought about this post. I’ve seen a lot of conflicting reviews for this series, but personally, I rather enjoyed it and found the concept to be unique.
Have you read any of these books? Are there any others you enjoyed not on this list? Let me know in the comments below!