Reading List: Human-Engineered Utopia OR Dystopian Nightmare?

Dystopian stories are all the rage right now, and have been for the past couple of years… Many have hit the theatres recently — Mad Max: Fury Road, Insurgent (The Divergent Series), Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, The Giver (Meryl!), Mockingjay (The Hunger Games), Ender’s Game, The Purge, Oblivion… The list continues.

Many of these audience favorites have been adapted — or at least inspired — by books! This summer, check out one of these dystopian novels and escape the world as we know it for a while:

1. Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron by Jasper Fforde
shades of greyPart social satire, part romance, and part revolutionary thriller — a tale overcoming all odds in a caste system based solely on the colors you are able to see and a bizarre rule system. Eddie Russet of the House of Red takes us along for an unpredictable journey of discovery.

2. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwoodhandmaid's tale

Birth rates are declining and Offred is a Handmaid, meaning she is expected to help repopulate the Republic of Gilead. Women are banned from reading, confined to their homes, and existing families have been torn apart — But Offred can’t be held down by this oppressive structure.

3. Brave New World by Alduous Huxleybrave new world

Huxley’s “Brave New World” is held as his greatest masterpiece, where far in the future World Controllers have created a utopia with the help of recreational sex and drugs. However, Bernard Marx feels like something is missing, and visits one of the few remaining Savage Reservations to see if he can find the answer for his discontent and distress.

4. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
never let me go

Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy have been best friends since boarding school where they were constantly reminded how “special” they were. It isn’t until later in life when they find out what “special” truly means.

5. The Road by Cormac McCarthythe road

America has burned, and the people that this father and son meet on the road to the coast are about as nice as the ravages, ashy landscape that surrounds them. Will they be able to survive the journey with just the clothes on their backs, a single pistol, a cart of scavenged food, and each other?

6. When She Woke by Hillary Jordanwhen she woke

All Hannah Payne has known of life has been church and family, but a murder conviction changes her world forever. Physically altered to have visibly red skin in accordance with her crime, Hannah is guilty of murdering her unborn child — but refuses to reveal the father. A powerful re-imagining of The Scarlet Letter, this is the story of a stigmatized woman trying to navigate the not-too-distant state of America that politicizes faith and love to an extreme.

7. California by Edan Lepuckicalifornia

Cal and Frida have left the crumbling city of Los Angeles far behind them, living in an isolated wilderness shack and trying to survive the new world. After discovering Frida’s pregnancy, the couple heads to the nearest settlement for help and support — only to find that the people in this new world pose their own kind of dangers.

8.  A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egangood squad

Aging punk-rocker Bennie is now a record exec who employs Sasha, a troubled young musician. Weaving music into every page, Egan skillfully unfolds their pasts and all the other people they’ve met along the way.

9. Lock In by John Scalzilock in

Fifteen years from now, an epidemic sweeps the globe — most only experience fever and headaches, while a small percentage experiences acute meningitis. But 1% of the population is “locked in:” fully awake and aware, but unable to respond to the world around them in any way. In America alone, that accounts for 1.7 million people, including the President’s wife and daughter. Prompted by grief, a huge scientific initiative begins to find answers for those “locked in,” but does it really help at all?

10. The YA Trifecta: The Hunger Games, Divergent, and The Maze Runner

hunger games

Katniss Everdeen is fighting for her life in the Panem Annual “Hunger Games” as entertainment for the wealthy who live in the Capitol — but also as a reminder that the Capitol has the power to silence any dissenters. Two representatives from each of the twelve Districts – one boy and one girl, both under the age of 18 – compete each year to the death. Can one girls actions of both selflessness and self-preservation spark a revolution?

divergentBeatrice “Tris” Prior lives in a far-future Chicago, segregated by factions that represent different virtues: Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). One day each year, every 16-year-old must decide if they want to stay with their family’s faction or if they want to transfer, severing all ties and connections with the community that raised them. Will Tris decide to stay with her family, or be true to her nature? Tris also has a secret, and if anyone finds out, she could be killed — or unravel the very workings of her whole society.

maze runner

Thomas wakes up in a cold, metal box that’s slowly rising and no memory of how he got there. He arrives in the Glade, filled with other boys who have no memory of life before The Box. Outside the Glade is a towering maze — that changes every day and is also their only way out. But then a girl arrives, the first girl ever. And everything changes.


Have a favorite dystopian novel to add to the list? Leave it in the comments below — Happy reading!

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