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Dystopian teen fiction

So I've been reading the Hunger Games series (almost finished the last book!) and this week I read Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.There is a film based on the book too which I intend to watch tonight.
The plotline from Amazon if anyone has never read it: I chose a deliberately vague one so as not to give certain things away!

Kathy, Ruth and Tommy were pupils at Hailsham - an idyllic establishment situated deep in the English countryside. The children there were tenderly sheltered from the outside world, brought up to believe they were special, and that their personal welfare was crucial. But for what reason were they really there? It is only years later that Kathy, now aged thirty-one, finally allows herself to yield to the pull of memory. What unfolds is the haunting story of how Kathy, Ruth and Tommy slowly come to face the truth about their seemingly happy childhoods - and about their futures. Never Let Me Go is a uniquely moving novel, charged throughout with a sense of the fragility of our lives.

So yeah my mind has been very much on Dystopian teen fiction lately! So has anybody else read it? In the lecture, my tutor gave us a list of similar books which you may enjoy if you enjoyed this one. I've put them under the cut, with a brief description :)

Uglies (Scott Westerfield)-set in a future post-scarcity dystopian world in which everyone is turned "Pretty" by extreme cosmetic surgery upon reaching age 16. It tells the story of teenager Tally Youngblood who rebels against society's enforced conformity, after her new found friends Shay and David show her the downsides to becoming a "Pretty". They show Tally how being a "Pretty" can change not only your look but your personality.

The Declaration (Gemma Malley)-In year 2030, humankind found the cure to the aging process, the medicament called Longevity. Longevity prolongs one's life span to the point of no dying, and soon, the world becomes too crowded, because, in the world where no one dies, and more children are being born, there is no place for everyone to go. Therefore, in the year 2080, humankind is forced to sign The Declaration, claiming that if they take Longevity, they will have no more children.

Unwind (Neal Shusterman)-After a civil war—known as the Second Civil War or the Heartland War—is fought over abortion, a compromise was reached, allowing parents to sign an order for their children between the ages of 13 and 18 years old to be unwound—taken to "harvest camps" and having their body parts harvested for later use. The reasoning was that, since 100% (actually 99.44% taking into account the appendix and "useless" organs) was required to be used, unwinds did not technically "die", because their individual body parts lived on. In addition to unwinding, parents who are unable to raise their children to age thirteen for retroactive abortion have the option to "stork" their child by leaving it on another family's porch. If they don't get caught, the "storked" baby then becomes the other family's responsibility.

Of course, there are people who resist, and refuse not to bear children. The children of those individuals are offensively referred to as "Surplus". In some countries, the Surplus are killed the moment they are born, but in civilized Britain, they are taken away from their parents at very young age and brought to a kind of boarding school where they are taught that their very existence is a crime against Nature, and that they ought to work hard if they want to redeem for their parents' sins and become the "Valuable Asset", in which case they would be able to work for "The Legals" and be partially free.

The Knife of Never Letting Go (Patrick Ness)-Todd Hewitt is the only boy left in Prentisstown, a small settlement on New World where all boys become men at the age of 13. He begins the novel oblivious to Prentisstown’s history, having been told that all women have been killed by a ‘germ’ released by the native species on his planet known as the Spackle. As a side effect of this germ, the remaining men in Prentisstown can hear each other's thoughts, described as an ever-present cascade of ‘Noise’.

Then there are the Hunger Games which I already mentioned, and of course the Battle Royale novel.

I am certainly going to enjoy reading these books!


( 49 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 17th, 2012 02:26 am (UTC)
I haven't seen the movie version of Never Let Me Go, but I'm familiar with the story (how it ends and all). I wasn't interested in it initally, but I kept hearing so much buzz from trusted sources that the movie's fantastic, so I recently added it to my Netflix queue.

I am, however, a huge Hunger Games fan, which is why I gave my icon a mockingjay pin.

I haven't seen any of the other books on your list, but I fully expected to see Battle Royale there. I haven't read the book (yet), but the movie was so haunting and fantastic, it really took me by surprise.
Mar. 17th, 2012 02:31 am (UTC)
I did mention Battle Royale but pasted it inbetween the book list and I think it got lost! but yeah, the novel is brilliant, the movie did it a lot of justice.
I'm on the final Hunger Games book, can't wait for the film although I am a bit annoyed they censored it to get a younger rating :(
Mar. 17th, 2012 02:32 am (UTC)
I'm surprised it wasn't on there too! The book is absolutely fantastic, you won't be disappointed when you read it!
Mar. 17th, 2012 02:35 am (UTC)
I accidentally posted the now last sentence of the post at the end of one of the book summaries, Battle Royale is a great read :)
Mar. 17th, 2012 03:40 am (UTC)
I didn't know there was a movie! I loved the book.
Mar. 17th, 2012 04:25 am (UTC)

I have never read the book. I have the movie, but haven't watched it yet. kittendaddy doesn't like sad movies.
Mar. 17th, 2012 03:17 pm (UTC)
Battle Royale haunts me. I have no idea why I love it so much as it is totally not my type of thing, or so I would have thought.
Mar. 17th, 2012 02:37 am (UTC)
I picked up Divergent and The Maze Runner tonight, both of which I've seen likened to The Hunger Games in that they're both Dystopian societies. All of the reviews I've seen/read have been really good.
Mar. 17th, 2012 02:55 am (UTC)
Oh, I remember trailers for the movie! Unfortunately theaters around me suck nowadays, so it never showed close to my house. It looked very eerie, though.
Mar. 17th, 2012 03:12 am (UTC)
I loved Never Let Me Go. It was the first dystopian novel I ever read and it kind of blew my mind LOL
I have not seen the movie, but I intend to.
Mar. 17th, 2012 03:16 am (UTC)
Oh and I read one review of The Hunger Games, he really liked it. I'm stoked :)
Mar. 17th, 2012 03:36 am (UTC)
Blood Red Road (Moira Young) is probably one of my favorite recent YA dystopian releases. Unfortunately many of my students (I'm a jr. high librarian) that have picked it up have had a difficult time getting into the book. It has an incredibly unique voice which is one of the reasons I really enjoyed it.

Divergent (Veronica Roth) is also a pretty good dystopian YA novel. It has a sequel coming out in May.

I really enjoyed Unwind which has a sequel coming out sometime this year. Shusterman wrote one of the most disturbingly beautiful scenes I have read in my life.

A few others, if you want something with a more romantic bent, are Delirium (Lauren Oliver) and it's sequel Pandemonium, and Matched (Ally Condie) and Crossed. Both of these are planned as trilogies with the first two books out. Delirium is probably the better of the two series, but they are definitely geared more towards the Twilight set (love triangles and all that jazz) although I consider them to be better written.

A few i'm looking forward to reading but haven't gotten to yet (never enough time in the day) are Enclave (Ann Aguirre), Article 5 (Kristen Simmons), and Wither (Lauren DeStefano-there is also a recently published sequel).

My biggest complain with a lot of the YA books right now is that they're really pushing series. It's hard to find anything that is complete story which is frustrating when you have to wait over 6 months for the next book.
Mar. 17th, 2012 03:58 am (UTC)
i just finished the first Hunger Games book. i dont usually read teen fic, but this one's reached an acceptable level of cultural significance and i figured i couldn't ignore it any longer. she did a good job. i'm always pleased to see a female protagonist who is written like a normal human being, not a sexpot in leather or "OMG i'm tough and spunky EVEN THOUGH i'm a girl!"

the thing is, i think she has SO much potential as a writer, i feel like the novel was wasted on the Teen market, in a way. i want to read this story, but written for adults, with all the detail and concepts that could be woven in if it didn't need to be censored for kids.
Mar. 17th, 2012 12:37 pm (UTC)
That's not only true for this genre. I have almost stopped reading adult literature because well, you have romance(-fantasy), thriller and horror and that's it! Anything else hardly gets through.

And even if, when the book doesn't dip into the same old cliche (there must be tons of fantasy books with the five-group that read absolutely the same) it is often boring or needlessly gory.

There are quite a few fun and good to read YA books, through. As well on the fantasy as on the adventure market. The latter is something I really miss in the adult section.
Mar. 17th, 2012 04:24 am (UTC)

Unwind (Neal Shusterman)

I read that one after seeing it rec'ed here. OMG. I had so many nightmares about it you can't believe, mostly because I know my abusive mother would've had me unwound at the first opportunity if she'd had the chance. As I was reading the restrictions for unwinding (no disabled kids can be unwound), I suddenly found myself grateful about the Cerebral Palsy.

And then I remembered it was just a book.

Yeah. That's how much it got under my skin! D:
Mar. 17th, 2012 12:39 pm (UTC)
The problem with Unwind for me is that I can't get over the utter anti-logic in there.
Yeah you are not allowed to have an abortion of a hardly sentient being but it is totally okay to rip apart a sentient half-adult with a whole life!

Suspension of Disbelief only goes so far.
Mar. 17th, 2012 12:43 pm (UTC)
I suppose with a lot of these types of books, it's a more extreme version of the society we live in. Ie, the debates around abortion, the fundamentalists who put the rights of a fetus above the rights of women, etc.
Mar. 17th, 2012 03:50 pm (UTC)

It was obviously supposed to be a jab at pro-lifers, to whom every zygote is a sacred, fully-formed human being and actual born children are a burden on society who don't deserve things like food or a proper education.
Mar. 17th, 2012 04:29 am (UTC)
I have that movie on my dvr...my girl friend said is it very disturbing. Not watched it yet!
Mar. 17th, 2012 04:37 am (UTC)
Thanks for posting about this! I'm going to go check that out tomorrow!!
Mar. 17th, 2012 04:39 am (UTC)
Never Let Me Go was good. I think that the movie didn't quite convey the feeling of hopeless apathy that the book did, but it was still a really good adaptation. My fiance who hadn't read the book really liked the movie (and drama isn't really his thing), so... Yea. I'd highly recommend it.

I read Uglies, except for the fourth book. They were pretty good, but I had one gripe. There is a group of people in one of the books called "Cutters", and as someone who used to cut, the portrayal of that group really bothered me. I don't think that the author was trying to say that real life cutters are evil or bad, but I just couldn't help but take it that way because of the real life stigma that comes with cutting. Especially considering the age group that the books are targeted at, I'm not sure that the portrayal of the Cutters was handled as well as it could have been.

Not sure if you've ever read it, but The Giver is an absolute must-read. I only recently heard that there is more than one book, but the first book is one of the books from middle school that stuck with me. I was reluctant to read it when a teacher suggested it, but once I started I couldn't put it down.
Mar. 17th, 2012 05:17 am (UTC)
TW: Discussion of self-harm
Seconding the part about the Cutters, though I did read it while still self-harming and somehow related a lot. Reading it later I was a lot less comfortable with how they're portrayed.

Ugh yes The Giver. <3 I was trying to explain this book to a coworker and said, "it's basically a dystopian book like The Hunger Games," and her response was to ask me what a dystopia was. ;; That book has always stuck with me a lot... Very haunting.
Mar. 17th, 2012 04:05 pm (UTC)
Re: TW: Discussion of self-harm
For both of you, go and track down Gathering Blue and The Messenger. They both connect back to the world of The Giver, in rather unusual ways. Not nearly as haunting or unique as the first book, but it's an interesting world.
Mar. 18th, 2012 03:24 am (UTC)
Re: TW: Discussion of self-harm
Will do, thanks!
Mar. 17th, 2012 04:39 am (UTC)
I haven't read any of those but I did see the film version of Never Let Me Go and I quite liked it. It was definitely an unusual movie, but in a good way.
Mar. 17th, 2012 05:05 am (UTC)
My favorite book is Helmqvist's The Unit which has a similar premise to Never Let Me Go. Women over fifty and men over sixty with no children or spouses or people who depend on them are sent to centers for Biologic Material where they'll participte in research studies and donate organs to the necessary people in the world.

I adore this book because it's so QUIET and unassuming. I also quite like Never Let Me Go.
Mar. 17th, 2012 05:44 am (UTC)
Never Let Me Go is a BEAUTIFUL movie. It's a bit dreary, but I imagine the book is too.

Mar. 17th, 2012 06:14 am (UTC)
I have the entire Chaos Walking trilogy, which begins with 'The Knife of Never Letting Go'. It was a bit hard to get into in the first few chapters; I'm one of those readers who mentally blank out on parts that don't 'fit' the rest of the page, like when a novel changes font style and sizes to emphasis something. In this case, it was the 'noise'. (I blank out on poetry breaks too.) When I finished the book, I had to get the rest to find out what happens to Todd and the other characters that get introduced as we go along.

On that note, I have 'Never Let Me Go' (book and movie) lying around somewhere not yet enjoyed.

I hated 'Uglies'. I don't think I liked the author's style very much. And I'm very much looking forward to The Hunger Games movie!
Mar. 17th, 2012 07:08 am (UTC)
I loved Never Let Me Go as a book, but I don't think the movie was very well done. I was so excited to see it, and came away VERY disappointed. It doesn't have the same sense of slow revelation that the book does, and it's dreary, as is the book, sure, but it lacks the life and poignancy the book has. IMHO, at least!
Mar. 17th, 2012 08:12 am (UTC)
Another one people might like is Pure by Julianna Baggott. I believe it's about the aftermath of a Nuclear war.

We know you are here, our brothers and sisters. We will, one day, emerge from the Dome to join you in peace. For now, we watch from afar. Pressia Belze has lived outside of the Dome ever since the detonations. Struggling for survival she dreams of life inside the safety of the Dome with the 'Pure'. Partridge, himself a Pure, knows that life inside the Dome, under the strict control of the leaders' regime, isn't as perfect as others think. Bound by a history that neither can clearly remember, Pressia and Partridge are destined to forge a new world.

I haven't read it yet, but I gave it to my mother after I bought it and she devoured it and sad it was really very good. And for a woman who doesn't really read/watch new things, but has excellent taste, it's worth the rec!

I'm kind of sad with the state of YA dystopian/post apocalypse novels right now though, because like with 'Paranormal Romance' it's really freaking hard to dreg through the slop to find really good pieces of fiction.

That said, I love Unwind. I read that in an afternoon, could not put it down. I still shiver to think about it and I can't wait for the next one.
Mar. 17th, 2012 08:22 am (UTC)
The Knife of Never Letting Go is probably one of my favourite novels ever. The style of writing does take some getting used to though, but once you get into it, wow. I only recently finished the last one, and I can't quite bring myself to reread just yet. Though I felt the same about the 1st one after a certain thing happened (spoilers!), but I managed to move on. Kind of.

Never Let Me Go is also brilliant, the movie's quite good in terms of an adaption, but it was lacking something. Part of it for me was that there wasn't such a great focus on their childhood, which I found the most interesting part of the books. I felt like the movie rushed through this bit to get to the 'stars' and the plot was dampened because of it.

Unwind sounds like a really interesting premise though, I'll definitely give that one a go!
Mar. 17th, 2012 09:31 am (UTC)
I've seen the movie and it was amazing -- utterly gutting. I keep meaning to read the book as well. The other books you've listed sound really interesting as well! I will have to check them out!
Mar. 17th, 2012 01:26 pm (UTC)
That's one of my very favorite books. ^_^

I have this huge glut of YA dystopian fiction that I've accumulated on my Nook--I didn't really make the connection, but it's probably trending right now because of The Hunger Games. Derp derp derp. ::owns Hunger Games nail polish, yet did not think of this.:: I like that YA is usually pretty quick to read, so you can take in stories a little faster. ^_^ I have read some of those on your list; I agree that you are going to enjoy them! Dystopian lit is so addictive. . . I think I've been hooked since I read The Giver in grade school. ^_^
Mar. 17th, 2012 03:13 pm (UTC)
I really liked the series 'The Forest Of Hands And Teeth'.
Mar. 17th, 2012 04:07 pm (UTC)
The Gone Series by Michael Grant is also FANTASTIC.
Mar. 17th, 2012 04:37 pm (UTC)
I was literally just thinking about this book last night because of an article I had read about The Handmaid's Tale. It has a slow build but the book is so very, very smart.

Unwind sounds really interesting.
Mar. 17th, 2012 07:07 pm (UTC)
I'm surprised nobody has mentioned The Giver. So haunting in a quiet way. I wept for the people in that book.
Mar. 18th, 2012 01:51 pm (UTC)
*points upthread* If you liked it and the world, it's continued in Gathering Blue and The Messenger, in that order. They are both so strange and lovely. And you get to find out what happens to Jonas and Gabriel.
Mar. 17th, 2012 07:23 pm (UTC)
Never Let Me Go is heartbreaking. After the credits were over I had to retreat to the bathroom and sob because it was embarrassing to do it in my living room. Carey Mulligan is gold.
Mar. 17th, 2012 07:24 pm (UTC)
Also I am SO PUMPED FOR THE HUNGER GAMES. I took off work so I can go to the midnight release and then sleep afterwards. :D
Mar. 17th, 2012 09:54 pm (UTC)
You might like Octavia Butler's works
I'd suggest starting with "The Parable of the Sower" trilogy but I'm a huge fan of all of her writing.

And of course, there's the classics, George Orwell's "1984" and Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 351"

Mar. 18th, 2012 03:10 am (UTC)
You know, I have that book, but I never got around to reading it. I'm on book 3 of The Hunger Games, so maybe I'll read it when I'm done.
Mar. 18th, 2012 04:09 am (UTC)
The whole Chaos Walking trilogy (of which The Knife of Never Letting Go is the first) is one of my favorite series. UGH I LOVE IT SO MUCH. Such raw emotion, the font changes and the crazy spacing yanks you into the book emotionally. I also loved how the gay characters were just seamlessly into the story, it was never a big deal.
Mar. 18th, 2012 01:44 pm (UTC)
Miss Monsterr, thanks so kindly for the excellent post! I'll be bookmarking it. I'm always on the hunt for new YA and dystopian and creepy stuff, so yay!
May. 28th, 2012 02:13 am (UTC)
yay glad this has been of use to you! just returned to this post to update my 'to read' list :)
Mar. 20th, 2012 01:59 pm (UTC)
Excellent recommendations, thank you. I enjoyed Unwind and LOVED The Hunger Games trilogy. I haven't read Never Let Me Go but I've seen the film which was excellent. Given the comments above about the book being better (although that's generally the case!) I will have to read it.

I also liked The Dream Catcher by Monica Hughes when I was younger (the sequel to Devil on My Back which unfortunately I never read) and Starwind by Linda someone... sorry, can't remember her name (although strictly speaking that one is only half about a dystopian world and half about the real world). Both are sadly now out of print although you can get them second hand on some websites.

The Chrysalids by John Wyndham is another dystopian, post-nuclear-war style story and although I don't think it was written for young adults it's still an easy read and jolly good.

The Long Walk by Stephen King also has echoes of THG and is worth a look. It's a short story/novella and may have been a practice run for The Running Man.

Edited at 2012-03-20 02:01 pm (UTC)
Mar. 23rd, 2012 02:15 am (UTC)
Thank you for the excellent recommendations everyone! I loved Unwind, though that scene (everyone who has read it will know which one I'm talking about) had me shaking and sobbing. >> Battle Royale is pretty much one of my favourite things in the history of ever, too, so I'm thrilled to see so many others who enjoyed it so much! It really is terribly haunting.
Oct. 21st, 2012 11:52 pm (UTC)
I'm loving this trend of dystopian in YA. I'm going to try to read all of the recommendations in this post!
Apr. 11th, 2013 05:48 am (UTC)
While unsure if its Ya (likely not) the best Dystopian book Ive ever ever read was This Perfect Day by Ira Levin, the same guy who wrote Rosemary's Baby. I recommend it really highly

Edited at 2013-04-11 05:48 am (UTC)
( 49 comments — Leave a comment )


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