It may come as no surprise to you, the savvy reader, that there has been a huge influx of dystopian novels in young adult in the last year or so; even before the huge success of the Hunger Games movie could be considered a catalyst for new readership, publishers began to capitalize on our society’s interest in the future. This type of novel taps into readers’ uncertainty and curiousity about the future. It can also stick with a reader, leaving that cold feeling in your gut … leaving you in a fervor, ready to take on the government that may have taken that one final step over “the line that shall not be crossed.” Or at least that’s what dystopias do to me! These are some perfect examples of books that gave me that hard gut feeling and left me wanting to take on “The Man.”
Legend by Marie Lu
In a future where the United States has been broken into warring “states,” the Republic is home to a militia that strives to keep its country at the top. June is a military prodigy being groomed to become one of the Republic’s top military officials. When her brother is murdered, though, she crosses paths with her country’s most dangerous and wanted criminal, a boy named Day. As the two become embroiled in a scheme to clear his name and to hunt down her brother’s killer, they uncover a shocking truth about the lengths their government will go to to ensure its occupants compliance.
When I discovered that the government was tampering with a very basic human need and that people were dying because the government needed both information and complacency, I was stunned and horrified. I gasped along with the characters and found myself pounding on the steering wheel (I was listening to the audio book version) in anger. My gut screamed for satisfaction and I fervently wish June and Day success in their fight against the Republic in the upcoming sequel, Prodigy.
Brave New Love: 13 Dystopian Tales of Desire, edited by Paula Guran
This anthology contains a plethora of short stories set in dystopian societies. They each also have a romantic aspect, but I found myself most captivated by the imagined worlds, rather than the lovers’ problems. Two standout stories gave me the absolute chills.
In Carrie Vaughn’s “Now Purple With Love’s Wound,” girls are chosen by unseen husbands and then drugged into feeling love for them. Devoted, unquestioning, forever love. I wanted to reach through the book and strangle every man in the government!
In Diana Peterfreund’s “Foundlings,” a society agency that had once been developed to protect unborn babies takes things too far, to the point of “protecting” them from their own pregnant mothers. Imprisonment in the name of care becomes commonplace, and I could not think of a scarier and more possible future as I was reading.
Article 5 by Kristen Simmons
Similarly, this future United States has allowed its government to “protect” its citizens with a series of moral statutes. Ember follows these statutes somewhat unquestioningly until the day her mother is arrested for violating Article 5. Those arrested generally don’t return. Separated and terrified for her mother, Ember sets off on a quest to be reunited, accompanied by the boy who was once her love and is now the soldier that betrayed her.
Imagine a world where your basic rights have been revoked and your life is now under permanent scrutiny. To live in a place where someone else’s morals have become mandatory? No thank you.
Partials by Dan Wells
Following the creation of bioengineered supersoldiers in an effort to win a war against China, humanity is nearly wiped out by a virus carried by the “partials.” The United States’s RM survivors gather on Long Island to try to rebuild, though no cure for the virus can be determined and no child born lives past four days. The Hope Act is enacted, mandating that all women over the age of eighteen procreate as often as possible to produce enough babies that eventually one will be born immune. When the Hope Act-mandated age is dropped to sixteen, though, rebels attempt to take down the government, and Kira and her friends go to great lengths to try to find a cure for RM.
I do not blame these people for rebelling at all! Could you imagine enforced reproduction? This shady government also has a few tricks up its sleeve to keep the people of Long Island under their thumb. I applauded Kira as she attempted to bring them down a peg or two.
Though it may sound from this sample as though all dystopias lead me to a state of ulcer-inducing rage and could leave you wondering why I read them … I have to say that dystopias have always been one of my favorite sub-genres simply because they make me think. They make me question things and they make me passionately angry sometimes. They leave me wanting to take on “The Man” and generally glad that, at the moment, we don’t have that need!
— Jessica Miller, currently reading Playground by 50 Cent and Paper Covers Rock by Jenny Hubbard
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