Like with any genre, romance in particular, it’s easy for outsiders to accuse stories of all being “the same.” This is a bad assumption for so many reasons. Each story has its own characters for us to fall in love which, characters who have unique puzzles to solve and obstacles to overcome. Enjoying a book is all about the journey that the author takes you on, and there’s nothing “all the same” about it! Here are four of our favorite YA dystopian novels that may look similar on the surface but one-of-a-kind underneath.
The Hunger Games is widely credited as the book that started the great YA Dystopian boom of the early 2010s. If you’ve been living under a rock and don’t know what it’s about, The Hunger Games follows teenager Katniss Everdeen as she enters The Hunger Games, a deadly competition forced upon her and all other residents of dystopian society Panem by their dark, oppressive government. Katniss must use her wits, survival skills and even love to escape the deadly arena. Arguably the greatest YA Dystopian novel written since Lois Lowry’s The Giver, The Hunger Games is the perfect place to start getting into YA Sci Fi.
This is one that we always see compared to the aforementioned The Hunger Games. However, these two stories truly could not be more different! A bit lesser known, Divergent is set in an alternate, futuristic society in which every person is part of a certain “faction” of society—there’s Abnegation, the selfless ones who run the government and help the factionless; Amity, who take care of the farming; Erudite, the researchers and scientists; Candor, the ruthlessly honest who run the justice system; and Dauntless, the brave, who guard the city and jump off of trains for fun. Divergent follows our hero Beatrice as she makes the heartbreaking choice to leave her family in Abnegation to pledge Dauntless. Way out of her league, she must overcome all of the challenges that Dauntless throws at her to be accepted into the faction. Futuristic but eerily familiar at the same time, Divergent is one of our favorites. A high-stakes competition for entry into the most badass club ever!? Sign us up. Several times.
Completing the holy trinity of YA novels that are all the same (eye roll) is James Dashner’s The Maze Runner. The Maze Runner takes place in The Glade, a mysterious haven hidden within a massive maze. Our heroes, Thomas, Newt, Minho, Teresa, Frypan and more, are desperate to escape the maze and keep running it, over and over. However, they can’t seem to find a way out, or figure out why they’re there in the first place. Full of campy moments and very gross monsters called Grievers, TMR is an action-packed series that has, and we literally cannot stress this enough, NEXT TO NOTHING IN COMMON WITH EITHER OF THE AFOREMENTIONED BOOKS. Dashner’s world is full of action, mystery and characters you won’t find anywhere else.
Neal Shusterman is a true master of the YA Dystopian genres and also every single genre because he’s Neal Shusterman. Unwind takes place in a far-off future in which parents who don’t like their children can elect to have them unwound—their bodies taken apart and sold like spare car parts. The story follows our heroes, bad-boy Connor Lassiter (who we’d marry, right now, no questions asked), foster kid Risa whose home can’t afford to keep her any more, and Levi, a “tithe” his parents promised to have unwound as a sacrifice to the church. When the three meet and go on the run, it’s all they can do to evade the men chasing them down. This book hands-down contains one of the creepiest scenes ever written—Chapter 59 is not for the faint of heart—and is compelling from start to finish. If you’re looking for a dark YA SciFi that’ll leave you with chills long after you finish the final book, the Unwind series if for you.
What’s your favorite YA Dystopian novel?