Updated: Feb 22
Back when I was in middle school (8 years ago?!), dystopian fiction was all the rage. Series like Divergent and The Maze Runner were being adapted into movies left and right. These reads were massively popular amongst teens, and it’s easy to see why. The meld of science fiction and fantasy sparks wonder. These books also ponder relevant themes, such as discovering your identity and fighting for your beliefs in a world flipped upside-down. Here are 5 dystopian novels that will take your middle schooler on an adventure!
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
The poster child of dystopian fiction! This is a great starter for anyone new to the genre, and The Hunger Games lives up to the hype. In this country called Panem, two tributes from each of the twelve districts must fight to the death in an annual, televised competition. It’s an iconic delve into friendship, resourcefulness, and a very twisted entertainment industry.
Legend by Marie Lu
The Republic, located in what was once Los Angeles, is a totalitarian society suffering from extreme economic inequality and the threat of a Plague. Deuteragonists June and Day come from opposite sides of the Republic: June is a prodigy, raised in an esteemed military family, while Day is a wanted criminal from the slums. Initially pitted against each other, the two fight through the weeds of the Republic in search of the truth.
Unwind by Neal Shusterman
(Yep, that’s a creepy cover!) In this version of the United States, a second civil war has been fought over the issue of abortion, leading to a compromise: parents can send their teenage children to be unwound — essentially, have their body parts be distributed and used. Legally, this does not count as death, because the majority of the body is kept alive in different people. We follow a band of teenagers scheduled for unwinding, and see how they choose to fight back against their fate.
The Giver by Lois Lowry
A popular staple of school reading curriculums, and for good reason. We follow 12-year-old Jonah as he begins to notice some odd things about the world in which he lives. It’s a very different setting from the typical dystopian novel — Jonah’s Community seems perfect. Everyone lives in peace. But we soon find out there’s more to it than that…
Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
This past June, middle schoolers in our book club read this book! We followed the journey of protagonist Tally Youngblood as she navigates a society in which you are “Ugly” until the operation on your 16th birthday turns you into a “Pretty.” As we got deeper into this dystopia, we were able to have genuine conversations about conformity, friendship, and being true to who you are. Packed with action!
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