Young Adult dystopia?
March 29, 2011 5:03 PM   Subscribe

[YA book filter] I would like to find some YA or easy-to-read adult sci-fi, speculative fiction, or dystopian fiction. Preferably, about the United States or other earthly country, not deep-space intergalactic stuff.

This thread has a lot of really great suggestions, many of which I have read and loved. However, I'm looking even more specifically for books that focus on a dystopian future (near future or far).

The Hunger games is a good example of what I'm looking for-- it's intense, a very fast read, believable and scary. I can identify with the characters.

I really love to read, but as I'm in college, my free time is seriously limited, so I don't have the time to get into really dense, hard to unravel / understand books. I can try, but I end up re-reading the same passages over and over in order to remember the plot, since there's often a long gap between readings.

**Please, nothing vampire/werewolf/mutant driven unless there's a plausible reason for it. The Twilight series makes me want to vomit, for too many reasons to go into.
posted by lockstitch to Media & Arts (36 answers total) 66 users marked this as a favorite
It was mentioned in the previous thread you link to, but I think The Giver would definitely qualify.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 5:06 PM on March 29, 2011 [4 favorites]

Ship Breaker
posted by Artw at 5:10 PM on March 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

posted by jammy at 5:19 PM on March 29, 2011

Alas Babylon is set in Florida after nuclear war. It may not be sci-fi enough, though.
posted by Mouse Army at 5:26 PM on March 29, 2011

Shade's Children
posted by Anima Mundi at 5:28 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm gonna second one in the original thread called Invitation to the Game. It's quick, but perfect for what you want.
posted by deezil at 5:29 PM on March 29, 2011

Fahrenheit 451
posted by gnutron at 5:40 PM on March 29, 2011

I have fairly similar tastes to yours, though I lean girly and literary in my YA sci-fi tastes. I don't want to be all, self-linky, check-out my book review blog, but the link's in my profile and you might find stuff you like there.

Specific suggestions that come to mind: Across the Universe by Beth Revis, Jumper by Stephen Gould, Earthseed and Farseed by Pamela Sargent, How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff (amazing), The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (also amazing), Feed by MT Anderson (triple amazing), and John Christopher's Tripod series.

Some books I haven't read but have heard good things about and suspect you'd like: The Maze Runner by James Dashner, and Unwind by Neal Shushterman. I hated Uglies and the sequels by Scott Westerfeld but I'm pretty much the only one on the planet. If you like fast-paced books with hoverboards, you'd probably dig it.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:41 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

posted by Safiya at 5:43 PM on March 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

Preferably, about the United States or other earthly country, not deep-space intergalactic stuff.

Whoops, missed that bit. Across the Universe and the Pamela Sargent books are space-based, but both are also character-driven and somewhat dystopian. Plus, dark, grounded, and fast. You might want to give them a shake regardless.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:49 PM on March 29, 2011

I was also going to recommend both Shade's Children and Invitation to the Game.
Children of the Dust
House of Stairs
Cory Doctorow's Little Brother might also interest you. I haven't read it, but you can download it for free.
You might also like the tripods trilogy but it's definitely more of a classical sf vibe. Same goes for The Day of the Triffids - I don't think it's specifically YA, but it's a fun and easy post-apocalyptic read (involving man-eating plants!).
posted by scribbler at 5:51 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

This adult dystopian fiction but easy and fast paced -- Margaret Atwood Oryx and Crake and The Her fiction is believable and more or less a near future imaginative extrapolation of America's obsession with technology and consumerism. It doesn't end well...
posted by amileighs at 5:52 PM on March 29, 2011

Oops, html fail.
posted by amileighs at 5:53 PM on March 29, 2011

How I Live Now.
posted by bibliogrrl at 5:59 PM on March 29, 2011

Also, as stated above, Feed. Anderson is one of the best YA writers writing today.
posted by bibliogrrl at 6:00 PM on March 29, 2011

everyone got here before me with Feed and How I Live Now. brilliant books.

I hated Uglies and the sequels by Scott Westerfeld but I'm pretty much the only one on the planet

you're definitely not the only one!
posted by changeling at 6:04 PM on March 29, 2011

oh, and keep an eye out for Divergent in early May. it's being pitched to the stars as the next Hunger Games, has already been optioned by Summit and it's quite good. (I do know the author; she's just 22!)
posted by changeling at 6:06 PM on March 29, 2011

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

dystopian, vaguely decadent-Roman-Empire crossed with Soviet/1984-style setting in the ruins of the former US. (Including coal mining / Appalachia.)

Strong female protagonist, very plotty and fast paced.
posted by Sockpuppets 'R' Us at 6:10 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

How about When the Tripods Came by John Christopher. Intense, and an extremely fast read. It's actually part of a trilogy, though I haven't read the sequels.
posted by Maximian at 6:17 PM on March 29, 2011

Knife of Never Letting Go/Chaos Walking trilogy is great, particularly for handling the issues it does as YA

Delirium by Lauren Oliver was an above-average read. I really liked her previous novel, Before I Fall; Delirium's premise is a bit hokey (Love has been branded a disease and the ability to do so is eradicated from teenagers once they reach a certain age), but it turned out a bit better than I expected.

Matched by Ally Condie is currently being raved about as a must for Hunger Games fans. I read it and thought it was average at best; it owes a lot to The Giver. However, due to all the positive buzz you may find it worth a look to develop an opinion - it's a quite quick read.

Westerfeld's Uglies series is another I wasn't too crazy about, but has enough fans that you may find it worth a look. Also a quick read (disclosure: I only read the first in the series and didn't find it worth trying the second)

Upcoming, you may want to keep an eye out for Megan McCafferty's Bumped. She wrote the Jessica Darling series which I found mostly cute, and it's getting some good advance buzz.
posted by 1901gunner at 6:27 PM on March 29, 2011

Just a note on Delirium and Matched--I considered recommending them, too, and they're both well-written (if a bit bland), but they also both have heavy Twilight-esque focus on romance, and, in the case of Matched, a love triangle.

Bumped was fantastic, but more a satire than what you're probably looking for.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:30 PM on March 29, 2011

Lots of series by Bruce Coville are sci-fi or speculative fiction. They're fun, easy, and often quick to read and even those that aren't YA are usually really enjoyable. His characterization is so good that I was unsatisfied with that aspect of all other scifi and fantasy books I read until I found George R. R. Martin. The characters are fleshed out, real people. Since you also are looking for dystopian books, I'll recommend some of his darker stuff:

The My Teacher series - aimed at kids 9-12, but it gets much darker in the last two books
Space Station Ice-3 - science murder-mystery in space
Armageddon Summer - coauthored by Jane Yolen, I don't like it as much as some of his other stories, but it might be up your alley
The A.I. Gang - A bunch of genius kids are left to their own devices while their parents build an AI. Science, international spying, and a race to beat the adults at their own game ensue.
Rod Albright's Alien Adventures is also fantastic, but not nearly as dark as the others, so it may not be quite what you're looking for.

If I seem to be gushing, it's only because I think I'd be a much different person with much different interests without having read books by Bruce Coville (and Roald Dahl).
posted by Logic Sheep at 6:51 PM on March 29, 2011

Life As We Knew It
posted by 2ghouls at 7:09 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

I second John Christopher's Tripod trilogy:
+ The White Mountains
+ The City of Gold and Lead
+ The Pool Of Fire
Then you can read the prequel When the Tripods came.
I read these together with my 8 year old son and we both had a blast. They are wonderfully gloomy but still full of action. Easy to read too. Have fun!
posted by Triplanetary at 7:26 PM on March 29, 2011

Rae Mariz's The Unidentified and The Maze Runner trilogy by James Dashner. I'm a bit frustrated by The Maze Runner, but I've only read the first book and I'm hoping the pieces come together a bit faster in the next two. Dystopian YA fiction is one of my favourite genres, so I'm looking forward to this thread.
posted by Felicity Rilke at 8:23 PM on March 29, 2011

The Forest of Hands and Teeth series was a pretty decent read, even though it sort of deals with zombies. There are three books in the series, but I've only read the first so far. I know you said no mutant-y creatures, but at least the main character doesn't try to hook up with a zombie.
posted by kerning at 8:51 PM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

The only one I have to add to the excellent list above is the Australian series Tomorrow When the War Began. Teenagers trying tO survive after Australia is invaded-not alien, but good semi-apocalyptic fiction. I like it a lot.
posted by purenitrous at 9:34 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: This is a great list! I'll keep checking back to see if any new books are added, but this is going to make my reading this quarter much better, I can tell already.

posted by lockstitch at 10:23 PM on March 29, 2011

Before the jump I was thinking Hunger Games, funny.

The Uglies trilogy+ (Uglies, Pretties, Specials, Extras) is fun.

Octavian Nothing is more of a historical dystopia (set around the time of the American Revolution), but somehow manages to hit a lot of the same whoa-what-is-happening buttons.
posted by tchemgrrl at 6:15 AM on March 30, 2011

Lately all I seem to read is post apocalyptic/dystopian YA.

I would second The Forest of Hands and Teeth, yes it is Zombies but it's much more than that, and Life as We Knew it.

I started Scott Westerfield's Uglies, but quit after the second book. It became too YA, I don't really know how to describe that any better.

Not mentioned yet- The Compound and The City of Ember.
posted by ridiculous at 6:51 AM on March 30, 2011

It's been a couple decades since I read these so I can't remember a lot of detail but Monica Hughes (author of the previously mentioned Invitation to the Game) wrote a few like this. They may be aimed younger than you want but they can definitely be read quickly. Devil on My Back and The Tomorrow City are two that come to mind (full list here).
posted by waterlily at 7:08 AM on March 30, 2011

A few that I don't think have been mentioned:

The Other Side Of The Island by Allegra Goodman

The Declaration series by Gemma Malley

Momentum by Saci Lloyd
posted by ninebelow at 7:41 AM on March 30, 2011

I'm not sure it exactly qualifies as YA, but much of what Robin McKinley writes is, so I'll suggest it anyway: Sunshine. It features vampires (and some other supernatural beasties), but it's pretty much as far from Twilight as it's possible to get and still have vampires in it. The vampires are very alien, and there is no glitter. There is, however, a bakery and many many descriptions of desserts that will make you crave chocolate like nothing else. The book also features a flawed, strong-but-not-in-a-physical-way female protagonist who is amazing. It's perhaps not as obviously dystopian as some books, but it had that feel to me nonetheless. I think if you give it a chance, you might enjoy it.

In the same vein protagonist-wise (but sans vampires), Feed is nothing short of brilliant. Zombies with a reasonably thought out origin story, blogging/social media, and the presidential campaigning trail: what's not to love?
posted by ashirys at 7:52 AM on March 30, 2011

Nthng a lot of peolpe here, but definitely pick up The Giver, if you haven't already. It truly changed my life, and although it was my small, 4th grade life, I've still re-read it every year since. It's a fast read without being light or goofy.

Invitation to the Game is lighter than The Giver, but still powerful, and, like The Giver, is a fast one. I get the impression that that's what you're looking for -- quick, but not stupid (please ignore these recs if I'm wrong!).

Finally, one that no one else (?) has recommended: Genesis. It's utterly brilliant: a speed read like the other two, appropriate for teens, but still intelligent and observant. It does owe a lot to The Giver, but I'm not sure that's a bad thing.
posted by AmandaA at 11:39 AM on March 30, 2011

I'd recommend The Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler, Oryx and Crake and its sequel The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood, and also The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood...I don't think any of these were particularly dense, I read in a similar way to you by the sounds of it and can't often find time for overly complicated books
posted by sartre08 at 4:00 PM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

I hated YA fiction as a young kid, because I couldn't find deeper depths with every reading. Of course that isn't true for the best YA fiction, which has its own merits, but you might want to seriously consider, unless your target is really really young (less than, say, 13 years or age) or you're simply that prudish (e.g., this is for school readings), adult dystopian fiction. We've heard Fahrenheit 451: that has some seriously adult elements to it. Nineteen Eighty-Four, Brave New World, etc: you can cross-reference with lists of adult books. It will have depth hidden to a YA reader which the adult can go back to.
posted by curuinor at 6:20 AM on April 2, 2011

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