With Dystopian novels becoming increasingly popular we are here to share more about the best dystopian novels for young adults. Many people enjoy dystopian novels because they are thrilling and suspenseful, and they offer a different perspective on the world. Many of the best young adult dystopian books have been turned into movies that have helped bring more fans to the genre. Whether you’re just discovering the dystopian genre or you’re well-versed in the fictional genre you’re not going to want to miss out on the list of the best dystopian novels for young adults we put together below.
What is Dystopian Fiction?
Dystopian fiction is a genre of speculative fiction that is set in a society typically characterized by totalitarianism, environmental disaster, or other characteristics associated with a negative utopia. Dystopian literature has been around for centuries and it’s been said that the first known work of dystopian fiction was Plato’s Republic, written in 380 BC. Many of the works in the genre were written in the 20th century, during and after the two World Wars.
The word “dystopia” comes from the Greek root “dys-” meaning “bad or ill” and “-topia” meaning “place”. A dystopian society is the opposite of a utopia or perfect world. In a dystopian society, everything is imperfect and the government controls everything. Dystopian literature is usually set in the future, but sometimes it can be set in the present or even the past. The setting is often a negative utopia, which is a society that is not perfect and different from our own.
Dystopian novels often have elements of science fiction, but they can also be combined with other genres, such as romance, mystery, or even horror. Some common themes in dystopian literature are government control, environmental disaster, and social injustice. Dystopian literature is not only a genre of fiction but it can also be used as a tool to comment on our own society. Many of the works in the genre are warnings about what could happen if we’re not careful.
15 Best Dystopian Novels for Young Adults
Ready player one by Ernest Cline
Not only was Ready Player One a great movie, but it is known as one of the best dystopian novels for young adults. Set in the year 2045, the novel follows Wade Watts, a teenager who spends most of his time in the virtual world of the OASIS. The OASIS is a virtual reality world that is filled with games, movies, TV shows, and pretty much anything you can imagine. It’s a safe haven for people who want to escape the harsh realities of the real world.
You’ll find that the story covers themes of an over-controlling government and environmental disaster. The government in the novel is clearly twisted and the environment is ruined which pushes people to live in one of the only places still habitable, the OASIS. The novel was turned into a movie in 2018 and was directed by Steven Spielberg.
Hunger Games Suzanne Collins
Hunger Games is arguably one of the most popular dystopian novels for young adults in today’s society. The novel is set in a post-apocalyptic world where the government controls everything. The story follows Katniss Everdeen, a 16-year-old girl who is forced to compete in the Hunger Games. The Hunger Games is a televised event where 24 children are forced to fight to the death. The novel addresses themes of government control, social injustice, and violence. The government in the novel is clearly corrupt. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. The Hunger Games is a brutal and violent event that is used to control the population. The novel was turned into a movie in 2012 and was directed by Gary Ross.
The Maze Runner by James Dashner
You’ve likely heard about or seen the movie, The Maze Runner, but some people don’t know this was based on one of the best dystopian novels for young adults. The novel is set in a post-apocalyptic world where the government has a hand in every decision made. The story follows Thomas, a 16-year-old boy who is sent to the Glade. The Glade is a place where boys are forced to solve a maze. The book displays various themes such as social injustice and violence. It’s clear that the government in the novel is corrupt and has a twisted way of thinking. The boys in the Glade are forced to solve the maze or die. The novel was turned into a movie in 2014 and was directed by Wes Ball.
Want by Cindy Pon
In a society where the rich purchase longer lives, Jason Zhou survives. The rich people, who wear protective clothing to protect themselves from the pollution and viruses that plague the city, live a long life while those without have sickness and early deaths. Zhou is dissatisfied with the corruption in his city and is determined to change things no matter the consequence. He’s especially motivated since he is still mourning the death of his mother, who died due to the extreme circumstances.
Zhou infiltrates the upper class in order to damage the international Jin Corporation from within, aided by a few of his buddies. Jin Corp not only creates the high-tech clothing that the rich require, but it may also be producing the pollution that necessitates them. As the story progresses, Zhou develops feelings for Daiyu, the daughter of Jin Corporations Chief Executive Officer. We’d love to see them make this one into a movie since we believe this is one of the best young adult dystopian books available.
Legend by Marie Lu
The story is set in a future America that has been divided into two warring nations. The Republic controls the western United States while the Colonies control the eastern United States. The story follows June Iparis, a 15-year-old prodigy from the Republic, and Day Almanzar, a wanted criminal from the Colonies. The Colonies are constantly at war with the Republic. If you’re looking for one of the best ya dystopian novels out there this is definitely one you’ll want to check out. This is the first book of the Trilogy so if you enjoy this one then we recommend also checking out Prodigy and Champion as well.
Divergent by Veronica Roth
The novel is set in a post-apocalyptic world where the government has control over everything. The story follows Beatrice Prior, a 16-year-old girl who is forced to choose between five factions. The five factions are Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Candor (the honest), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). Beatrice chooses Dauntless and changes her name to Tris. Tris must go through a series of tests and trials in order to become a member of the Dauntless. The Dauntless are forced to go through a series of dangerous trials in order to become members. The novel was turned into a movie in 2014 and was directed by Neil Burger.
The Host by Stephanie Myer
For those young adults that love aliens, if you choose to read this book you’ll quickly find out why this made our list o the best dystipian novels for young adults. The story follows Melanie Stryder, a 20-year-old girl who is captured by the aliens. The aliens, known as the Souls, take over human bodies and use them for their own purposes. Melanie is taken over by a Soul named Wanderer. Wanderer is placed in Melanie’s body in order to find out information about the humans. The humans are fighting against the Souls in order to take back their planet. The novel was turned into a movie in 2013 and was directed by Andrew Niccol.
City of Ember by Jeanne Duprau
We can’t talk about the best ya dystopian novels without mentioning The City of Ember. The City of Ember is a post-apocalyptic city that is slowly falling apart. The people who live in the city are forced to follow a set of rules in order to survive. The novel follows Lina Mayfleet and Doon Harrow, two 12-year-old kids who are trying to find a way out of the city. When the two youngsters discover fragments of an old parchment, they begin to question if there may be a means out of Ember. The novel was turned into a movie in 2008 and was directed by Gil Kenan.
Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
This novel has gained a lot of popularity since its release and had to make our list of the best dystopian novels for young adults. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld is set in a future world where people are forced to undergo surgery in order to become beautiful. The story follows Tally Youngblood, a 16-year-old girl who is about to undergo the surgery. However, Tally meets a boy named David and discovers that there may be more to life than being pretty. We’ll leave this description a bit vague so we don’t ruin one of the best young adult dystopian books for you. The novel was turned into a movie in 2009 and was directed by Kevin Lima.
Roar by Emma Clayton
The theme of control is strong in this young adult dystopian book. The story follows Ellie Linton, a 12-year-old girl who is sent to a boarding school. Ellie is told that she must stay at the school in order to keep her safe from the outside world. However, Ellie soon discovers that the school is not what it seems. She discovers that she’s been lied to for most of her life and realized the truth behind her captivity.
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Brave New World has gained a lot of popularity since its release in 1932. The story follows Bernard Marx, a man who is unhappy with the state of the world and begins to question the government and its methods. Bernard goes on a journey to find happiness and comes across a place called the Savage Reservation. The Savage Reservation is a place where people live outside of the government’s control. Bernard brings a woman named Linda and her son John back to the civilized world with him. However, the two are not welcomed with open arms and are treated as outcasts. This book is a classic which is why we picked it as one of the best young adult dystopian books out there. The novel was turned into a movie in 1998 and was directed by Bille August.
The Giver by Lois Lawry
The Giver is an extremely popular novel amongst the younger generation which is why it made our list of the best dystopian novels for young adults. The story follows Jonas, a 12-year-old boy who is chosen to be the next Receiver of Memory. The Receiver of Memory is a person who is responsible for holding all of the memories of the world. Jonas must go through a series of training in order to learn how to use his new abilities. However, as Jonas begins to learn more about the world, he starts to question the government and its methods. The novel was turned into a movie in 2014 and was directed by Phillip Noyce.
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Fahrenheit 451 is a novel set in a future world where the government’s leaders have control over just about everything. The story follows Guy Montag, a man who is employed as a fireman. In this future world, firemen don’t put out fires, they start them. They burn any books that they find in order to prevent people from reading them. However, Guy Montag begins to question his job and the government after he meets a young girl named Clarisse. The novel has been regarded as one of the author’s best works and was later turned into a movie in 2018, which was directed by Ramin Bahrani.
The Minority Report by Philip K. Dick
This made our list of the best dystopian novels for young adults because it has a hint of mystery tied into the plot. The story follows John Anderton, a man who is employed by the Precrime Division. The Precrime Division is a police force that uses precognition to arrest people before they commit crimes. However, John’s life is turned upside down when he is accused of a crime that he has not yet committed. The novel was turned into a movie in 2002 and was directed by Steven Spielberg.
1984 by George Orwell
1984 is yet another young adult dystopian novel based in the future, where the government has overtaken society. The story follows Winston Smith, a man who works for the government. Winston’s job is to rewrite history so that it conforms to the government’s ideology. However, Winston begins to question the government and their methods after he meets a woman named Julia. This book is known to be a classic as it has a strong plot that’ll keep readers hooked. The novel was turned into a movie in 1984 and was directed by Michael Radford.
Enjoy our list of YA Dystopian Books?
This is just a short list of the best young adult dystopian books out there. If you’re looking for a good book to read, we definitely recommend checking out one (or all) of these ya dystopian novels! If you prefer movies, then lucky for you, many of them are now available to watch as well. If you’ve read any of these young adult dystopian books and have a favorite please be sure to let us know on Twitter.