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Top 10 Dystopian Novels For Young Adults

Updated on January 15, 2014

The Top 10 Dystopian Novels For Young Adults

Dystopian novels are all the rage for young adults, and even adults. With the popularity of "The Hunger Games" trilogy, readers are finding they are fans of the dystopian novel genre. According to Wikipedia, "dystopia is defined as a society characterized by poverty, squalor, or oppression." One of the things I find appealing about dystopian fiction is seeing how the characters in the novels adapted to their dystopian world and what they do, if anything, to rise about the bleak situation.

Here are my top ten dystopian novels for young adults. Don't worry, grown ups, they are just as entertaining if you are over the age of 18.

The Hunger Games Trilogy

In the country of Panem, the Capitol orchestrates the Hunger Games every year, selecting two teens, a girl and a boy, from each of twelve districts to essentially fight each other to the death live on national television. The series centers on Katniss Everdeen, who elects to participate in the Hunger Games in an effort to protect her younger sister, Primrose, whose name was initially selected for their district.

Battle Royale - by Koushun Takami

Battle Royale: The Novel
Battle Royale: The Novel

If you haven't gotten enough of kids fighting each other to the death from The Hunger Games, try out Battle Royale. This Japanese novel was released in 1999, nearly ten years before readers first met Katniss Everdeen. Battle Royale centers around a group of Japanese students who are kidnapped as part of the Program, where they are relocated to an isolated island and told they must fight each other to the death until there is a sole survivor.


The Giver Trilogy - by Lois Lowry

Twelve year old Jonas has been selected to receive training from the Giver. Jonas soon learns this training involves gaining knowledge and information unavailable to his family and community. He is torn between maintaining the Sameness he is accustomed to and learning what he has been missing.

The Giver received the 1994 Newbery Medal for Children's literature.

Uglies Series - by Scott Westerfeld

The young adult book series, the Uglies, takes place in a world where all teens are given plastic surgery at the age of 16 to become Pretty. The hero of the book, Tally Youngblood, decides to rebel against the establishment and remain Ugly. Currently, the book series includes the books Uglies, Pretties, Specials, and Extras.

As a fan of the Twilight Zone, I was aware of an episode with a very similar plotline, entitled "Number Twelve Looks Just Like You". The Uglies series expanded on this premise and the very ideas of beauty and being unique.

Young Adults Are Just For Kids?

Is it cool for adults to read books written for young adults/kids?

Yes - young adult books are great options for adults!

Yes - young adult books are great options for adults!

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    • Shivi13 4 years ago

      Yeah. It's definitely alright. Young adult novels aren't really like adult novels because the main character is usually a teen with a teen lifestyle and that is pretty much all

    • JoshuaBonilla 4 years ago

      Sometimes its good to get lost in a fun story. I am always a kid, no matter if my body disagrees!

    • anonymous 4 years ago

      I think YA novels can be incredibly insightful about really difficult issues, a lot of adults don't want to read a heavy classic when they are relaxing. However, I am predominantly talking about YA distopian novels where a lot of the time the reader is being asked to make ethical and moral judgements about characters decisions and the worlds they live in.

    • anonymous 4 years ago

      Young adult books are perfectly acceptable reading material for adults! The themes presented are just as valuable to adults as they are for young adults. To say that we should "dumb" down literature for young adults because we think they can't handle complexity is pure stupidity.

    • momsfunny 5 years ago

      I think there's no problem with that. There are many young adult books that interest adults as well.

    • floppypoppygift1 5 years ago

      Yes, it's a great way for parents to find a common ground to speak to their teens about.

    • getmoreinfo 5 years ago

      I think it is best for adults to read what the young people are interested in because it makes for parents having more to talk about with their children. Even grandparents can read these novels and relate better with their grandchildren.

    • anonymous 5 years ago

      No. For everyone. How many people have read Mark Twain of all ages. His works are an adventure lark for the young, can be thoughtful coming of age for mid-youth to young adults and journey back to childhood for older adults. A good story is only as good as what you take from it.

    • anonymous 5 years ago

      Definitely! My mom reads most of the stuff that I read! I think it's cool that we can have something in common other than the ordinary 'clean your room'!

    • cal17mom 5 years ago

      Absolutely! These dystopian novels are especially fun if there is a love triangle involved (which there usually is), as they bring out the 15-year-old girl in all of us:)

    • TravelingRae 5 years ago

      Having reread the Giver at 32 after reading it for the first time almost 20 years ago, I have to say that some YA books are definitely worth reading by adults. Classics like The Giver can be read on a number of different intellectual levels. I remembered the book as being about a world without colour. I took a lot more away from it today.

    No - young adult books are strictly for kids, only!

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      • Leah J. Hileman 5 years ago from East Berlin, PA, USA

        I read plenty of YA books when I was a YA. Movin' on...

      • the-good-stuff 5 years ago

        I've been disappointed with every new YA book I've read as an adult. They all seem so superficial and melodramatic. I'm staying clear!

      Matched Series - By Ally Condie

      In "Matched", the Society makes all decisions for its citizens. Cassia had no problem with this, even at her Matching ceremony, when she was told who she would be marrying. In the middle of her Matching ceremony, the face of another boy flashes on-screen briefly, calling into question everything Cassia accepted about the choices being made for her.

      Chaos Walking Trilogy - by Patrick Ness

      Todd Hewitt is the sole boy in Prentisstown. A "germ" has killed the women, forcing all males to officially become men at thirteen. Over the course of the trilogy, Todd learns that what he has been told about his world isn't entirely true.

      Delirium - by Lauren Oliver

      Delirium: The Special Edition (Delirium Trilogy)
      Delirium: The Special Edition (Delirium Trilogy)

      Scientists have found the cure for love, and Delirium is set in a world where citizens must receive the cure on their eighteenth birthday. A matter of days before her eighteenth birthday, Lena Holoway falls in love.


      The Maze Runner Series - by James Dashner

      Thomas wakes up in a box. He discovers he has been transported into a mysterious place called the Glade. There is no way out. He learns that beyond the Glade is a Maze, and runners venture out to it daily in an attempt to map it. The maze changes regularly, and even the runners aren't always successful in returning. Thomas joins the group of runners, hoping to help find a way out for himself and the other teens trapped in the Glade like him.

      The Water Wars - by Cameron Stracher

      The Water Wars
      The Water Wars

      The Water Wars takes place in a dystopian future where water has become so scarce clouds are literally pulled from the sky for drainage. Vera, the story's heroine, meets a boy named Kai who seems to always have water. Then he disappears.


      Ship Breaker - by Paolo Bacigalupi

      The world's fossil fuels have been stripped. Nailer is a teen boy who works hunting for scrap metal on grounded oil tankers. Fate has him find a recently beached pristine clipper and is torn between stripping it of its massive wealth or rescuing the ship's sole survivor.

      The sequel to "Ship Breaker", titled "The Drowned Cities" is scheduled for release in 2012. You can pre-order it from below.

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      What's Your Favorite Dystopian Novel For Young Adults?

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          anonymous 2 years ago

          The Legend series!!! And the Darkest Minds! Both AMAZING series

        • dancingdiva02 profile image

          dancingdiva02 3 years ago

          The trilogies of Divergent and the hunger games ! (:

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          Janey6990 4 years ago

          Divergent and it's follow up, Insurgent, both by Veronica Roth.

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          anonymous 4 years ago

          In school my Language Arts class read the Giver. We all found the book and its sequels very interesting. I also found the Giver to be a great discussion book. I have also heard Divergent to be a great novel.

        • JoshuaBonilla profile image

          JoshuaBonilla 4 years ago

          A recent release, Sky of Dust: The Last Weapon is now a top recommended book for The Hunger Games on Amazon.

          It is a young adult, dystopian, action, adventure, and more.

          It takes place in the future after the government was overthrown by the people. Little did they know, they had been manipulated by a group of arms dealers. The arms dealers took power (The people did not know they were arms dealers) and began to use the people as mercenaries (Agian, the peopl did not know).

          It also has the nice twist of abilities/mutations.powers thrown in.

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          anonymous 4 years ago

          Divergent and the hunger games were good.

        • katemiya profile image

          katemiya 4 years ago

          @anonymous: Yeah, I'm slacking on updating the recommended products. Please forgive me!

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          anonymous 4 years ago

          "Just Johny in the Underground" - was free on Kindle last week, a couple of quid now. Paperback available on i think, and possible elsewhere. Check it out.

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          anonymous 4 years ago

          divergent is a very good one

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          RebeccaE 4 years ago

          ender's game is still my fave... even after all these years. Although Hunger Games is pretty close!

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          anonymous 4 years ago

          Enclave and Outposts by Ann Aguirre are my personal favorites with a 3rd book horde on the way. The story is more captivating then any other I have read took my favorite reads above hunger games shipbreaker and drowned cities. Each book created a vivid picture of the world around while giving detail to every moment amazing character depth you truly fall in love with the characters. The book keeps action coming and suspense building. It's truly a masterpiece.

        • profile image

          anonymous 4 years ago

          The GONE series by Michael Grant, it is sooooo goood. You guys must read this, especially if you liked The Maze Runner. It is VERY good:

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          anonymous 4 years ago

          Ender's Game and The Giver, games down.

        • krakensquid profile image

          krakensquid 4 years ago

          I couldn't tell you a 'favourite' as I like a lot of them but the Hunger Games for one really is a good book. An amazing selection by the way, you have great taste in literature! :)

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          anonymous 4 years ago

          Hunger games trilogy is great but I know everyone else would pick that so second best is the Dark life series.

        • PocketfulofParis profile image

          PocketfulofParis 5 years ago

          My favorite is the giver, it is so interesting and really makes you think

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          momsfunny 5 years ago

          I like the Hunger Games and the Uglies series.

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          ashblonde33 5 years ago

          @cal17mom: Read Divergent. It's even better

        • cal17mom profile image

          cal17mom 5 years ago

          It has to be the Hunger Games. That trilogy is one of my all-time favorites, even among adult novels.

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          anonymous 5 years ago

          Days Like This by Alison Stewart. Just read this; saw it on Goodreads. It's absorbing and exciting, set in Sydney, Australia. Terrific list. Read most of them but you can't go past The Giver.

        • jenniferteacher1 profile image

          jenniferteacher1 5 years ago

          The Giver is my favorite of these.

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          moonlitta 5 years ago

          Uh, I got a bit late! But still can give you a second blessing:)

        • Timewarp profile image

          Paul 5 years ago from Montreal

          Great book selections, blessed!

        • CruiseReady profile image

          CruiseReady 5 years ago from East Central Florida

          Having just heard of this genre on your page, I can't exactly choose a favorite. But, I can tell you that, from reading the summeries, most of them sound awfully depressing. Perhaps I'm missing something.

        • emmaklarkins profile image

          emmaklarkins 5 years ago

          Great list! A Boy and his Dog is another good one.

        • kislanyk profile image

          Marika 5 years ago from Cyprus

          I've read many of these novels, but not quite all, so I have some more reading to go (I love young adul tnovels, and I'm not a young adult, lol).

          P.S. Hope your migraines are gone!