14 Dystopian Books You Won't Be Able To Stop Thinking About
As recommended by BuzzFeed Book Club members.
When Titus heads out to the moon for spring break, he's hoping for a week of partying and blowing off steam. Those plans are compromised when a hacker infiltrates his "feed" and he winds up in the hospital — alongside a girl named Violet, who isn't such a fan of the government-controlled feed anyway.
Promising review: "I loved Feed. I identified with Violet, who just couldn't fit into the world of her peers. I felt sorry for Titus, who wanted to support Violet but also wanted to fit in. And I despised the 'feed' and its constant assault on what makes us truly human. This is a terrific novel which needs to be read and discussed." —Kathy Cunningham (Amazon)
On Transition Day in the Fates Republic, the second child of every family is taken by the government and forced to serve the elite firstborns or join the army. When Roselle St. Sismode is called into the military, all eyes are on her — her mother's elite status has made her something of a celebrity — which means her decision to spare the life of an enemy is seen and judged by all.
Promising review: "I LOVED this book!!!! It enthralled me. It swept me away. I read it in one sitting. Roselle is a no nonsense heroine who doesn't really follow anything or anyone but her own convictions. The science fiction world is exceptionally well developed and interesting, and while the plot up to 50% was good, the plot after 50% blew me away." —Gingerbread (Amazon)
In a post-apocalyptic Utah, a monk of the Order of Saint Leibowitz discovers ancient relics seemingly from the life of Leibowitz himself — and through these artifacts, which illuminate the kind of life Leibowitz led in his fallout shelter, the monks start to understand where and how mankind went so wrong so many years ago.
Promising review: "Set in the distant future, this 1960 sci-fi novel of ideas warns us that history is cyclical, not necessarily progressive, and that we ignore its lessons at our own cost. A foundational novel among devotees of sci-fi." —Allen Smalling (Amazon)
Yorick Brown is the last human survivor of a plague that wiped out any mammals on Earth with a Y chromosome. Along with a government agent, a young scientist, and his pet monkey, he sets off on a journey to find out why exactly he survived.
Promising review: "This series in amazing. The characters are likable and feel like real people despite the extraordinary circumstances around them. The dialogue is witty and the storyline is addictive. Nearly every chapter ends with a revelation of some kind that shakes your perception of the world within the comic without relying on cheap tricks to keep the reader engaged." —Anonymous (Amazon)
Deep in the English countryside, the elite boarding school Hailsham is home to students who are assured over and over how special they are. As former students Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy grow into adulthood and reflect on their years spent there, they begin to piece together what exactly made them so special — and what sort of secrets the school has been hiding.
Promising review: "I adored this book — a chilling 'what-if' that touches on contemporary bioethics without belaboring the subject by become didactic. More important than the 'what-if,' however — what elevates this book beyond so much speculative or dystopian fiction — is the rich, heartbreaking life found in Ishiguro's characters." —P. Walker (Amazon)
Following a second civil war in America — pro-choice on one side, pro-life on the other — the Bill of Life states human life begins at conception, makes abortion illegal, but allows for a process called "unwinding," a way for parents to retroactively get rid of a child when they're between the ages of 13-18. Unwind follows three teens bound for unwinding who become runaways, determined to save their lives.
"I tend to read YA Dystopia and this summer I was introduced to Unwind by Neal Shusterman and really enjoyed it — and with the abortion debate ramping back up in the US it seems incredibly relevant right now." —Elizabeth Sughrue
Twenty years after a mysterious flu wiped out nearly the entirety of the human population, sects of survivors are rebuilding some kind of civilization in various settlements. One of those survivors, Kirsten Raymonde, travels among the settlements as part of a group called the Traveling Symphony who have committed themselves to preserving and presenting the arts. But when they land in a community led by a dangerous prophet, they find their lives at risk.
"Station Eleven might be one of the best dystopian books I’ve read. It delves into the nature of fame as we understand it in a apocalyptic world. I especially enjoyed the parallels drawn between fame and power, and what it means to be remembered." —Jacqueline Hoffman
Years after a man-made catastrophe rendered the planet uninhabitable and killed off nearly all of Earth's plants and animals, a small community lives in the protected Eden while they wait for the rest of the world to heal. Sixteen-year-old Rowan lives in Eden but hidden away as an outlaw — she's the second child in a community with strict population control — and when she decides to escape her family's compound, she begins a dangerous life on the run.
Promising review: "This book take you to an all too real possible future and keeps you on the edge of your seat with every page. Rowan's character is written so well that you feel sometimes that you are in fact her. It's an amazing read, and I hope there are future adventures to come." —Reviewextrairdinaire (Amazon)
In just one second, the US loses a war and suffers a blow that wipes out all electricity and sends the country back to the Dark Ages. One Second After follows North Carolina professor John Matheson as he struggles to protect his family and home.
Promising review: "One Second After is a great look at post-apocalyptic America with a heart and soul that I’ve rarely experienced in the sci-fi genre. It’s well researched, and Forstchen has a singular talent of creating the emotional reality and process as the community learns to live without electricity. I, for one, have realized just how much I love my creature comforts." —Majicdanser (Amazon)
When teenage women suddenly discover they have the power to cause pain and death with just a touch, everything changes — gender roles, power dynamics, and society as we know it.
Promising review: "My palms itched and my fingers tingled all through this amazing, subversive novel about power and gender. It was thrilling to envision a world where men finally understood what it meant to be oppressed, afraid, and less than. I enjoyed how the novel revealed the new world order through the lives of several characters, which allowed us to see how different elements of society — politics, crime, religion — handled the massive change in power dynamics." —Paula Chaffee (Amazon)
After a disaster destroys most of a town, a group of 12 children survivors are taken in by a cruel, powerful, and godlike man known as Father. Caroline is one of these children who've lived together with Father in a place called the "Library" through years of rigorous training — and when a mysterious force ejects them from their home without Father, she knows it's time to put that training to use.
Promising review: "Everything about this book struck me as unique and compelling in a way I have trouble properly describing. The apparently casual collision of the ordinary and the fantastic is done in a way that makes 'magical realism' seem shabby and melodramatic by comparison. It is ruthless, terrifying, genuine, vulnerable, and epic." —Gregory Bell
Love has been categorized as a dangerous disease, and, to combat it, the US government has installed a mandatory cure to be administered when citizens reach the age of 18. Lena Haloway is just three months from her procedure and very excited for it — that is, until she meets a mysterious young man from the Wilds who's managed to escape the government's radar.
Promising review: "Lauren Oliver’s dystopian world is frightening real. Her main characters are people you can understand – teenagers with questions and emotions. Their quest for understanding the future, and their belief that they are invincible are still recognizable no matter the time or the place. The emotional investment in the story and characters really speaks to a reader." —Marjay (Amazon)
After the dissolution of her marriage, Shira Shipman loses her young son to the massive corporation that governs the zone she calls home. She returns to Tikva, the free town she grew up in, to live with the grandmother who raised her — and while there, she meets an extraordinary man who also happens to be a cyborg.
Promising review: "A fabulous, witty, and perceptive science fiction cyborg love story: Marge Piercy gives new meaning to The Golem, I Robot, and Frankenstein as well as to all the considerations of the age of AI. It's a page-turner that I was sorry to finish because I wanted still more!" —Anonymous (Amazon)
Within a chaos-ridden California, 15-year-old Lauren Olamina lives sheltered in a gated community with her family and neighbors. Living with hyperempathy, Lauren is especially vulnerable to the many ills of the new world — but this sensitivity is also why she feels so determined to save the world disintegrating around her.
Promising review: "The writing is compelling enough to have me feeling sadness and compassion and hoping for all the tiny triumphs that could be. The important message of hope in uncertain times and the spirituality of Earthseed are refreshing and relatable." —Joshua Chavanne (Amazon)
Reviews have been edited for length and/or clarity.