Dystopian novels, both classic and contemporary, are on the rise—as you might have heard. Readers are searching for stories that describe what’s currently happening and what has the possibility of happening due to… recent events. If you’re one of those curious readers—whether you’re snuggling up with one of these books as an escape or are hoping to draw some parallels to life as you know it—we have 17 recommendations for your To Read shelf!
1. 1984 by George Orwell
Big Brother is always watching. Winston Smith is a dutiful citizen and a propaganda writer. But when he falls in love with his fellow worker, Julia, they begin to question the very system they work for. Winston plans a rebellion against the Party in power in order to regain the freedom to shape his own future. As you may have heard, this book rose in sales recently… and it might have something to do with our warped reality.
2. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Set in 2540, Aldous Huxley’s masterpiece can be read and understood by anyone concerned with preserving the human spirit in the face of our “brave new world” today. Brave New World depicts a world in which the population are all willing slaves to totalitarianism. These slaves are kept docile and compliant by drugs, entertainment, technology, and material goods. Is this an accurate representation of our times? I’ll let you read and decide.
3. The Divergent Series by Veronica Roth
The Divergent series is a dystopian tale of electrifying choices (that can transform you or destroy you), powerful consequences, and a deeply flawed “perfect society”. Divided into five factions—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent)—Beatrice Prior’s society forces the newly christened Tris to keep her secret hidden as she learns what makes you different also makes you dangerous.
4. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
On day one, the Georgia Flu explodes over the surface of the earth like a neutron bomb. The mortality rate is over 99%. By week two, civilization has completely crumbled. In Year 20, a danger looms, threatening the world that the hopeful survivors had tried to rebuild. Both terrifying and tender, Station Eleven tells a story about the fragility of life, the relationships that sustain us, and the beauty of the world as we know it.
5. Delirium by Lauren Oliver
Delirium by Lauren Oliver is set in an alternate United States (have I said enough?). Love is a dangerous disease, and the government is forcing everyone 18+ to have a procedure called “the Cure”. Lena Haloway is looking forward to being cured and living a safe, predictable life… until she meets a boy just a few weeks before her treatment. What will happen if they do the unthinkable and fall in love? This is a dystopian tale for all ages.
6. The Possessions by Sara Flannery Murphy
The Possessions is a new, immersive novel about a young woman who channels the dead for a living. When she falls in love with one of her clients, she has crossed a very dangerous line. A seductive, absorbing page-turner that builds to a shattering and unforgettable conclusion, The Possessions will take you to another world.
7. The Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer
Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. The government is involved in sending secret missions to explore this area and none of these eleven expeditions have returned unscathed. Annihilation opens with the twelfth expedition: four women are set on a mission to map the terrain and collect specimens, but what they discover shocks them. Annihilation is followed up by Authority (Book Two) and Acceptance (Book Three). And P.S. Jeff VanderMeer has a new book, Borne, coming out this April!
8. Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
Juliette’s touch is fatal and no one knows why. But no one really cares because the world around her is crumbling to pieces; diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, the birds don’t fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong colour. Eventually, the Reestablishment decides they can use Juliette’s power to their advantage. She has a choice to make: Be a weapon, or be a warrior. Shatter Me tells the story of reconstructing a world that was believed to be dead to its core.
9. The Humans by Matt Haig
An extraterrestrial visitor has arrived on Earth and his first impressions of the human species are less than positive… he’s disgusted by the way they look, what they eat, and their capacity for murder and war. He’s equally baffled by the concepts of love and family. Disguised as Professor Andrew Martin, the creature begins to see hope and beauty in the humans’ imperfections and starts to question the mission that brought him here in the first place. This funny and readable tale will take you out of the reality for a while and give you hope for the future.
10. Four by Veronica Roth
Move back into the Divergent series with the companion volume, Four, told from the perspective of the immensely popular character, Tobias. Follow Tobias’s transfer from Abnegation to Dauntless, his Dauntless initation, and the first clues that a foul plan is brewing in the leadership of two factions. Plus get a glimpse into three additional scenes from Divergent, told from Tobias’s point of view. Another unworldly work of art from Veronica Roth to make your Divergent collection complete.
11. Foxlowe by Eleanor Wasserberg
This compulsive and chilling debut is about a girl named Green who grew up in a cult. Her family was a new, better kind of family — there was no reason for anyone to want to leave their home. They didn’t need to go to school, and they shared everything. They knew the Bad and how to keep it away. Foxlowe is a mysterious and dark novel that will make you feel uneasy from the start.
12. Replica by Lauren Oliver
The Haven Institute looks serene and beautiful from a distance, but up close the locked doors, military guards, and biohazard suits tell a different story: Haven is a research facility where thousands of replicas, or human models, are born, raised and observed. Secrets and truths are uncovered by both Lyra and Gemma—ones that will change both of their lives. Replica is another dystopian novel from the masterful Lauren Oliver.
13. Mr. Adam by Pat Frank
On a certain date in the not-too-distant future, there are no reservations in the maternity wards of any hospitals in New York. When they check other cities, the alarming state of affairs appears to be not just in the United States, but in the entire world. This event leans on the accidental explosion in an atomic plant in Mississippi that released an unknown form of radiation, turning the Earth’s men sterile. But there was one notable exception: Mr. Homer Adam. And it’s up to the government to decide what to do with him. Mr. Adam reveals the dangers of nuclear power and the far greater danger of government bureaucracy.
14. Not A Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis
Water is worth more than gold in this futuristic story. Mindy McGinnis depicts one girl’s journey in a frontier-like world that is not so different from our own. Teenage Lynn has defended her pond against every threat, making sure anyone who comes near the pond leaves thirsty (or doesn’t leave at all). Confident in her own abilities, Lynn has no use for the world beyond the nearby fields and forest. But when strangers appear, the mysterious footprints, nighttime threats, and gunshots make it all too clear that Lynn has exactly what they want.
15. The Red Queen Trilogy by Victoria Aveyard
17-year-old Mare, a common girl whose magical power has drawn her into the intrigue of the king’s palace, is forced to find out if power will save her or if it will condemn her. Mare is a Red blood, meaning she serves the Silver-blooded elite and scrapes by as a thief in a poor, rural village… Until a twist of fate throws Mare into the Silver court where she discovers she has an ability of her own. Follow up Red Queen with Glass Sword and King’s Cage, all available now!
16. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
In the Republic of Gilead, Offred is a Handmaid. She follows strict rules, and only reminisces of the days before—when she had a job and money of her own, when she lived with her husband and played with her daughter, when she had access to knowledge. Now, Offred lies on her back once a month and prays that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. In an effort to rebuild society, tragedy strikes, and women are evidently stripped of their rights as human beings in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.
For 35 girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love and competing for a crown she doesn’t want. Then America meets Prince Maxon and realizes that the life she’s always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined. Escape with this #1 New York Times bestselling series set in a dystopian world.
Savvy Readers, which dystopian novel is your escape? We want to hear your suggestions, too! Tell us in the comments below or on Twitter @SavvyReader!