The dystopian book genre comprises the bulk of Mr. Star Wars’ 8th grade book stack (check out my other BLOG POST about middle school boy books). Dystopian books are a sub category of science fiction and are a favorite YA book genre. Science fiction books are generally geared to middle and high school students because the content is heavier. Themes and common story lines in science fiction stories deal with apocalyptic events, death, disease, dying, wars and typically have a dark tone.
In dystopian books, the protagonist or main character faces a big challenge that will possibly save the world, and he/she uses various skills and cunning to make that happen. I believe this is the appeal of the dystopian book. A character who is the same age as the reader takes on an important cause and succeeds in some way. It gives the reader a sense of empowerment.
How do you know a book is science fiction?
- The story answers a “what if” question. What if we could time travel? What if we lived on Mars? What if the temperatures on Earth rise significantly?
- The story incorporates the impact of scientific or technological changes on people.
- The setting is in the future or alternate universe.
How do you know a science fiction book is dystopian?
- Division of citizens into distinct groups or classes
- In the future
- War or apocalyptic event has happened in the past to change society
- Individuals have little power, information or free thought is restricted
- Illusions of a perfect society are maintained through corporate, bureaucratic, technological, moral, or totalitarian control
- The hero/protagonist sees the problem with society and wants to change the system
Many middle school classrooms will include a dystopian book as part of the reading curriculum this school year. Use THIS ACTIVITY PAGE to identify general science fiction characteristics in books, dystopian characteristics, and then compare to a specific book.
My Dystopian Book List… so far
- The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
- The Last Cuentista by Donna Barba Higuera (Teaching resources available HERE)
- The Maze Runner by James Dashner
- Divergent by Veronica Roth
- Matched by Allie Condie
- Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
- City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
- Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix (Teaching resources available HERE)
- Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
- The 100 by Kass Morgan
- Dry by Neal Shusterman
- Scythe by Neal Shusterman
- The Neptune Project by Polly Hollyoke
- Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
- The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
- Empty by Suzann Weyn
- 1984 by George Orwell
- Lord of the Flies by William Golding
- The Giver by Lois Lowry (Teaching resources available HERE)
- Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
- Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
- Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank
- Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
- The White Mountains by John Christopher (Teaching resources available HERE)
More titles to explore! Check out Earth Abides by Pat Frank.
Oooh, thanks for the rec! I am struggling lately to keep my 14-year old’s book stack stocked.
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Great post, very informative! My daughter and I are reading a few of these together. You should check out the Unwind series by Neil Shusterman.
We love the Neil Shusterman books! Thanks for the rec.