Dystopian Book Genre

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.

science fiction dystopian book genre for students

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?

  1. Division of citizens into distinct groups or classes
  2. In the future
  3. War or apocalyptic event has happened in the past to change society
  4. Individuals have little power, information or free thought is restricted
  5. Illusions of a perfect society are maintained through corporate, bureaucratic, technological, moral, or totalitarian control
  6. The hero/protagonist sees the problem with society and wants to change the system

key elements in dystopian literature

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.

science fiction dystopian book stack

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)

Middle School Book Club

maze runner

I am sponsoring a 7th grade book club this semester at my school. Even though I am having to deal with the 7th grade beast (I so admire middle school teachers), I love reading books for an “older” audience. Book selection has been a little bit of a challenge. I can’t get the students to agree on one book choice, and it has been tricky to find appropriate books.

Below is my working list for the book club. Several I have ruled out because I think they are better suited for a high school kid. A few were recommended to me, and they are in my “to read” pile.

In the end, I probably could have had a dystopian society book club because the students picked between Maze Runner and Divergent as the first book pick, then traded books with each other, then read the sequels. We just moved on to the Fairy Tale/Fantasy genre, which I forced on them because I wanted to go see the Oz movie as an after school field trip.

The students unanimously picked The Recruit to read after we finish the Fairy Tale books. I anticipate that decision will change by the next meeting. Anything I could add as suggestions to my students? Any advice about the books in the “to read” list?



  • The Maze Runner series by Dashner
  • Divergent series by Roth
  • Matched trilogy by Condie
  • Ship Breaker by Bacigalupi (slow start, high school)
  • The Chocolate War by Cormier (high school level)
  • Life as We Knew It series by Pfeffer (high school level– could not put this book down)
  • City of Bones, Mortal Instruments series by Clare (8th grade+)

peter and the starcatchers

Fairy Tale

  • Entwined by Dixon
  • Wizard of Oz series by Baum
  • Peter Pan by Barrie
  • Peter and the Starcatchers series by Barry
  • The Grimm Legacy by Shulman

the recruit


  • The Recruit, CHERUB series by Muchamore

On My To Read List

  • Gods Among Us (Divine Masquerade Series) by D.C. Belton
  • Confessions of a Murder Suspect by James Patterson
  • The Apothecary by Ian Schoenherr
  • Red Scarf Girl by Jiang