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 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
  • 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 Boy Books

 

Mr. Star Wars finishes 7th grade in two days. He has always been a voracious reader and reads at a high level. It has been a challenge this year to keep books in the pipeline that have (mostly) appropriate content for a middle school kid because he is at a place where he can read books intended for an adult audience. Since he is a boy, he gave the polite pass to some of my standby recommendations for middle and high school students (Celia Garth by Bristow and Life as We Knew It by Pfeffer).

middle school boy books

I hesitate to classify books as “boy” or “girl”, but it is just a fact that boys typically read books with boy main characters, and girl readers tend to be less gender specific. We hit on some titles that were highly enjoyable. Most fall in the dystopian category because that is such a hot genre right now. We also found several that are spy/secret mission style books, which are en vogue right now too. All have boy central characters.

High Reading Level

  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  • The House of the Scorpion and sequel by Nancy Farmer
  • The Martian (some bad language) by Andy Weir
  • Cherub series by Robert Muchamore
  • When the Legends Die by Hal Borland
  • Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
  • Cloak of the Light series by Chuck Black

Average Reading Level

  • Beneath and Above by Roland Smith
  • Peak by Roland Smith
  • The Bodyguard series by Chris Bradford
  • Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz
  • Crossover series by Kwame Alexander
  • Things Not Seen series by Andrew Clements
  • Loot series by Jude Watson
  • Ranger’s Apprentice and Brotherband series by John Flanagan
  • Conspiracy 365 series by Gabrielle Lord
  • The False Prince trilogy by Jennifer Nielsen
  • Knightley Academy series by Violet Haberdasher

On our middle school summer “to read” list

  • Freakling and Psi Chronicles by Lana Krumwiede
  • The Neptune Project by Polly Hollyoke (girl main character!)
  • The Ability by M.M. Vaughan
  • Ghost and companion books by Jason Reynolds
  • The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton (need at least one classic)