The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer (2002)

13376This chilling recent classic gives the contemplative reader a lot to think about.

Recommended grade level: 7 and up

Pages:  380 (for ISBN 9780689852237)

Genre(s) and keywords: science fiction, dystopian, award winner, diverse

Tone/Style: bleak, atmospheric

Pace: leisurely to moderate

Topics: clones, drugs, undocumented immigrants

Themes: purpose in life, family, science, power, ethics

Summary: Between the U.S.A. and Aztlán (once called Mexico) lies a strip of land, known as Opium, the name of its chief product.  It is ruled by a 146-year-old drug lord known as El Patrón.  His fields are tilled by illegal immigrants, called “eejits,” who have computer chips implanted in their brains so that they can be kept in slavery.  Matt, a boy who is confined in a cottage on El Patrón estate, manages to break out, only to find himself treated like an animal.  Eventually he learns why.  The tattoo on his foot, “Property of Alacrán Estates,” means that he is a clone of El Patrón–and that he is being raised to provide spare body parts for his original.  With the aid of Tam Lin, his bodyguard, Matt escapes from Opium but that is not the end of his troubles.  He is imprisoned in a brutal labor camp for orphaned boys in Aztlán and leads a rebellion to rescue not only himself, but the other “Lost Boys.” (Source)

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Every Falling Star: The True Story of How I Survived and Escaped North Korea by Sungju Lee (2017)

every falling starThis tense, heartbreaking true story about a boy’s struggle to survive on the streets of North Korea offers a rare glimpse into a country shrouded in mystery.

Recommended grade level: 6 and up

Pages:   336 (for ISBN 9781419721328)

Genre(s) and keywords: nonfiction, memoir, survival, diverse, dystopian, current events, Kylie’s favorites

Tone/Style: grim, determined

Pace: moderate to fast

Topics: North Korea, gangs, orphans, poverty

Themes: loyalty, trust, injustice, family, friendship

Summary: Every Falling Star, the first book to portray contemporary North Korea to a young audience, is the intense memoir of a North Korean boy named Sungju who is forced at age twelve to live on the streets and fend for himself. To survive, Sungju creates a gang and lives by thieving, fighting, begging, and stealing rides on cargo trains. Sungju richly re-creates his scabrous story, depicting what it was like for a boy alone to create a new family with his gang, his “brothers”; to be hungry and to fear arrest, imprisonment, and even execution. This riveting memoir allows young readers to learn about other cultures where freedoms they take for granted do not exist.  (Source)

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Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard (2015)

redThis popular book hits all the right notes for dystopian fans.

Recommended grade level: 7+

Pages:   383 (for ISBN 9780062310637)

Genre(s) and keywords: dystopian, science fiction, some romance

Tone/Style: dark, twisty

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5 to 1 by Holly Bodger (2015)

5to1A dystopian society, Indian culture, and feminist commentary combine to make this a unique read.

Recommended grade level: 7-10

Pages:  244 (for ISBN 9780385391535)

Genre(s) and keywords: dystopian, verse, diverse, Asia (India, fictionalized)

Tone/Style: bleak, determined

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Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer (2006)

life as

This chilling what-if scenario fosters a staunch appreciation for life a we know it.

Recommended grade level: 6-12

Pages: 337 (for ISBN 9780152061548)

Genre(s) and keywords: science fiction, post-apocalyptic, survival, dystopian (in the world-ending sense, not the evil -government sense)

Tone/Style: serious, desperate, dissatisfied

Pace: moderate

Topics: natural disasters, destruction

Themes: survival, family, protecting others, grief and loss, going without, change

Summary: Miranda’s disbelief turns to fear in a split second when an asteroid knocks the moon closer to the earth. How should her family prepare for the future when worldwide tsunamis wipe out the coasts, earthquakes rock the continents, and volcanic ash blocks out the sun? Continue reading

Legend by Marie Lu (2011)

legendA super popular dystopian adventure.

Recommended grade level: 7-11

Pages: 305 (for ISBN 9780399256752)

Genre(s) and keywords: dystopian, science fiction, romance (just a little)

Tone/Style: bleak

Pace: moderate

Topics: military, outlaws, tests, epidemics, poverty, gifted

Themes: resistance, family

Summary: What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic’s wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic’s highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country’s most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem. Continue reading

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

ugliesDystopian before everybody else went dystopian. Uglies has an intriguing premise, a splash of romance, and is an easy sell to fans of The Hunger Games.

Recommended grade level: 6-12

Pages: 425 (for ISBN 9780689865381)

Genre(s) and keywords: science fiction, dystopian

Tone/Style: trapped, distrustful

Pace: moderate

Topics: cosmetic surgery, oppressive government, blackmail

Themes: self-acceptance, betrayal, friendship, rebellion

Summary: Everybody gets to be supermodel gorgeous. What could be wrong with that? Continue reading