We can understand why you wouldn’t necessarily love dystopian novels—they’re works of fiction that show us the end of the world as we know it, and what life is like after. Kind of scary if we’re being honest. But really, they’re just speculation. A look at a future we don’t have to live, but lowkey could be heading for a generation or two down the line…
Back in the day, it seemed like every other book being published was a dystopian novel, and there’s a reason for that. These novels are exciting! There’s action, romance, corrupt government, war, this list could go on and on. There’s so much content in these books to enjoy on both a surface level, and deeper level when we reflect on what brought these societies to that point. So yeah, they can be pretty scary but they are also an interesting and unique way to look at the world and what society could be. So go on, give it a shot!
Scroll down to see which dystopian worlds we think stand out above the rest.
10 Dystopian Books to Read if You Hate Dystopian
1. Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
Originally a trilogy, the Shatter Me series is the dystopian genre at its best. Romance, superpowers, action, it’s got it all. Be sure to check out the newest book in the series, RESTORE ME, to see where this future is headed.
Juliette hasn’t touched anyone in exactly 264 days. The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette’s touch is fatal. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war – and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she’s exactly what they need right now.
2. Scythe by Neal Schusterman
The first book in a trilogy, Neal Schusterman presents an almost utopian future. Almost. The more you read about this future society, the more you see the cracks in its exterior.
A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death.
Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control. Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.
3. The Giver by Lois Lowry
Sure, you’ve heard of THE GIVER, but have you read it? It would be unjust to recommend a list of dystopian novels without acknowledging one of the works that started the genre.
Jonas’s world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear of pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the community. Jonas lives in a seemingly ideal world.
When Jonas turns 12 he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver does Jonas begin to understand the dark secrets behind this fragile community. Now, it is time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back
4. The Final Six by Alexandra Monir
Oh, climate change destroying the earth and affecting its ability to sustain humanity. That’s not at all a terrifying possible future! *laughs in uncomfortable fear but continues reading this book because it’s so good*
After erratic climate change has made Earth a dangerous place to live, the fate of the population rests on the shoulders of the final six—winners of a competition chosen to scout a new planet.
Intense training, global scrutiny, and cutthroat opponents are only a few of the hurdles the contestants must endure in this competition. It’s only when the finalists become fewer and their destinies grow nearer that the two can fathom the full weight of everything at stake: the world, the stars, and their lives.
5. Gone by Michael Grant
Most dystopian futures are a long-time-coming sort of thing. That’s not the case for the Gone series. One moment the world is normal, and the next, these teens seem to be the only people left alive, which makes it all the more terrifying. MONSTER, the seventh book set in this world, delves into the future of the survivors.
In the blink of an eye, everyone disappears. Gone. Except for the young. Just as suddenly, there are no phones, no internet, no television. No way to get help. And no way to figure out what’s happened. Hunger threatens. Animals are mutating. And the teens themselves are changing, developing new talents—unimaginable, dangerous, deadly powers—that grow stronger by the day. It’s a terrifying new world. Sides are being chosen, a fight is shaping up. Townies against rich kids. Bullies against the weak. Powerful against powerless. And time is running out: On your 15th birthday, you disappear just like everyone else…
6. Delirium by Lauren Oliver
Arguably one of the less anxiety-inducing dystopian future, but entertaining none-the-less. What if it’s not disease or war that ends society as we know it, what if it’s love?
In an alternate United States, love has been declared a dangerous disease, and the government forces everyone who reaches eighteen to have a procedure called the Cure. Living with her aunt, uncle, and cousins in Portland, Maine, Lena Haloway is very much looking forward to being cured and living a safe, predictable life. She watched love destroy her mother and isn’t about to make the same mistake. But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena meets enigmatic Alex, a boy from the “Wilds” who lives under the government’s radar. What will happen if they do the unthinkable and fall in love?
7. The Selection by Kiera Cass
Another less frightening but still harsh future is The Selection series. Not all must live in a bleak dystopian society, some still get to live like kings and queens. But where’s the fairness in that?
The Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon. But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn’t want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks. Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she’s made for herself—and realizes that the life she’s always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.
8. The Sandcastle Empire by Kayla Olson
Another book where climate change brought us into a dystopian future. Not to be dramatic, but we should probably take these books as a warning.
Before the war, Eden’s life was easy—then the revolution happened, and everything changed. Now a powerful group called the Wolfpack controls the earth and its resources. They killed Eden’s family, took everything from her. But Eden refuses to die by their hands. She escapes to neutral ground, a sanctuary—or so she thought. Her solace is short-lived, as Eden soon discovers this island might be deadlier than the world Eden left behind, but surviving it is the only thing that stands between her and freedom.
9. This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
Think the near future, but with monsters. Like, literal monsters. It’s definitely a terrifying outcome we can only hope we never have to face (but can thoroughly enjoy reading)!
Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, all August wants is to be human—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives
10. Endgame by James Frey
Most dystopian novels show us the after. We see what the dystopian future looks like, but we don’t see how society ended up there. Endgame isn’t like that. Be prepared to experience the apocalypse!
Twelve thousand years ago, they came. They descended from the sky amid smoke and fire, and created humanity and gave us rules to live by. Before they left, they told us someday they would come back, and when they did, a game would be played. A game that would determine our future.
For ten thousand years the 12 original lines of humanity existed in secret. Each had to have a Player prepared at all times. Now, the time has come. This is Endgame.
What other dystopian books would you recommend to someone that’s not crazy about the genre? Tell us in the comments below!
Check out our other genre book recs! Contemporary | Historical Fiction | Mystery Thrillers, | Paranormal Romances | Science Fiction | High Fantasy