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My guide to young adult dystopian series

Ok friends, as you may already know, I have a penchant for reading dystopian fiction. I’ve been gobbling them up this summer and thought I’d offer my guide to the hot new series in this genre.

It seems that most of these books, similar to The Hunger Games, tend to bewritten for a young adult audience, which basically means they feature a teenage protagonist. Thus the protagonist is facing both their struggle against the society they are growing up in, and their own rise to adulthood. When well done, this can provide a great backbone fore a story, but as I’ve learned this summer, it’s a challenging genre to get right.

1. The Matched series.

Matched (Matched, #1)

Books in series: Matched, Crossed, and the forth coming Reached

Author: Allie Condie

So far I’ve read: Matched and Crossed

What it’s about: Cassia receives her match, the boy she will one day marry, and it’s her long time best friend Xander. But when she gets home and looks at the microcard with the information about her match, instead of showing Xander, it shows another boy from her neighborhood, Ky.  Cassia then struggles with the decision of who she wants to be matched with, which translates into a struggle for the freedom of personal choice in the Society.  Cassia decides to seek out the Rising, the opposition to the Society.

The nitty gritty: This story line would be good if they cut out the whole love story part. The set up of the dystopian Society is intriguing, and the action is fine, but the relationship between Cassia and Ky is so blah. It’s also a case where an author split one long book into three so she could release it as a trilogy.

Worth reading?: Meh. No.

2. The Delirium Series

Delirium (Delirium, #1)

Books in series: Delirium, Pandemonium, and Requiem + some books from other characters’ points of view

Author: Lauren Oliver

So far I’ve read: Delirium

What it’s about: The dystopian society in this series (I forget if they have a name or not) has developed a cure for love, which they view as a disease and they administer the vaccine when a child turns 18.  Shortly before her 18th birthday, Lena “catches” love, and falls in love with Alex, an outsider who has infiltrated her community.  When it is discovered that she has fallen in love,  she and Alex arrange to escape from the community.

The nitty gritty: Similar concept to Matched, but much better writing.  The actual story line, which does not have so much of a focus on the love story, but more of a focus on Lena’s interactions with the dystopia, has real potential.  I do plan on reading the other two in this series to see where it goes.

Worth reading?: I’d give this one a yes, if you’re into young adult and dystopian fiction. But if this genre doesn’t already pull you in, this book probably won’t change your mind.

3. The Maze Runner Series

The Maze Runner (Maze Runner, #1)

Books in series: The Maze Runner, The Scorch Trials, and The Death Cure + apparently a prequel and some other side stories

Author: James Dashner

So far I’ve read: The Maze Runner, The Scorch Trials, and The Death Cure

What it’s about: Thomas finds himself, with no memory of his past, in a group of around 40 other teenage boys in a garden that is surrounded by a giant maze.  Each day a group of boys go out and run through the maze and try to find a way out. In the maze are horrible monsters.  The boys have to figure out how to escape the maze, find who has put them there and why.

The nitty gritty: This series is poorly written.  Big pet peeve: when an author says a character is a certain way, but the character never actually acts that way. This series made me appreciate all those times past English teachers said that you needed to show and not tell. Relationships are not well developed and what seem to be important plot points are not well developed. Also, Thomas has a relationship with a girl, Theresa, and constantly refers to her as a friend, or best friend, although it’s clear she would more properly be referred to as a girlfriend.  A couple times there is kissing in the books, but most of the time Dashner treats the subject as if he’s writing for 5 year olds and sex is not acceptable to write about.  One of the important things about young adult fiction is the delving into more complicated and adult relationships, and Dashner fails mightly at that. One might ask why I read all three.  Apparently I’m a glutton for punishment.  Also, I wanted to see if Dashner ever actually got around to explaining the dystopia he set up.

Worth reading?: No. No. No

4. The Divergent Series

Divergent (Divergent, #1)

Books in the series: Divergent, Insurgent, and the forth coming, yet untitled third book in the trilogy + some side stories (sensing a pattern yet?)

Author: Veronica Roth

So far I’ve read: Divergent, and I just got a copy of Insurgent from the library today

What it’s about: As the coming of age ceremony in this society, 16 year old Beatrice has to choose whether or not to stay in her own faction with her family, or switch to one of the other 4 factions. But the trick is, her test results were inconclusive, she is divergent. She chooses to leave her family and join the Dauntless faction.  She next has to make it through initiation into her new faction, while keeping secret her divergent status. As she goes through the initiation trials she realizes that one of the other 5 factions is using her new faction to go to war against her families’ faction.

The nitty gritty: Strong female lead character? check. Intriguing dystopian society? check. Action packed? check. And reasonably well written to boot. Also, this one actually takes place in Chicago, which is kind of cool that Roth chose an actual city, rather than just some generic city.

Worth reading? This was my favorite first book of any of these series thus far, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the 2nd book brings.  This was also the only series where I was actually interested in reading the side story, so I would go with yes.

Long story short (much too late for that): dystopian fiction is not a recipe for success.  Pick and choose your novels carefully. Or just wait for me to do another set of book reviews, because I’ll probably read them even if they’re bad.

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One Comment on “My guide to young adult dystopian series”

  1. Kate Rose Says:

    Clare, you are a devouring these novels whole! Not sure where you find the time, but I’m happy you could confirm for me that I should probably steer clear of dystopian fiction. 1984, Brave New World, and The Giver used to be amongst my favorite books but I was uninterested in The Hunger Games. Where has this genre gone??!?

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