More often than not, teenagers seem to be the ones doing the world-saving in science fiction these days. Even if the decade-long insurgency (pun intended) of dystopian YA in the literary world is over, and young adults are back to weepy realism, the continuing popularity of these books means kids are more inspired than ever to change the world for the better. And that’s a beautiful thing.
Here’s something that may surprise you: The Hunger Games is the second most popular dystopian novel, after 1984. From The Giver to Divergent to the Uglies series, young adult fiction has exploded in popularity in the past ten years, with sales growing by nearly 21 percent in 2014, e-books by almost 34 percent. With this phenomenon has come debate about YA’s significance and its place in the market, but its continued popularity is not something to be taken lightly. Dystopia is not planning a divergence (get it?) from YA anytime soon.
This infographic posted on Goodreads back in 2012 shows how many books of the dystopian subgenre were published each year since 1920, and how their themes relate to what was going on at the time. The graph shows a peak in 2010 as more and more literary agents are adding contemporary rather than dystopian books to the manuscript wish lists, hoping to find the next The Fault in Our Stars or The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
But Lois Lowry’s The Giver was published in 1993, well before the recent dystopian upsurge in popularity, especially of the YA persuasion. So who’s to say that, if demand by publishers for bad-world sci-fi declines, readers won’t scrounge for it? Now, if only there was a way to publish an awesome novel without bowing to the demands of The Man… Oh wait.
Here are some excellent new YA dystopian novels from indie publishers:
Humanity lives in a utopian colony in which every want is satisfied automatically, and there is no need for labor, struggle, or thought. But when the machines that regulate the colony begin to malfunction, the colonists are faced with a test for the first time in their existence. It is left to a young man named Samuel to repair these breakdowns and save the colony.
Nine is the ninth female born in her batch of ten females and ten males. By design, her life in Freedom Province is without complications. But when Nine discovers the truth about life outside, including the secret plan of the Prime Maker, she is pulled between two worlds and two lives. Her decisions will test her courage, her heart, and her beliefs. Who can she trust? Who does she love? And most importantly, who will she decide to be?
Maryam reaches puberty and leaves her island home to join the chosen on board the shipwrecked Star of the Sea. The ship is one of the last safe places on earth after the Tribulations wiped out most of the population. Upon reflection, what at first reads as breakneck action raises tough questions about religion, racial disparity, medical ethics, and the appropriate uses of power.
Set in a dystopian future ruled by religious fanatics and a cruel military, External Forces is a fascinating, exciting fantasy. A group of young adults who are absolutely repressed by society and given no acceptable options for their future must choose to make their own path, though the consequences could be deadly.
On Recruitment Day, Lucky becomes one of five Recruits competing to join the ruthless Imposer task force. If he fails, his only living relative, his four-year-old brother, will be killed. Lucky will do everything he can to keep his brother alive, even if it means sacrificing the lives of other Recruits’ loved ones. What Lucky isn’t prepared for is his undeniable attraction to the handsome, rebellious Digory Tycho. But daring to care for another Recruit in a world where love is used as the ultimate weapon is extremely dangerous.
In a society where the color of a person’s palm determines their social class, Bruno goes from favored to fugitive when he kills a Royal Guard to save a boy’s life. If he wants to survive, Bruno has to learn to accept the lower colors. What results is a thrilling blend of fantasy and adventure perfect for readers everywhere.
Aimee Jodoin is deputy editor at Foreword Reviews. You can follow her on Twitter @aimeebeajo.