Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Rise of Dystopia

-or- if you like the Hunger Games

As we approach the fourth anniversary of the Hunger Games publication, the rise in popularity of the dystopian genre has never been more evident. The teen section has been overcome with dystopian-themed novels, such as Veronica Roth’s Divergent and Ally Condie’s Matched. These novels and more have been gobbled up by teens—once they set down the Hunger Games, they are ready for another dystopian teen novel. According to the Telegraph the week before the Hunger Games movie release, “with the arrival of the film of the first book of Suzanne Collins’s best-selling trilogy the Hunger Games this month, dystopia for teenagers has hit an all-time high in public consciousness.” Publishers have been meeting these demands with the release of dozens of well-publicized dystopian teen novels over the past four years since the Hunger Games rocketed into popular culture.
                The authors that are following Collins in publication may not have been influenced in their writing of a dystopian novel. However, with the success of the Hunger Games, agents, editors and publishers have been more open to dystopian fiction as it is “the hottest genre in publishing and film on both sides of the Atlantic”. So it’s likely that the new teen dystopian releases were influenced by Collins’ Hunger Games in their publishing.  
History of Dystopia
The first novels that can be classified as dystopian were published over a century ago, but the genre has only enjoyed its rise in popularity since the release of the Hunger Games in 2008. This modern classic was preceded in the genre by such literary greats as Brave New World (1934), 1984 (1949) and Fahrenheit 451 (1953).
More recently, children’s authors have broadened the genre with such releases as the Newbury-award winning The Giver (1993) and Ender’s Game (1985), a science fiction yet dystopian classic takes the genre back to its original roots in science fiction.
In 2005, Scott Westerfeld published Uglies, the first of four in a dystopian teen series which became a turning point for the genre. Traditionally, dystopian novels were penned by men for men, but “Uglies was a strikingly new, dark tale which girls took to their hearts in droves.” Since that point, the teen dystopian genre has been driven by female characters and has seen an ever increasing number of female authors. 

Decade of Dystopia (2002-2012)
Here is a look back at the past decade of teen dystopian releases. It’s difficult to include every teen novel with a dystopian theme published in the past decade, but this collection includes those of note, influence and those believed to stand the test of time.

Feed: M.T. Anderson, 2002

House of the Scorpion: Nancy Farmer, September 2002 

How I Live Now: Meg Rosoff, August 2004

Uglies: Scott Westerfeld, February 2005
Sequels: Pretties, Specials, Extras

Life as We Knew It: Susan Beth Pfeffer, October 2006
Sequels: The Dead and Gone, This World We Live In

Unwind: Neal Shusterman, 2007
Sequel: Unwholly

The Declaration: Gemma Malley, October 2007
Sequels: The Resistance, The Legacy

Gone: Michael Grant, June 2008
Sequels: Hunger, Lies, Plague, Fear

The Knife of Never Letting Go: Patrick Ness, May 2008
Sequels: The Ask and the Answer, and Monsters of Men

Hunger Games: Suzanne Collins, September 2008
Sequels: Catching Fire, Mockingjay

Forest of Hands and Teeth: Carrie Ryan, July 2009
Sequels: The Dead-Tossed Waves, The Dark and Hollow Places
Maze Runner: James Dashner, October 2009
Sequels: The Scorch Trials, The Death Cure, The Kill Order

Incarceron: Catherine Fisher, January 2010 (UK May 2007)
Sequel: Sapphique

Worldshaker: Richard Harland, May 2010

Shipbreaker: Paolo Bacigalupi, May 2010 

Matched: Ally Condie,  November 2010
Sequels: Crossed, Reached

Wither: Lauren DeStefano, March 2011
Sequels: Fever, Sever

Divergent: Veronica Roth, May 2011
Sequel: Insurgent

Blood Red Road: Moira Young, June 2011
Sequel: Rebel Heart

Possession: Elana Johnson, June 2011
Sequel: Surrender

Across the Universe: Beth Revis, January 2011
Sequels: A Million Suns, Shades of Earth

Delirium: Lauren Oliver, January 2011
Sequel: Pandemonium

Enclave: Ann Aguirre, April 2011

Dark Parties: Sara Grant, August 2011

Eve: Anna Carey, October 2011
Sequel: Once

Legend: Marie Lu, November 2011
Sequel: Prodigy

Shatter Me: Tahereh Mafi, November 2011
Sequel: Unravel Me

Cinder: Marissa Meyer, January 2012
Sequel: Scarlet

Under the Never Sky: Veronica Rossi, January 2012
Sequel: Through the Ever Night

Partials: Dan Wells, February 2012
Sequel: Fragments

The Drowned Cities: Paolo Bacigalupi, May 2012 

Monument 14: Emmy Laybourne, June 2012



“50+ Fantastic Young Adult Dystopian Novels” Bart’s Bookshelf (blog).

Belanger, Ashley. “Defining Moments in Young Adult Dystopia: a Timeline.” Orlando Weekly (2012).

Craig, Amanda. “The Hunger Games and the teenage craze for dystopian fiction.” The Telegraph (2012):


  1. I'd toss in "The Time Machine" as THE proto-dystopian novel. Civilization has fallen millennia beforehand, leaving the beautiful, child-like and apathetic Eloi unable to defend themselves from the cannibalistic, cave-dwelling Morlocks. Westerfield (and many others) have borrowed from the best.

  2. Wow, somehow the Time Machine didn't pop up in my research. But now that you say it, it makes sense. I haven't dived into reading these dystopian classics as much as I should have, but they are on my list. Also, I agree that Westerfeld, Collins and others borrowed from their predessors. Original ideas are seemingly a thing of the past.

  3. Standing on the shoulders of giants is not a bad thing, either. Ideas need to be expanded upon by successive generations for more sophisticated readers.