The 40 Best Young Adult Dystopian Novels – Ultimate Guide

Dystopian novels were prevalent a few years ago and are making a massive comeback. Our world is constantly changing, and no one knows the future. However, stories of this nature show what the world could look like in the future, and you’ll find that people are fascinated with the thought of what the future could hold. 

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The 40 Best Young Adult Dystopian Novels - Ultimate Guide

Dystopia has a reputation for being ‘overrated’ or ‘over hyped.’ That’s not true. They’ve engaged audiences worldwide and gotten people who used to hate reading to turn to books for fun instead of for school or someone asking them to.

Through this list, you’ll find diverse options that will stimulate your mind and have you longing for more. 

The Hunger Games By Suzanne Collins 

The Hunger Games

You might not be ready to volunteer for tribute, but Katniss was. In what used to be North America, the Capitol of Panem forces its twelve districts to fight in an event called The Hunger Games. One boy and girl from each district is selected, and then there is a bloody battle to the death until only one remains. With nothing to help her except her mind and the skills she’s been taught, she must rely on pure determination to survive. 

The Hunger Games is the first in a three-book series and has been a bestseller. It’s been turned into a movie that people have fallen in love with. However, you should always read the book first. 

Delirium By Lauren Oliver 

Delirium (Delirium Trilogy) by Lauren Oliver (2012-02-07)

Delirium deals with the idea that love is a dangerous disease. The setting is an alternate United States, and the government forces everyone who has reached the age of eighteen to have the Cure. It’s a procedure that ensures that you have a safe, predictable, boring life. Lena has watched what the Cure did to her mother and vows to avoid the same treatment. However, before her treatment, she meets a boy named Alex, which changes everything. 

Matched By Allie Condie 


In a society where officials decide everything, Matched explores how a government decides who you love, where you live, and how and when you die. Cassia trusts their choices as long as she has a good life and the best mate. When her best friend appears on the matching screen, she’s excited, thinking he’s the one. But then the screen flashes, and she sees another face before the screen fades. Now she has an impossible choice, the best friend she’s always known or a passion she never thought she could have.

Uglies By Scott Westerfeld


Uglies explores a society that lets you be pretty or ugly. Tally is turning sixteen, and she couldn’t be more excited. She wants to have her operation and become pretty so that she can reach the level of sophistication to obtain a high-tech paradise without worrying. Her friend Shay, however, is still determining if the operation is worth it. When she runs away, Tally uncovers a new world, which isn’t pleasant. She’s given an impossible choice if she still wants her operation. Tally must find her friend and turn her in, or never have the chance to turn pretty. This choice is going to change her life forever.

Thunder By Bonnie Calhoun 

Thunder: A Novel (Stone Braide Chronicles)

Thunder is the first book in a dystopian trilogy about a girl who learns that her family is not biologically hers. Seleh discovers that she is a Lander which is the sworn enemy of her family and, in fact, the people that her family hunts down. Set in a post-apocalyptic America, her life changes drastically when a Lander mark appears on her body, and she realizes that now she could be the hunted. 

The Giver By Lois Lowry 

The Giver: A Newbery Award Winner (Giver Quartet, 1)

Jonas is a twelve-year-old that lives in a utopian world. He is personally chosen to receive special training from the Giver. The Giver alone has the memories of joy, pain, and our journey through life. As he begins to see things differently and question the world around him, he realizes that nothing will ever be the same. 

The Giver is a book that has impacted society so much that it is now being taught in junior high schools nationwide. 

Cinder By Marissa Meyer 

[(Cinder )] [Author: Marissa Meyer] [Aug-2013]

Cinder is set in New Beijing and has humans and androids living together in the crowded streets. A deadly plague is ravaging the population, and people are watching from space, itching to make a move. However, what no one knows is that Cinder can save the Earth. Cinder is a talented mechanic, but she’s not entirely human. She’s a cyborg and one who is going to find out how she fits into the world. 

Cinder is a fan favorite, and people love that the author has a diverse and compelling story. 

Noughts & Crosses By Malorie Blackman

Noughts & Crosses

Noughts & Crosses is a powerful story of two young people that have been forced to make a stand for what’s right. Sephy is a Cross. The Cross is a member of the ruling class, and they have darker skin. The Nought are colorless members of an underclass and used to be slaves to the Crosses. Callum is a Nought but falls in love with Sephy. The romance can lead them into terrible danger as they live in a world where terrorist activity, prejudice, and distrust are rampant. Will their love survive the world that they live in?

Animal Farm By George Orwell 

Animal Farm

Animal Farm is another book that is considered to be taught in schools. It contains the story of a farm taken over by the mistreated animals living there. The animals are overworked, and they seek equality. The story draws you in immediately; most find they get through it quickly. Due to the subject matter, this book may be better suited to older teens than younger ones. 

These Broken Stars By Amie Kaufman And Megan Spooner

These Broken Stars

The Icarus is having a typical night before catastrophe strikes. The space liner has been forced into hyperspace and plummeted to the nearest planet. Lilac and Tarver arrive, and they seem to be by themselves. Lilac’s family is wealthy, while Tarver comes from nothing. However, the two must work together to survive, and both no don’t have the hope of a future together. As such, they start to wonder, should they stay here forever so that they can stay together? Can they fight off the strange whispers that they hear with each step?

These Broken Stars is a book that has had a lot of people talking, and for a good reason. The story of love in a dystopian setting on a backdrop of danger is too good to ignore. 

Anomaly by Krista McGee


Anomaly is a book that grabs you right from the start. Thalli has a little over fifteen minutes to live. The toxic gas that will kill her is invading her bloodstream, but she’s not afraid to die. Thalli is also different from those around her; she asks questions, has emotions and feels things, and keeps her secrets from those who monitor her life. 

She is threatened with being killed when she becomes seen as a threat. Instead, they decide that she will be a test subject. That leaves her wondering if she may be part of something bigger than herself.

The Winner’s Curse By Marie Rutkoski

The Winner's Curse (The Winner's Trilogy, 1)

The Winner’s Curse takes you into a world of rebellion and beautiful ball gowns. In this world, games are played, and everything is at stake. You can gamble with your life and your heart, and it becomes dangerous to try to do both. Kestrel is the daughter of a general and has two choices. Find a husband, or join the military. Kestrel doesn’t like those options and goes for option three. 

Seeing an enslaved person up for auction, she buys him and doesn’t realize she’s falling in love. Her actions have unexpected consequences, and she wonders what the true price of freedom is. 

The Dog Runner By Bren MacDibble

The Dog Runner

The Dog Runner takes us on a journey of two siblings. Starving and alone in a city that’s slowly dying, Emery and Ella realize they must leave. The goal is to find Emery’s mother. The only help they have with them are dogs and a dog sled. After Emery is injured, Ella has to step into a leadership role and protect everyone as the situation becomes more dangerous. 

The Sky So Heavy By Claire Zorn 

The Sky So Heavy

Fin thinks that today is like any other day. Get to school on time, flirt with the girl he likes, and remain calm. There’s one problem with this, however. Today is the day that nuclear missiles are being detonated. When awakens the next morning, he has no parents, lights, power, internet, or phone. It’s dark, snowy, and cold. As he runs out of food and water and his parents are still missing, he has to learn to survive and protect his brother from a world they no longer know. 

The Sky So Heavy is a book that will reinforce how strong families can be and what people will do to survive.

Pure By Julianna Baggott


Pressia doesn’t have a clear memory of life during the ‘Before.’ She sleeps in a cabinet behind the rubble of a barbershop where she lives with her grandfather. The world is lost, and there are no parents for her, theaters, parks, or special events. They do have ash, despair, permanent scars, and damaged bodies. The militia will use you as a live target if your body is too damaged or weak. If not, they will train you. Prussia wants no part in this and is on the run. 

Pure is a strong story that not only tugs at your heartstrings but with your mind. 

An Ember In The Ashes By Sabaa Tahir 

An Ember in the Ashes

Elias is a soldier trapped in a life he hates, while Laia is an enslaved person trying to save her brother. No one is truly free. Under the Martial Empire, you’re forced to comply or risk the loss of everyone you love. When Laia’s brother is arrested, she has a choice. Offer herself and her help to the rebels to save her brother or stay true to the Empire and never see him again. She chooses the former and becomes a spy at the most remarkable military academy the Empire has. Meeting Elias, the best soldier in the school, she falls in love and realizes that their fates are tied. 

An Ember In The Ashes is a fantastic book and well worth the read. However, there is a warning. The beginning of the book has a scene that can be too much for readers. 

Life As We Knew It By Susan Beth Pfeffer 

Life as We Knew It

Miranda can’t believe it when a meteor knocks the moon closer to the Earth. Suddenly, there are tsunamis, earthquakes, and volcanic ash, and the world is in danger. The summer is turning into a cold and arctic winter, and Miranda and her family must retreat to their sun room. They’ve stockpiled food but only have a little water. How will they survive when the water and supplies run out?

Life As We Knew It is a book that is told in a journal format and is a heart-wrenching tale that reminds us that no matter how bleak things can get, there is always hope. 

Whisper By Lynette Noni 


‘Jane Doe’ has been locked in a secret lab for two years. In all this time, she’s never spoken. She’s afraid that if she does, she’ll lose control of her power. When the authorities put her under the care of Landon, she feels shocked that he treats her like a human instead of a test subject. When Jane begins to trust him, a freak accident reveals how dangerous she is. She learns that she is at the heart of a terrible plot and has no idea who to trust and what she can do before it’s too late. 

Whisper takes a pretty interesting take on dystopian novels and has a more profound metaphor about finding and controlling your voice. 

Flawed By Cecelia Ahern 

Flawed: A Novel (Flawed, 1)

Flawed is a story of danger and warnings. Celestine thinks she has the best life she possibly could. She’s the daughter of a model, her sister is one as well, and everyone seems to love her. Not to mention she’s dating Art, who is a total catch. But one day, she has a situation that forces her to act on instinct. She breaks the rules, and because of that, she could be imprisoned, branded, and found flawed for what she’s done. 

Will her actions lead to a greater punishment than she thought possible? Is she about to lose everything she holds dear?

Enclave By Ann Aquirre

Enclave (The Razorland Trilogy, 1)

New York City is no longer the city it used to be. It’s been decimated by plague and war. Civilization is fleeing to underground caves. You are only expected to live to your early twenties at the latest. Enter Deuce. Deuce is fifteen and a huntress. She gets paired with Fade. Fade lived in Topside when he was young. They go on a journey when they realize monsters are destroying neighboring caves. After being exiled, they must go to the Topside and attempt to survive. 

Enclave is a story that has more dangers and feelings than other novels in the same field. It’s also become a fan favorite because of the story between Deuce and Fade. 

 Under The Never Sky By Veronica Rossi

Under the Never Sky

Aria lives life in Reverie. Reverie is in a protected dome. That means her world is confined, and she doesn’t think about what lies outside. That is, until her mother goes missing. While Aria knows her chances of survival are slim, she’s going after her mother. Meeting an outsider named Perry, who is also searching for someone, she realizes that although he’s wild and she considers him savage, he may be able to keep her alive and help her find her mother. 

Under The Never, Sky is about finding hope and seeking answers in a world without certainty. 

The Sandcastle Empire By Kayla Olson

The Sandcastle Empire

After losing everything, hope is all but lost. The Sandcastle Empire is a story that shows the aftermath of war and what it’s like to lose everything. Eden’s life was easy before the war tore everything. There are no more walks on the beach and days with soda and ice cream. Instead, there is fear and very little to be excited about. With the odds stacked against her, can anything get better?

The Selection By Kiera Cass

The Selection (The Selection, 1)

The Selection is a book that has been on teen book lists for years, and for a good reason. It’s the story of a girl named America. Her parents want her to compete in the Selection. For thirty-five girls, this is considered the opportunity of a lifetime. It could change their financial status and give America a future. Unfortunately, she feels forced into it, and her heart belongs to another. Will she fall for the prince and win the competition, or will her life remain the same forever?

The Final Six By Alexandra Monir

The Final Six (Final Six, 1)

We’ve all heard that climate change is changing everything. In the Final Six, climate change is destroying the earth, and sustaining humanity is becoming impossible. The fate of the people relies on the final six, the competition winners. Now they alone will scout for a new planet. Facing obstacles they never thought they would face and learning about cutthroat competition, two people consider the total weight of what’s been asked.

The Testing Trilogy By Joelle Charbonneau

The Testing (The Testing, 1)

Graduation day has come for Malencia and the colony of Five Lakes. All Malencia is concerned with is whether or not she’s getting chosen for ‘The Testing.’ It’s a commonwealth program that selects only the best for the chance to become a possible leader for civilization. However, when she gets chosen, the truth comes to light, and she has to become braver than she ever knew she could be.

The Testing Trilogy shows a story of family, loss, and danger. Through her adventure, we find romance and hope through the darkness.

The Bar Code Tattoo By Suzanne Weyn

The Bar Code Tattoo (The Bar Code Trilogy, Book 1) (1)

The Bar Code Tattoo is a dystopian novel about the promise of making lives easier. The problem is it becomes your identity. Kayla decides that she doesn’t want the tattoo, and that choice changes everything. Instead of fitting in, she’s an outsider, and dangerous things are beginning to happen to her and her family. So she chooses to run and leave everything she knows behind for their safety and hers. What will you desire in a world where you can select freedom or control?

The Last City By Logan Keys

The Last City

A plague has destroyed the planet. Liza was once a child prodigy. Now, she’s a prisoner and has no hope of ever being released. The youth is locked away and kept away from the general population. A soldier on the opposite side of the globe is being turned into a human weapon. He gives up everything for a cause, but his monsters quickly get the best of him and take him over.

The Last City shows survivors trying to stay alive with abuse and low rations when the government rules with an iron fist. Let the revolution begin!

The Resisters By Gish Jen

The Resisters: A novel (Vintage Contemporaries)

The land is half underwater, and the internet has become Aunt Nettie. People are divided, and nobody’s happy about it. Gwen is a girl with a golden arm. At two years old, she can hit things around her; by ten, she can hit any target she needs. When the Olympics become an issue, she finds that people are interested in her, and she falls in love with her coach.

The Resisters is a unique story that could happen to our society or is believed that it could. It presents a fascinating look at humanity.

Way Down Dark By J.P. Smythe

Way Down Dark (Australia Book (1))

People recognize only two things about Australia. You will either live or die; to live, you must fight to survive. Chan is seventeen, and the only thing Chan knows is violence and trying to survive. However, there is one way to escape. It means making your way into the darkness. No one goes here. It’s filled with the bodies of the dead. This choice will change everything, and she’ll put her family in the worst danger they’ve ever been in.

Way Down Dark will take you on a harrowing journey through the dark as it guides you through Chan’s incredible journey.

The Elements Of The Crown By Kay L Moody

The Elements of the Crown (The Elements of Kamdaria)

The Elements Of The Crown has everything you need. It has fantasy and dystopia, and it has conflicting power issues. The world is a dangerous and dark place. Talise is from the lowest ring of society. She has to do something fast to get rid of that label and change her life. She chooses to attend an elite academy or, at the very least, get selected for it. If she became powerful enough, she could become precious to the emperor. There’s just one tiny roadblock.

She’s falling in love with the one person who has as much skill as her. But she can’t give up, so she must hate him. Fate intervenes when the emperor forces them to work together. As their love grows and secrets threaten to tear them apart, they wonder if the war will destroy everything they’re trying to build. With Talise keeping secrets of her own, will she be killed or survive?

Modified By Harper North

Modified: Book One in the Manipulated Series

Modified follows the adventures of Fin. Fin still needs to step foot on Earth. She works in the minds below and stays underground. If you go above, you face overlords. Their life is simple but brutal. Follow the overlords or starve to death. However, Fin comes across a piece of technology that has fantastic benefits. When she steals the device, the underground society dissolves into chaos, and there is a manhunt for her. Will she make it out alive, or will others die with her?

Age Of Order By Julian North

Age of Order (Age of Order Saga)

Inequality has been made into a science, and machines rule the world. Daniela is offered a chance for a better life at an elite school. In this area, greed is rampant, and splendor is everywhere. The saying the grass is greener, though, isn’t true. This is a society that will stop at nothing to gain power.

Age Of Order presents a future that is not only terrifying but, in many ways, mirrors our own. That may be a truly frightening thought.

Configured By Jenetta Penner

Configured: Book #1 in The Configured Trilogy

Configured takes a look at love. In the future, if you love someone, you’ll be turned into a traitor. A virus has wiped out our earth’s population in this book. To survive, the remaining people live in the outbounds. Avlyn has been separated from her twin since birth, and when he dies, she realizes she’s linked to his memory.

After receiving a cryptic message and seeing her dead twin, she wonders if she can find freedom or if she will lose everything.

A Time To Die By Nadine Brandes

A Time to Die (Out of Time Book 1) (Volume 1)

Parvin is the main character in A Time To Die. She has less than a year to live and is only seventeen. When the people in charge discover she’s sharing her clock with her twin, she is cast through the wall. That means she had a people’s death sentence placed upon her.

A Time To Die shows Parvin’s journey as she learns about herself, God, and the world around her.

Pawn By Aimee Carter

PAWN (The Blackcoat Rebellion, 1)

Pawn takes us on a journey through Kitty’s eyes. Instead of proving that she can be helpful to society, she’s walked out of her ranking test a failure. She has one hope, to transform into someone else. If she does this, she loses her true love. There’s one more catch as well. She’ll have to turn into the Prime Minister’s niece. To do so, she’ll have to stop the rebellion that got the real one killed.

Now, she’s faced threats, a rebellion, and a life that’s not her own—all the while wondering if she’ll ever see the one she loves again.

Prescient By D.S. Murphy

Prescient: A time travel dystopia

How would you feel if you were going to die soon? This is the situation you’ll find yourself in Prescient. The food corporation would experiment with modifications, and the result would destroy almost all of the human race. There is a dystopian wasteland, and bodies rot in the streets. No one can save the world except one girl. Her issue, however, is that keeping the future will take away the first love she’s ever known.

The Roar By Emma Clayton

The Roar

Mika and Ellie live in a futuristic world behind a wall. There are high-voltage razor wires at the top and guarded. It’s meant to keep out animals because they carry the plague. When Ellie begins to suspect the truth behind what she’s been told, she wants to escape the wall.

The Roar is a story of adventure and fantasy that brings the story to life. It’s well done and deserves a place on any shelf.

The Scourge By Jennifer A. Nielsen

The Scourge

The Scourge details the story of a lethal plague sweeping through the world. Ani is shocked and frightened when she’s chosen to be a test subject. When she takes the test for the Scourge, she’s even more scared when it comes back positive, and she’s sent away. Now caught in an evil plot and unsure how she will live long enough to beat the virus and the guards.

The Amber Project By J.N. Chaney

The Amber Project (The Variant Saga)

The year is 2157, and a mysterious gas has spread everywhere. It kills or mutates life—those who have survived live underground and want to go home. Hope is beginning to dwindle until a young scientist makes a discovery. Everything suddenly changes, and the world will never be the same.

The Amber Project is the story of how the future could be and how reality can be far worse than anything you dream up.

Recoil By Joanne Macgregor

Recoil (Recoil Trilogy)

A skilled gamer is recruited as a sniper in a war against a pandemic. In this war, skill is needed to survive. As such, she spends her days in virtual reality, longing for a different world. However, she’s being trained as an agent and becomes an expert sniper. When she meets Quinn, she’s drawn into his charming personality and knows he’s not showing everything to her though he promises he trusts her.

Recoil is a novel that takes you on a wild ride and has you hoping for a happy ending in store.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Are Books Banned In Dystopian Novels?

The fiction of this manner is often controversial because society is morally flawed, and the government regulates every part of their lives. As such, things like reading specific items or not at all, curfews, and other areas are heavily enforced.

What Is The Benefit Of Reading Dystopian Novels?

Dystopian novels help people understand real fears and that it’s alright to question things around you. In these books, you’ll see good and evil and feel a sense of right and wrong.

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Jenifer Dale