49 Dystopian Books To Read To Make It Feel Like You’re Actually Reading About Current Events

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I think my favorite genre of books is YA dystopians. I love them and I will read all of them. I don’t think I’ve written a list where I’ve already read so many on it. Maybe solo female travel books, but that’s it.

I’ve loved some, I’ve hated some (usually book two or three in the series) but I’ll keep reading them.

One thing I would like to note, this applies to all lists, but I’m mentioning it here, even if I don’t like a book, I’ll include it in my book lists because I know there is someone that will like it.

Everyone has different taste and this may be (hopefully is) a place you find your new favorite book. And just maybe it’s one I didn’t like but wanted to share anyway.

A recent example of this is the book Local Girls. It had like, 2.8 stars on Good Reads but I read it anyway and really liked it! So you just never know.

But, back to what you’re here for, the dystopian books! This is my April 2021 book club theme (technically it’s YA dystopian books, but it’s a mix of YA and adult here) and there are tons of books to choose from here. Join my book club here!

Also, you’re not going to find The Hunger Games, Divergent, or Maze Runner on this list because everybody already knows those. So if you liked any of those, this is the list for you.

If you’re interested in trying Audible, you can get your first month free which includes a free audiobook!  This is a great option if you want to listen to books more.  If you’re on more of a budget, try Scribd!  You can get your first month free there.

The Testing

The Seven Stages of War have left most of the planet a charred wasteland. The elite students of the university are in charge of renewing it and are chosen through The Testing.

Malencia Vale is honored to be chosen for it and eager to prove her worthiness as a student and future leader. But on the night she leaves, her father’s advice hints at a darker side to her upcoming studies – trust no one.

I read this one last November and loved it! I read the series in like, five days.

The Rule of One

In a near-future United States, a one-child policy is heavily enforced. Everyone follows the Rule of One but Ava and Mira Goodwin slipped through and secretly live as identical twins.

They’ve lived as one for eighteen years but now their worst nightmare is coming true: they’ve been exposed and have to fight for their lives.

I read this one in 2019 and it’s one of my favorite dystopian books! I didn’t love the end of the series but I liked the first two a lot.

Recruitment

No matter when you’re born in Valta, your birthday is November 1st, the day the government declared war on the Easter Order. But when you turn 17, the recruiters come take you away to never be seen again. It’s Kress’s turn tomorrow and she’ll be taken with her best friend Cardyn, but soon they find out Recruitment isn’t what they expected.

I also read this one last year. It wasn’t my favorite, by far, but I enjoyed it enough. The second one though. Ooo boy. Not a fan.

Rising: After the Thaw

Apparently perfect for fans of The Hunger Games and Divergent, this dystopian book may just be for you.

Humans now live in a super greenhouse where seas have risen and oceans have acidified making the fight for resources deadly. To make sure nothing like this ever happens again, those with enough intelligence and heart are the only people that earn the right to have children and heal the Earth.

Nine teens face the tests of the Proving to decide who is Bound to the new order, but four of them will challenge the system in ways unimaginable.

We Set the Dark on Fire

The Medio School for Girls trains young women for one of two roles in life: running her husbands household or raising his children. Either will lend a life of luxury not found in the lower class.

Daniela Vargas is the top student but to keep from being sent back to the fringes of society, she must keep the lie of her pedigree hidden.

School could never prepare her for the difficult choices she faces after graduation, especially when she’s asked by a rebellion group to spy and bring equality to the school.

The Grace Year

Speaking of the Grace Year is forbidden. In Garner County, girls are told they can lure grown men from their beds and drive women mad with jealousy, that their skin emits a powerful aphrodisiac. This is why they’re banished for their sixteenth year, to release their magic into the wild to return purified and ready for marriage. If they return at all.

This is one I would like to read soon!

Internment

Layla and her parents are forced into an internment camp for Muslim American citizens. Now she’s fighting for freedom with the help of new friends in the camp and her boyfriend outside of it. They’re leading the revolution in the camp against the director and his guards.

This is another one I’d like to read soon!

Configured

Love makes you a traitor in the future. 120 years after a virus decimated the Earth’s population, the survivors thrive in the safety, away from the dangers of the Outerbounds.

Avlyn Lark has advanced intelligence and is separated from her twin brother at birth and raised by adoptive parents where she gains privilege and he dies. She barely remembers him but remains linked to his memory.

But after a string of rebel attacks on the city she starts receiving strange messages along with visions of her dead twin. She is urged to join the fight by a mysterious radical to find answers and freedom.

I read this one in November, too. It was just OK for me, it didn’t make that much sense to me, but I’m including it here anyway because I know someone will like it.

Scythe

Here is another one I have and would like to read (obviously) but I left it at home so it will have to wait! This is one of those modern-classic YA dystopian books.

Humanity has conquered hunger, disease, war, misery, and even death and Scythes are the only ones who can end life. They are ordered to do so to keep the population size under control.

Citra and Rowan are the new apprentice scythes, much to their disappointment, and must learn to take like in order to keep their own.

Transient

Finding out her date of death is not Rae’s idea of a great birthday present. She doesn’t want to find out at all, but does. The Cryptograph is a test to show your DOD so you don’t have to worry your whole life and can live exactly how you want, at least if you’re a Constant or an Interim. Transients are less fortunate and face a short grim future.

Here’s another one I read in November. (can you tell I was in a dystopian book mood in November?). I liked the first one (this one) quite a bit but the last one was a pile of trash. You can read all about everything that was wrong with it here.

Matched

I read this one a couple of years ago, and like most of these, I liked it enough, but I DNF’d the third book. It was about 200 pages too long and NOTHING HAPPENS!

Cassia always believed Society would make the best choices for her so when she see’s Xander’s face on the screen at her Matching ceremony, she knows he is her ideal mate. At least until she sees Ky Markham’s face flash for a second before his.

She’s told it’s a rare malfunction and to focus on her life with Xander but she can’t stop thinking about Ky, who she finds herself slowly falling in love with.

Girls with Sharp Sticks

Are you surprised this one is on my TBR, too? No? Me either.

Innovations Academy is the home to beautiful and well-behaved girls, their report cards say so. The Guardian ensures they receive a well-rounded education that will only make them better.

Their carefully controlled existence may not be all that it seems, though, and as Mena and her friends uncover the dark secrets of the academy, the girls begin to fight back.

The Seclusion

Patricia and her best friend Rexx are on a routine assignment scouting the country’s dwindling natural resources when they discover a hidden cache of printed books from before the Seclusion.

This sparks a thirst to find the truth, leading to the arrest of Patricia’s father by the Board who runs the entire country.

Evading their own arrest, they set out across a ruined United States where they learn how their country came to be, gaining knowledge that may lead to their own demise.

The Girl Who Dared to Think

Liana Castell’s life is defined by the number on her wristband but she has to be careful what she thinks because it’s monitored by a device in her skull. She’s given a rating out of ten based on her usefulness and loyalty to the Tower.

She’s currently a four, feeling the pressure from her perfect-score parents. Rebellious ideas come easily and when her worst nightmare comes true, dropping to a three, she goes down a path few dare to tread, driven by desperation.

Inside Out

Wow, yet another on my TBR. This one is on Scribd and I’m going to read it soon (hopefully.) Also, if you look at the cover fast, does that look like Miley Cyrus?

Trella is a nobody, one of thousands working in the lower levels, keeping Inside clean for the Uppers. She has one friend, does her job, and tries to avoid the Pop Cops. Oh, and she occasionally sneaks into the Upper levels through the pipes.

She is the only one at risk, at first, then she accidentally starts a rebellion, leading the revolution.

Flow

There is an isolated society in a world with unimaginably high sea levels and life there, in The Beck, is tough. It’s constantly threatened by floodwaters and rules must be followed to ensure their safety.

Quin knows the governor is hiding something and when she is promoted to Patrol Sector, she hopes to find her lies with the extra freedom.

Life in Patrol isn’t what she expected, though. New recruits train hard where failure is not tolerated. Quin is warned digging too much could get her killed, but she can’t resist, only digging deeper.

The Pairings

Humans would have been wiped out generations ago when a virus took billions from the planet, but thanks to AmeriGlobe’s Pairing program and VaxWell’s immunity-boosting biomeds, humans are still surviving.

Lora has conformed to the strict laws and after the Testing, she’s close to a prestigious pairing with high-caste Jarid which will pull her family up from their low-caste existence.

What she didn’t count on were the sparks with her Pair’s brother Syeth.

This Mortal Coil

All hope seems lost for Catarina when a lone soldier, Cole, shows up with news of Lachlan Agata’s death. Her father was the world’s leading geneticist and the best shot at defeating the deadly Hydra virus. Deep in Cole’s genehacked enhancements she finds out Lachlan made a vaccine and it’s Cats job to decrypt and unravel it, but the closer she gets, the more at risk she is from Cartaxus.

This was my very first book club book! I really liked it and read the second one, too. I still have to get the last one though.

Imitation

Ven is the clone of Raven Rogen, a wealthy 18-year-old, and knows everything about her Authentic so she is ready if, when, she’s called to serve. Imitations like her only get to leave the lab when they’re needed: to replace a dead authentic, donate an organ, or complete a specific mission. Raven has never needed her. Until now.

I read this one last year, too. It wasn’t like, top notch dystopian book but I read all three fast and they were entertaining.

Imaginations

The Last City of Men is peaceful. There is no bitterness, hatred, or bias because no one can remember the day before. Memories are made over time, through repetition, unless you’re a planner. Then you’re given all of your memories. When this happens, one girl discovers things aren’t quite what they seem and now it’s up, not so willingly, to her to change that.

I also read the first two books of this series last year. As much as it looks like the one above, they’re different. I liked it about the same as the above but I haven’t read the third one yet and am not in a huge rush to.

The Program

TW: suicide, self harm, and depression

Now that suicide is an international epidemic, Sloane knows not to cry in front of anyone, that one outburst could get her sent to The Program. She knows her parents would send her there since they already lost one child. She also knows everyone who leaves the program comes home a blank slate.

The only person she can be herself with is James, who promised to keep them both safe and out of The Program but it’s hard to hide the truth: they’re both getting weaker and depression is setting in.

Aaaaaand I read this one recently, too. It wasn’t my favorite but at the same time I’m curious about where the series goes. I’m not sure if I’ll keep reading it.

Wilder Girls

Eighteen months ago the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine when the Tox hit and pulled Hetty’s life out from under her.

It started slow, teachers dying one by one, but then the students started getting infected and were left to fend for themselves on their island home.

They don’t dare wander from the school’s fence where the woods have become wild and dangerous from the Tox. They wait for the cure as the Tox seeps into everything.

But Hetty will break quarantine and brave the horrors beyond the fence to find Byatt. And when she does, she learns there is more to their life at Raxter than she ever imagined.

This is yet another one on my TBR. I’ve actually almost read this one a couple times this year, but I might go for it next!

Red Rising

Oh what is that? ANOTHER one I want to read? Yes. Yes it is.

Darrow is a member of the lowest caste in society, the Reds. Like the other Reds, he works all day and believes they’re making the surface of Mars livable for future generations.

He soon discovers they’ve been betrayed and humanity reached the surface of Mars generations ago, that vast cities and lush wilds are spread across the planet.

Slated

Kyla has no memories and no personality. She’s been slated. The government claims she was a terrorist, but if she plays by their rules, they’ll give her another shot.

She is haunted by scenes from her past as she tries to adjust to a new life. As she seeks answers, she’s conflicted with knowing more and her instinct for self-preservation.

The Adoration of Jenna Fox

Jenna Fox is seventeen. At least they tell her that’s her name. She just woke from a coma from an accident a year ago.

But what happened before the accident? What memories are actually hers?

The Barcode Tattoo

Everybody’s getting the barcode tattoo. it will become your identity and make your life easier. So they say.

One choice changes everything for Kayla and she becomes and outcast in her school while bad things start happening to her family. Her only option now is to run.

Birthmarked

Gaia and her mother faithfully deliver the quota of three infants per month but when her mother is taken by the people she loyally serves, she is forced to question why the Enclave deserves so much loyalty.

Bumped

Everyone over 18 is infertile after the virus happens. Wannabe parents pay teens to pregg (have babies) making teens the most prized members of society.

Melody and Harmony were separated at birth and followed totally different life paths before finding each other. Melody scored an amazing contract with the Jaydens but are searching for the perfect pregging partner while Harmony thinks pregging for profit is a total sin.

Finally, Melody is matched with the flawless Jondoe (a professional pregger celebrity) and both of their lives are turned upside down.

I read this in January and. Well. It’s weird. Both books are on Scribd so I might read the second out of pure curiosity.

The Gender Game

Violet Bates’s world is divided by a toxic world. And gender. Women rule Matrus in the East and men rule Patrus in the West.

Her life has been consumed by anger since her younger brother disappeared. Already a prisoner to her nation, she is now sentenced to death for her crimes, but one thing could save her life: moving to Patrus, where men rule women.

Everything in Patrus is dangerous for a rebellious girl like her and she can’t break the rules if she wants to keep her life, but following rules has never been her strong suit and she’s thrust into more danger than she could have anticipated.

Hush

I actually won this on Good Reads last year and have been saving it all year for this month!

Shae has led a seemingly quiet life but has been secretly keeping her fears at bay, of the disease that took her brothers life, of her dreams bleeding into reality, of the Bards, a group of justice seekers claiming to use the magic of Telling to keep the community safe.

But when her mother is murdered, she can’t pretend anymore.

Sanctuary

It’s 2032 and all citizens are chipped and tracked. It’s almost impossible to survive as an undocumented immigrant, but Vali and her family are doing it.

It’s all going well until her mother’s counterfeit chip malfunctions and they’re forced to flee to California, a sanctuary state walled off from the rest of the country, when Deportation Forces raid their town.

Cleo Porter and the Body Electric

I think this is more of a juvenile dystopian book but it still sounds interesting!

Cleo Porter has the medicine a dying woman needs but no way to deliver it.

Like everyone else, Cleo and her family are sealed in their apartment with no doors or windows or visitors. Food is delivered by drone and they’re safe. Safe from the disease that nearly wiped humans from the face of the Earth.

They’re alone. But when they receive a package meant for someone else, a life saving package, Cleo knows what she needs to do. But no one leaves their unit. Until now.

#Murdertrending

Good and honest people can now enjoy watching the executions live of society’s most infamous convicted felons on The Postman app from the suburbanized prison island Alcatraz 2.0.

Dee wakes up in a haze on the floor of a dimly lit warehouse when she realizes she’s the next victim of the app. It’s one thing to know heinous criminals get a taste of their own medicine here, but she’s not about to go down for a crime she didn’t commit.

The One

All it takes to find your perfect parter, that you’re genetically made for, is a simple DNA test. This is the promise made by Match Your DNA. Since they made the announcement ten years ago, millions of people around the world have been matched but it’s not always positive and leads to countless breakups of relationships, upending the traditional ideas of love and dating.

Now five very different people received their Matched notifications but Happily Ever After isn’t guaranteed. Soul mates have secrets, some worse than others.

Tender is the Flesh

This is another one I would really like to read! It’s different than anything I’ve seen.

Marcos’s wife left him. His father’s dementia is getting worse. And he just tries not to think too much about how he makes a living. It just happened so quickly.

One day it was reported that animal meat was poisonous to humans thanks to an infectious virus. Then the government started the Transition making it legal to eat human meat, Special Meat.

One day he is given a special treat: a live specimen of the finest quality. He knows personal contact is forbidden but he starts to treat her like a human being and becomes tortured by what has been lost and may be saved.

Blue Ticket

Calla knows how the lottery works. Everyone does. On the day you first bleed, you report to the station and find out what kind of woman you will be. White gets you marriage and children. Blue gets you a career and freedom. You’re relieved of the burden of choice but once you take your ticket, there’s no going back.

Calla receives her blue ticket but begins questioning her fate and is forced to go on the run, pregnant and desperate.

Aberrant

In Cabal, the government instills equality for all and offers the perfect system for it’s citizens. Everyone has food, shelter, and a job. The only rule is that they follow the rules without question, including the government’s match in marriage. The Day of the Chosen is a lottery that randomly selects families to conceive children, which hasn’t been done naturally in generations.

Olivia accepts her requirement to marry her childhood best friend but this comes to an abrupt end when she’s thrown in jail for her simple existence. She isn’t the result of The Day of the Chosen, which haunts the government and could destroy their perfect system.

Possession

Vi knows girls don’t walk with boys, much less think about kissing them. But Zenn makes her want to break the rules and since the Thinkers chose him as her future match, what could one kiss do?

Everyone else may have been brainwashed by the Thinkers, but Vi is determined to think for herself. The Thinkers are very persuasive though and are trying to convince Vi to become one of them. They started by brainwashing Zenn. She can’t leave him in the Thinkers hands but she’s wary of joining the rebellion, too, since that means teaming up with Jag who is everything Zenn isn’t. Vi has no choice but to play the game of control or be controlled now.

Genesis

Anax has studied the stories of the distant twenty-first century and thinks she knows history. Her full-day exam has just begun and if she passes, she’ll be admitted into the Academy.

Despite all her knowledge, she’s about to learn the history she’s been taught isn’t the whole story and the Academy isn’t what she believes it is.

Wither

At just sixteen, Rhine Ellery has only four years left to live. In an effort to create the perfect race, males are born with a 25 year lifespan and females with 20.

Geneticists are looking for a miracle antidote while desperate orphans crowd the population, crime and poverty have skyrocketed, and young girls are being kidnapped and sold as polygamous brides to bear more children.

Rhine vows to do everything she can to escape when she is sold as a bride but her husband is hopelessly in love with her and she can’t bring herself to hate him as much as she wants. Soon, though, she learns not everything in his life is as it seems.

Flawed

Celestine has the perfect life as a model daughter and sister. She’s well-liked by classmates and teachers and is dating Art Crevan who is impossibly charming.

But then she has an experience where she has to make an instinct decision, breaking a rule, facing repercussions and imprisonment. She could be Flawed.

The Mother Fault

Mim’s husband Ben is missing. No one knows where he is, but everyone, especially The Department, wants to find him. They’ve fitted the entire population with trackers to keep them safe, but suddenly Ben can’t be tracked. With the threat of her children being sent to BestLife, she risks everything to go on the run and find her husband.

The Giver

This is a classic dystopian book and one you probably had to read for school. I know I did (but I didn’t actually read it) but I didn’t know it was part of a series! There are actually four books and I read all of them a couple of years ago on Scribd.

This is the story of Jonas who lives in an ideal, colorless world or conformity. But when he is assigned the job of the Receiver of Memory, he begins to understand the complex and dark secrets behind his fragile community.

Surviving Antarctica: Reality TV 2083

Five fourteen-year-olds are in a desperate situation and chose to participate in Antarctic Survivor, a show to recreate the doomed first attempt to reach the South Pole by Robert F. Scott with the potential to change their lives, for better or worse.

Delirium

Love has been declared a dangerous disease in an alternate United States. At eighteen, everyone is forced by the government to have a procedure done called the Cure.

Lena is looking forward to being cured and living a safe and predictable life. She isn’t about to be destroyed by love like her mother. But with just ninety-five days left until her procedure, she meets Alex, a boy from the Wilds who lives under the government’s radar and everything is about to change.

This is also on my TBR but I left it at home, so I’ll get to it eventually!

Legend

This is one of my favorite series, I absolutely love it. I read almost all of Legend in one day and immediately bought the next two.

The former United States is now the Republic, a nation always at war with it’s neighbors. June is a prodigy born into an elite family in one of the wealthiest districts. Day was born into the slums and is the country’s most wanted criminal. But his motivations aren’t what they seem.

They have no reason to cross paths, at least until the day June’s brother Metias is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect.

Unwind

The pro-choice and pro-life armies came to an agreement after America’s second Civil War. The Bill of Life says human life may not be terminated from conception to age thirteen but from thirteen to eighteen, they may be gotten rid of by their parent through the process of Unwinding.

When a teens organs and other body parts are used in another living person, their life doesn’t technically end. Society’s leaders say unwinding leads to a safer community as troublesome and unwanted teens are used for the greater good.

Three kids are slated for unwinding but their paths intersect and they begin to fight for their own destinies.

I got this in the mystery book box I always talk about and I’m finally going to read it!

The Darkest Minds

Something about Ruby changed when she woke up on her tenth birthday. Something strange enough for her parents to lock her in the garage and call the police, getting her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government “rehabilitation camp.”

She may have survived the disease that killed most of America’s kids, but those that make it through are left with frightening abilities they can’t control. Now, at sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones and is on the run.

I also got this in that box but it’s at home so it’ll have to wait.

The 5th Wave

On the dawn of the 5th wave, on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie is running from Them, the beings who look human but roam the countryside killing anyone they see.

Cassie believes staying alone means staying alive, until she meets Evan Walker, her only hope for saving her brother. And herself.

I got this at BAM in the bargain section and it seems a little more post-apocalyptic than dystopian but I’m still interested in it!

Have you read any of these dystopian books? Which ones? What is your favorite dystopian book?

Author: Megan Johnson

I'm Megan, a Wisconsin native currently working my way around the US. You can probably find me reading on the beach, wandering through the desert, or hanging out in a cute little coffee shop.

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