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#SJYALit: Government Dystopia Booklist


The day after Independence Day seems like a good day to share a list of titles that focuses on government dystopias. Democracy is an active process that all must participate in and work to preserve. Here are some books that look at what happens when governments go bad and we fail to hold our elected representatives to the highest standards.

Agell, Charlotte. Shift. Henry Holt and Co., 2008.

In fifteen-year-old Adrian Havoc’s world, HomeState rules every aspect of society and religious education is enforced but Adrian, refusing to believe that the Apocalypse is at hand, goes north through the Deadlands and joins a group of insurgents.

Anastasiu, Heather. Glitch. St. Martin’s Press Griffin, 2012.

In the Community, where implanted computer chips have erased human emotions and thoughts are replaced by a feed from the Link network, Zoe starts to malfunction, or glitch, and begins having her own thoughts, feelings, identity–and telekinetic powers.

Angler, Evan. Swipe. Tommy Nelson, 2011.

In a world where everyone must be Marked in order to gain citizenship and participate in society, a group of youngsters who questions the system struggles to identify the true enemy–while pursuing a group of Markless teenagers.

Aveyard, Victoria. Red Queen. HarperTeen, 2015.

In a world divided by blood–those with common, Red blood serve the Silver-blooded elite, who are gifted with superhuman abilities. Seventeen-year-old Mare, a Red, discovers she has an ability of her own. To cover up this impossibility, the king forces her to play the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. But Mare risks everything and uses her new position to help the Scarlet Guard, a growing Red rebellion.

Bao, Karen. Dove Arising. Viking, 2015.

On a lunar colony, fifteen-year-old Phaet Theta does the unthinkable and joins the Militia when her mother is imprisoned by the Moon’s oppressive government.

Dos Santos, Steven. The Culling. Flux, 2013.

In a futuristic world ruled by a totalitarian government called the Establishment, Lucian “Lucky” Spark and four other teenagers are recruited for the Trials. They must compete not only for survival but to save the lives of their Incentives, family members whose lives depend on how well they play the game.


Fama, Elizabeth. Plus One. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2014.

In an alternate United States where Day and Night populations are forced to lead separate–but not equal–lives, a desperate Night girl falls for a seemingly privileged Day boy and places them both in danger as she gets caught up in the beginnings of a resistance movement.

Freitas, Donna. Unplugged. HarperTeen, 2016.

Skye joined the App World for the promise of a better, virtual life. She’s looking forward to her seventeenth birthday, when she gets to unplug, see her family, and decide which world she belongs in. Without warning, the border between worlds suddenly closes. When Skye unplugs, she discovers that the reasons for the border closing are much bigger than anyone in the App World knows, and that she somehow has a part to play, a part that will turn friends into traitors and strangers into followers. And the only person she can trust, in either world, is herself.

Graceffa, Joey. Children of Eden. Keyword Press, 2016.

Rowan is a second child in a world where population control measures make her an outlaw, marked for death. She can never go to school, make friends, or get the eye implants that will mark her as a true member of Eden. Outside of Eden, Earth is poisoned and dead. Long ago, the brilliant scientist Aaron Al-Baz saved a pocket of civilization by designing the EcoPanopticon. Humans will wait for thousands of years in Eden until the EcoPan heals the world.

Johnson, Alaya Dawn. The Summer Prince. Arthur A. Levine Books, 2013.

In a Brazil of the distant future, June Costa falls in love with Enki, a fellow artist and rebel against the strict limits of the legendary pyramid city of Palmares Três’ matriarchal government, knowing that, like all Summer Kings before him, Enki is destined to die.

Kacvinsky, Katie. Awaken. Graphia, 2011.

In the year 2060, when people hardly ever leave the security of their houses and instead do everything online, Madeline Freeman, the seventeen-year-old daughter of the man who created the national digital school attended by all citizens, is wooed by a group of radicals who are trying to get people to “unplug.”

Lu, Marie. Legend*. Speak, 2011.

In a dark future, when North America has split into two warring nations, fifteen-year-olds Day, a famous criminal, and prodigy June, the brilliant soldier hired to capture him, discover that they have a common enemy.

Mafi, Tahereh. Shatter Me*. HarperTeen, 2011.

Ostracized or incarcerated her whole life, seventeen-year-old Juliette is freed on the condition that she use her horrific abilities in support of The Reestablishment, a post-apocalyptic dictatorship, but Adam, the only person ever to show her affection, offers hope of a better future.

Oliver, Lauren. Delirium*. HarperCollins, 2011

Lena looks forward to receiving the government-mandated cure that prevents the delirium of love and leads to a safe, predictable, and happy life, until ninety-five days before her eighteenth birthday and her treatment, when she falls in love.

Pass, Emma. ACID. Delacorte Press, 2014.

In the year 2113, seventeen-year-old Jenna Strong is helped to escape from Mileway Maximum Security Prison outside London in order to help destroy ACID, the most brutal and controlling police force in history.

Simmons, Kristen. Article 5. Tor, 2012.

Seventeen-year-old Ember Miller has perfected the art of keeping a low profile in a future society in which Moral Statutes have replaced the Bill of Rights and offenses carry stiff penalties, but when Chase, the only boy she has ever loved, arrests her rebellious mother, Ember must take action.

Stasse, Lisa M. The Forsaken. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2012.

As an obedient orphan of the U.N.A. (the super-country that was once Mexico, the U.S., and Canada), Alenna learned at an early age to blend in and be quiet—having your parents taken by the police will do that to a girl. But Alenna can’t help but stand out when she fails a test that all sixteen-year-olds have to take: The test says she has a high capacity for brutal violence, and so she is sent to The Wheel, an island where all would-be criminals end up.

Swain, H.A. Hungry. Feiwel and Friends, 2014.

In Thalia’s world there is no more food and no need for food, as everyone takes medication to ward off hunger. But when she meets a boy who is part of an underground movement to bring food back, she realizes that the meds are not working.

Trevayne, Emma. Coda. RP/Teens, 2013.

Anthem, playing with an illegal underground rock band, is sought after by the Corporation, who plan to turn his songs into addictive, mind-altering music tracks, and soon Anthem learns defying them comes at a deadly price.

Wendig, Chuck. Under the Empyrean Sky. Skyscape, 2013.

Cael McAvoy, living in the corn-overrun Heartland below extravagant sky flotillas, grows tired of scavenging and living in the Empyrean Empire’s shadow and vows to do something to change his lot in life.


This list is compiled by guest contributor Natalie Korsavidis

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