The best YA books about experiments gone wrong

Who am I?

I am a former book editor turned writer and a lover of literature in all forms. Young adult literature will forever be my favorite. Though I’m no longer “young,” I have two teenagers who love YA as much as I do and we bond over these stories. Since one prefers contemporary & urban fantasy, and the other likes dystopian & epic fantasy, I read a lot of everything! I particularly enjoy books with characters who triumph over extreme adversity, and if you do too, then you'll like the books on this list.

I wrote...

Lock Down

By Aella Black,

Book cover of Lock Down

What is my book about?

Phoebe Atkinson has always felt different, but in the typical angsty way most teenagers do. She had no idea just how different until that fateful day she died—and then came back to life. It appears that sort of thing is frowned upon because Phoebe awakens to find herself locked up in Leavenworth, a notorious prison that now holds teens with supernatural abilities.

Behind bars, some are welcoming and others are… not. Although Phoebe’s life before being imprisoned was far from perfect, she wants it back. And she will… if they don’t find a way to kill her first. Regardless, she’s no longer going to stand by and be the rule-follower she’s always been. Look where that got her.

The books I picked & why

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The Maze Runner

By James Dashner,

Book cover of The Maze Runner

Why this book?

If you ain’t scared… you ain’t human.” This is a perfect example of the relatability of the characters in The Maze Runner, even in an unrelatable situation: teenagers trapped inside a limitless, ever-changing maze—without their memories! As they struggle to survive, they uncover the secrets of both the shadowy organization that put them there and the maze itself. It features a male protagonist, and the intriguing plot will keep you coming back for more. I highly recommend this series… and the prequel is worth a read too!

House of Stairs

By William Sleator,

Book cover of House of Stairs

Why this book?

This book was written in the mid-70s and “set in a dystopian America in the near future.” Fortunately, our present isn’t quite like this. Five 16-year-old orphans awaken to find themselves in a building with no ceiling, walls, or floor—only endless flights of stairs in every direction. It’s a story about human nature and the human condition, as well as a cautionary tale about government control. Supposedly written for young readers (what we’d consider “middle grade” today), I believe it’s better suited for teens and adults.


By Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley,

Book cover of Frankenstein

Why this book?

Life, although it may only be an accumulation of anguish, is dear to me, and I will defend it.” I love this quote, among many others, in a book that’s generally categorized as horror—and, to be honest, I’m not a huge fan of that genre. But I guess it’s also considered Sci-Fi, which I do love. Though not a YA novel, per se, did you know that the author began writing this classic tale of an “experiment gone wrong” at the tender age of eighteen? And published it at twenty! Oh, to be so accomplished so young. I particularly loved the author’s ability to provoke so many different feelings for the monster. Written in the early 1800s, it truly is a timeless work of art.

The Sound of Stars

By Alechia Dow,

Book cover of The Sound of Stars

Why this book?

This review perfectly summed up this book but neglected to mention it has a spectacular cover, which I’ll admit was the first thing that drew my eye. The story also features a bi-racial main character, and since my children are multi-racial, I love seeing this representation. Because I’m an unapologetic book nerd, I adored the many literary references. And I always love a good road trip! All in all, this is one character-driven YA novel you won’t want to miss.

The Amnesia Experiment: A Young Adult Dystopian Novel

By Caroline Wei,

Book cover of The Amnesia Experiment: A Young Adult Dystopian Novel

Why this book?

This YA dystopian novel is not only written by an indie author…but a high school student! For that reason alone, I think it’s worth giving the book a try. I love a good fairytale retelling, and this one is a sci-fi version of Cinderella. Also, I’ve always been fascinated by memory loss and its profound effects on someone’s life—this story explores that in spades. It’s obvious this young author has a bright future, and I’m excited to watch her writing evolve as she grows older.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in dystopia, amnesia, and monsters?

5,309 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about dystopia, amnesia, and monsters.

Dystopia Explore 221 books about dystopia
Amnesia Explore 20 books about amnesia
Monsters Explore 70 books about monsters

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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