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.

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The books I picked & why

The Maze Runner

By James Dashner,

Book cover of The Maze Runner

Why did I love 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!

By James Dashner,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked The Maze Runner as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The first book in the New York Times bestselling Maze
Runner series - now a series of major movies starring Dylan O'Brien!


When the doors of the lift crank open, the only thing Thomas remembers
is his first name. But he's not alone.

He's surrounded by boys who welcome him to the Glade - a
walled encampment at the centre of a bizarre and terrible stone
maze. Like Thomas, the Gladers don't know why or how they came to
be there - or what's happened to the world outside.


House of Stairs

By William Sleator,

Book cover of House of Stairs

Why did I love 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 William Sleator,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked House of Stairs as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This chilling, suspenseful indictment of mind control is a classic of science fiction and will haunt readers long after the last page is turned.

One by one, five sixteen-year-old orphans are brought to a strange building. It is not a prison, not a hospital; it has no walls, no ceiling, no floor. Nothing but endless flights of stairs leading nowhere--except back to a strange red machine. The five must learn to love the machine and let it rule their lives. But will they let it kill their souls?  

"An intensely suspenseful page-turner." --School Library Journal

"A riveting suspense novel with…


By Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley,

Book cover of Frankenstein

Why did I love 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.

By Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley,

Why should I read it?

38 authors picked Frankenstein as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the BBC's '100 Novels That Shaped Our World'

'That rare story to pass from literature into myth' The New York Times

Mary Shelley's chilling Gothic tale was conceived when she was only eighteen, living with her lover Percy Shelley on Lake Geneva. The story of Victor Frankenstein who, obsessed with creating life itself, plunders graveyards for the material to fashion a new being, but whose botched creature sets out to destroy his maker, would become the world's most famous work of horror fiction, and remains a devastating exploration of the limits of human creativity. Based on the third…

The Sound of Stars

By Alechia Dow,

Book cover of The Sound of Stars

Why did I love 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.

By Alechia Dow,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Sound of Stars as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“This debut has it all: music, books, aliens, adventure, resistance, queerness, and a bold heroine tying it all together. ”—Ms. Magazine

Can a girl who risks her life for books and an Ilori who loves pop music work together to save humanity?

When a rebel librarian meets an Ilori commander…

Two years ago, a misunderstanding between the leaders of Earth and the invading Ilori resulted in the death of one-third of the world’s population. Today, seventeen-year-old Ellie Baker survives in an Ilori-controlled center in New York City. All art, books and creative expression are illegal, but Ellie breaks the rules…

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

Why did I love 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.

By Caroline Wei,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Amnesia Experiment as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The world has been fractured by World War III, leaving the major continents uninhabitable. In Niveus, the only country with real land, a morbid experiment is being executed. Inside the Cube are two hundred men, women, and children with total memory loss who must undergo five mysterious and critically dangerous Trials. One of these is Alle, who must fight to survive while trying to escape an enemy she doesn't remember. Meanwhile, everyone she is trying to protect—including a handsome teammate—is at risk. The cards on the table include murder, palace intrigue, a pair of glass slippers, and power matches between…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in dystopian, amnesia, and monsters?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about dystopian, amnesia, and monsters.

Dystopian Explore 483 books about dystopian
Amnesia Explore 41 books about amnesia
Monsters Explore 127 books about monsters

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