The best books that depict young people oppressed by dystopian societies

Who am I?

In dystopian societies, which are nothing more than twisted versions of perfection, people are often treated as slaves or children. They are kept from reaching their full potential by the rules and regulations designed to curtail their freedoms in the name of safety. It’s not just fiction anymore. We saw dystopia unfold in 2020. People beat each other up over packages of toilet paper. College kids staged rebellions…I mean spring break…on the beaches. That got me thinking—what does it really mean to grow up? How do young people determine what is responsible behavior and what is selfish? How do they know when to protect themselves, and when to stand up and reclaim their inalienable rights?

I wrote...


By Tracy Lawson,

Book cover of Counteract

What is my book about?

Still raw from the death of his parents, 18-year-old Tommy Bailey isn't sure if he wants to live - until he meets complex and intriguing Careen. He comes to her aid during a terrorist gas strike, sharing his last dose of an antidote that, they've been told, is key to their survival. Without enough antidote, the teens expect to die. Instead, they discover the terrorist attack wasn't real, and the antidote was never meant to protect them - it was meant to dull their thoughts and make them easy to control. As he and Careen search for the truth, Tommy learns that his parents were operatives in an underground resistance group fighting to overthrow the government. The Resistance expects him to continue his parents' crusade. The government's hunting him down. Which will get to him first?

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Little Brother

Tracy Lawson Why did I love this book?

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow relays this message: freedom cannot exist in a world that has given in to the fear of terrorism. Main character Marcus is a teen hacker and a gamer who loves to outsmart surveillance technology. While skipping school one afternoon, he finds himself near the epicenter of a terrorist attack. Within minutes of the attack, Marcus and his friends are taken prisoner by “military looking guys.” He later learns they are from the Department of Homeland Security.

Marcus is separated from his friends. During questioning, it becomes clear he is considered a person of interest in the terrorist attack. Completely innocent, Marcus nevertheless refuses to cooperate. He is not allowed to call his parents, who assume he died in the bombing. He is only released after he agrees to sign a form saying he was questioned voluntarily. He is warned to say nothing of what really happened. Upon his return to school, it’s evident the terrorist attack has brought on tyrannical changes that all must now abide by. I loved this book because it frightened me so much. It was believable. I’ve seen firsthand how people respond to “security theater,” and think they are safer when there are security cameras or restrictions. When the true dystopia arrives, the people will embrace it—out of fear of something even worse.

By Cory Doctorow,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Little Brother as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 13, 14, 15, and 16.

What is this book about?

Marcus, a.k.a "w1n5t0n," is only seventeen years old, but he figures he already knows how the system works–and how to work the system. Smart, fast, and wise to the ways of the networked world, he has no trouble outwitting his high school's intrusive but clumsy surveillance systems.

But his whole world changes when he and his friends find themselves caught in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack on San Francisco. In the wrong place at the wrong time, Marcus and his crew are apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security and whisked away to a secret prison where they're…

Book cover of Bumped

Tracy Lawson Why did I love this book?

In Bumped, a worldwide pandemic of the Human Progressive Sterility Virus renders the adult population sterile. About three-quarters of teenagers are infected and will go irreversibly sterile sometime between their eighteenth and twentieth birthdays. This changes attitudes about teen pregnancy. The survival of humanity depends on it.

The situation spurs a variety of responses. Trendy stores at the mall sell provocative clothing and “fun bumps,” strap-on bellies that show the girls how sexy they’ll look when pregnant. School clubs put the focus on procreation. The main character’s parents are determined to cash in on their daughter’s great genes and virginity and broker her first child to the highest bidder.

I read this book when my daughter was a teenager. Yikes! I know how much teenagers are influenced by social media, advertising, and their peers. It was horrifying how the government tried to manipulate the teens into having as much sex as they could and to get pregnant as often as they could, while downplaying the teen parents’ natural attachment to their children.  

By Megan McCafferty,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Bumped as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

A virus has swept the world, making everyone over the age of eighteen infertile. Teenagers are now the most prized members of society, and would-be parents desperately bid for 'conception contracts' with the prettiest, healthiest and cleverest girls - cash, college tuition and liposuction in exchange for a baby.

Sixteen-year-old Melody is gorgeous, athletic and has perfect grades, and has scored an amazing contract with a rich couple. And she's been matched with one of the most desirable 'bumping' partners in the world - the incredibly hot, genetically flawless Jondoe.

But Melody's luck is about to run out. She discovers…

Book cover of Missing Pieces

Tracy Lawson Why did I love this book?

In Missing Pieces, marriage partners are matched by science to produce healthy children. There's no room for personal choice or alternative lifestyles. Best friends Piran and Tracy are matched to other people, yet they know in their hearts they’re meant to be together. Are they brave enough to leave everything behind to live the life they want? Missing Pieces depicts a clinical approach to marriage and family and uncompromising attitudes about love and sex. 

I was so engrossed in this book I stayed up all night to finish it! I was completely swept up in the story of Tracy and Piran’s forbidden friendship that ripened into forbidden love. Their whole society was constructed to keep them apart. Matched partners were desperately unhappy, but no one dared speak up for fear of ostracism, disfigurement, and banishment from the community. It seemed like it could never happen—and yet repression and coersion happen in societies all over the world.

By Meredith Tate,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Missing Pieces as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Your family is the most important part of your life. Your families are the people you love, and love is what separates us from scoundrels and criminals. It maintains order. Your parents, your sibling, and your Partner are the ones you love. There should never, ever, be anyone else who comes close to that bond. You have only one best friend, and that is the person you'll be marrying some day. We must learn to differentiate the relationships in our lives: the people we love, and the ones we don't. It's inappropriate, it's foolish, and it's forbidden to think otherwise."…

Book cover of Anthem

Tracy Lawson Why did I love this book?

When you read the opening pages of Anthem, you don’t realize what’s missing from the narration. Neither does the main character, Equality 7-2521. More than anything, he wants to be assigned to the Home of the Scholars and study science. When he is assigned to be a Street Sweeper, he is crushingly disappointed. But he is unable to keep his thoughts strictly collective. When he meets Liberty 5-3000, his desire for her equals his yearning to learn and achieve as an individual.

Anthem is the only book my brother ever read cover to cover in one sitting. Dystopian stories push boundaries to see just how much the characters will endure. This collective society downgrades the worth and the desires of the individual, and as an individual, I find that extraordinarily distressing. 

By Ayn Rand,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Anthem is Ayn Rand’s classic tale of a dystopian future of the great “We”—a world that deprives individuals of a name or independence—that anticipates her later masterpieces, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.

They existed only to serve the state. They were conceived in controlled Palaces of Mating. They died in the Home of the Useless. From cradle to grave, the crowd was one—the great WE.

In all that was left of humanity there was only one man who dared to think, seek, and love. He lived in the dark ages of the future. In a loveless world, he dared to…

Book cover of The Girl Who Owned a City

Tracy Lawson Why did I love this book?

Lisa, aged ten, is one of the oldest people she knows. A plague killed everyone over the age of twelve. Without public utilities, services, or adult supervision, the surviving children band together in family groups for protection and must forage and steal to get food and supplies. Lisa makes some unpopular decisions as she struggles to defend her home and the other children in her suburban Chicago neighborhood against marauding prepubescent gangs.

Even though I read this book as an adult, I sympathized with Lisa, who was left orphaned when her parents died in the plague. We all feel overwhelmed and inadequate at times, but I couldn’t imagine shouldering the burdens she carried at such a young age. I couldn’t imagine approaching the age of twelve and wondering if the plague would claim me too. 

By O. T. Nelson,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Girl Who Owned a City as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

A deadly plague has devastated Earth, killing all the adults.

Lisa and her younger brother Todd are struggling to stay alive in a world where no one is safe. Other children along Grand Avenue need help as well. They band together to find food, shelter, and protection from dangerous gangs invading their neighborhood.

When Tom Logan and his army start making threats, Lisa comes up with a plan and leads her group to a safer place. But how far is she willing to go to protect what's hers?

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The Romantics

By Isabel Jolie,

Book cover of The Romantics

Isabel Jolie Author Of Cloak of Red

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Nature lover Rower Reader Ad guru Dreamer

Isabel's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Some endings deserve a second chance.

In The Romantics, Dr. Harrison Ramsey's meticulously planned life collides with the ex he swore to forget. A prosperous plastic surgeon, Harrison is a member of an elite, exclusive Houston club, while Zuri faces professional ruin after a messy breakup. When circumstances force them back into each other's lives, old emotions resurface, and they find themselves retracing past steps in the plastic surgery practice where they both work. The two explore the complexities of letting go and evaluating life’s choices and expectations.

The Romantics is a grumpy billionaire, sizzling second chance romance between two doctors who once upon a time loved each other. Some things belong in the past, but maybe not everything.

The Romantics

By Isabel Jolie,

What is this book about?

Some endings deserve a second chance.

Dr. Harrison Ramsey has it all.

A flourishing plastic surgery practice, close friends, and a coveted membership to one of Houston's most elite and secretive clubs.

His life has followed the plan.

Dr. Zuri Lennox's life is a literal dumpster fire.

Thanks to a cheating ex whose Ferrari ran into her baseball bat, she's unemployed, at risk of losing her medical license, and maxed out on medical school loans and legal fees.

Nothing in her life has gone as planned.

When she left a decade ago, he had one request. A simple thing. For…

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