The most recommended dystopian books for teens

Who picked these books? Meet our 199 experts.

199 authors created a book list with a dystopian book for teens, and here are their favorites.

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Book cover of Gifts

Fiona J. R. Titchenell Author Of Pinnacle City: A Superhero Noir

From my list on superhero comic book fans.

Why am I passionate about this?

Novels are my medium and my first love, but I’m a huge fan of comic books too. Even though visual arts have never been my strength, I adore how many different things are possible in superhero stories. Sci-fi and epic fantasy and all different kinds of horror coexist in these enormous fictional universes. You’ve got comedic, child-friendly mysteries and pitch-black serial killer thrillers and deep meditations on love and family all going on at once. Comic book tropes and general disregard for genre boundaries definitely inform my writing style, and I love when I discover other novelists who incorporate comic book inspiration in various ways.

Fiona's book list on superhero comic book fans

Fiona J. R. Titchenell Why did Fiona love this book?

Superpowers are a classic allegory for coming of age, and Gifts uses them as such in an especially timeless and effective way. When the children of the Uplands reach adolescence, they develop powerful gifts that can be equal parts useful and dangerous. Most of them start off applying these gifts exactly according to their parents’ instructions. But ultimately, their gifts are their own, and part of accepting them is accepting the responsibility of choosing how to use them. It’s a wonderfully moody, atmospheric exploration of uses and abuses of power.

By Ursula K. Le Guin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Gifts 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?

'She's showing no signs of losing her brilliance. She is unparalleled in creating fantasy peopled by finely drawn and complex characters... GIFTS has the simplicity of fairy tale and the power of myth' GUARDIAN

'Le Guin is a writer of phenomenal power' OBSERVER

Orrec, the son of the Brantor of Caspromant, and Gry, daughter of the Brantors of Barre and Rodd, have grown up together, running half-wild across the Uplands. The people there are like their land: harsh and fierce and prideful; ever at war with each other.

Only the gifts keep the fragile peace. The Barre gift is calling…


Book cover of Skyward

R.J. Vickers Author Of The Natural Order

From my list on teens grappling with the line between good and evil.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a fantasy author, I have always been drawn to magic and alternative universes as a way of exploring the issues that seem unsolvable here on earth. We are so entrenched in our own ways of seeing the world that it can be hard to imagine looking at things from a different perspective, but twisting these ideas sideways and adding a dash of magic can remind us that everything exists in shades of grey. Teenagers are learning to think abstractly and explore their own relationships with ethics, and I have vivid memories of being drawn to moral ambiguity at that age. 

R.J.'s book list on teens grappling with the line between good and evil

R.J. Vickers Why did R.J. love this book?

At the beginning, readers are drawn into an exciting world where humans battle to save their desolate planet from an alien race. But in typical Brandon Sanderson fashion, good and evil are not clear-cut, and the conflict soon grows far more complex. 

As the series progresses, the main character, Spensa, discovers that the battle for her planet is not as straightforward as she had once thought, and that the aliens she had fought were neither uniform nor uniformly evil. When she infiltrates an alien homeland in Book 2, Spensa is forced to question her original assumptions about who deserves to be saved—not just humans, but maybe also some alien races and even artificially intelligent beings. 

By Brandon Sanderson,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Skyward 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?

Spensa's world has been under attack for hundreds of years. An alien race called the Krell leads onslaught after onslaught from the sky in a never-ending campaign to destroy humankind. Humanity's only defense is to take to their ships and fight the enemy in the skies. Pilots have become the heroes of what's left of the human race.

Spensa has always dreamed of being one of them; of soaring above Earth and proving her bravery. But her fate is intertwined with her father's - a pilot who was killed years ago when he abruptly deserted his team, placing Spensa's chances…


Book cover of Shatter Me

Katerina St Clair Author Of The Order: Kingdom of Fallen Ash

From my list on dystopian books that leave a mark.

Why am I passionate about this?

Ever since I could read, I have found myself finding security and escape through the words on the paper. As I grew older, I no longer wanted to just read these realities, I wanted to create them for myself. Writing is the one thing in my mundane existence that has made me feel like more than just a number in the system. I laugh with my characters and love with them. My writing is a part of me that will live long after I am gone. Whether it be a novel, or a simple letter, I want my words to linger with the reader long after the page is turned.

Katerina's book list on dystopian books that leave a mark

Katerina St Clair Why did Katerina love this book?

Shatter Me is one of the most groundbreaking dystopian novels to hit the YA section of any bookstore. She created a world that spoke to my heart, through its originality as well as its diverse character arcs.

Mafi's writing skillfully weaves a gripping tale of dystopia, blending thrilling plotlines, intense romance, and a deep exploration of societal chaos. Juliette's world, painted with Mafi's poetic prose, felt like a refuge where I could truly immerse myself within Julliette’s character.

The unexpected twists left me breathless, creating a connection with the characters that lingered long after I closed the book. The romantic elements, filled with passion and vulnerability, drew me as a reader in, leaving me feeling as if I was in the relationships myself. Mafi's portrayal of a dystopian society made me reflect on power and control in our own world.

Shatter Me isn't just a must-read; it's a personal journey,…

By Tahereh Mafi,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Shatter Me 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?

Stranger Things meets Shadow and Bone in this first instalment of an epic and romantic YA fantasy series - perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo, Sarah J. Maas and Victoria Aveyard. Now a TikTok phenomenon.

A fragile young teenage girl is held captive. Locked in a cell by The Reestablishment - a harsh dictatorship in charge of a crumbling world. This is no ordinary teenager. Juliette is a threat to The Reestablishment's power. A touch from her can kill - one touch is all it takes. But not only is she a threat, she is potentially the most powerful weapon…


Eyes of Blue

By S.M. Sykes,

Book cover of Eyes of Blue

S.M. Sykes Author Of Eyes of Blue

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always been a fan of Young Adult fiction, even into my late thirties. This is why when I decided to write my first novel, I wrote it for that genre. My biggest draw to this type of book is the emotional connection and hope you get from younger characters. Like most of us, we lose hope as we get older, so reading a book about a young character full of hope in a chaotic world gives me a little of that hope back. Young people feel things much stronger than we do when we’re older. It feels good to reconnect to that and remember what it’s like. 

S.M.'s book list on ignite hope in a dying world

What is my book about?

In a world ravaged by an inexplicable plague, society lies in ruins. Amidst the desolation, a lone survivor perseveres in a secluded state park along the Delaware Coast. Over a year has passed since she lost everything, yet as the sanctuary she’s carved for herself begins to crumble, she must summon the strength to endure once more. 

Venturing beyond her haven exposes her to the horrors spawned by the plague, creatures both cunning and primal. Their origins shrouded in mystery, they pose a formidable threat to any who cross their path. Armed with scant knowledge and a grim resolve, she…

Eyes of Blue

By S.M. Sykes,

What is this book about?

In a world ravaged by an inexplicable plague, society lies in ruins. Amidst the desolation, a lone survivor perseveres in a secluded state park along the Delaware Coast. Over a year has passed since she lost everything, yet as the sanctuary she's carved for herself begins to crumble, she must summon the strength to endure once more.

Venturing beyond her haven exposes her to the horrors spawned by the plague, creatures both cunning and primal. Their origins shrouded in mystery; they pose a formidable threat to any who cross their path. Armed with scant knowledge and a grim resolve, she…


Book cover of The Incal

Andrew MacLean Author Of ApocalyptiGirl: An Aria for the End Times

From my list on graphic novels for a big imagination.

Why am I passionate about this?

I believe comics are one of the very best storytelling mediums for stories with big imagination. Prose and film are amazing, but comics have artwork for every single moment of the story, artwork not bound by space, time, or budget. I’ve written and drawn 5 graphic novels published in 11 different languages. I’ve dedicated my entire life to the pursuit of imagination. The books I’ve recommended have given me endless enjoyment and inspiration, I hope they can do the same for you too.

Andrew's book list on graphic novels for a big imagination

Andrew MacLean Why did Andrew love this book?

The Incal follows John DiFool, an everyday goofball, as he is swept away on the most metaphysical, surrealistic, galactic adventure possible. Written and drawn by two of the wildest, most ingenious imaginations to ever grace the page, Jodorowsky and Moebius guide the reader gracefully to the edge of existence and back – without confusing or pandering to its audience. 

This book works so well because, first, Moebuis’ art is an absolute delight to look at, and second, because using the common-man-character of DiFool as the protagonist, the reader can learn alongside the story in a way that feels smooth and natural – in a world that would otherwise be beyond the understanding of mere mortals.

By Alexandro Jodorowsky,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Incal as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

Moebius' and Alejandro Jodorowsky's Sci-Fi masterpiece collected in one epic volume. Lose yourself in the in the story that inspired many legendary filmakers including George Lucas and Ridley Scott.

John Difool, a low-class detective in a degenerate dystopian world, finds his life turned upside down when he discovers an ancient, mystical artifact called "The Incal." Difool's adventures will bring him into conflict with the galaxy's greatest warrior, the Metabaron, and will pit him against the awesome powers of the Technopope. These encounters and many more make up a tale of comic and cosmic proportions that has Difool fighting for not…


Book cover of After the Snow

B J Mears Author Of Seraph of the Sallow Grove

From my list on young adult crossover mystery.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been writing fantasy/mystery for around twenty-five years and have self-published a YA series of six books titled the Tyler May series before gaining a traditional publishing deal in 2019. Since then, I’ve had four books published (the Banyard & Mingle Mysteries) which chart the investigations and adventures of a pair of roguish private detectives in a future, Dickensian Britain. I am constantly researching – and have been for many years – true crime stories, and my intake of books, TV, and film consists of archaeology, forensics, crime, murder mystery, fantasy, and thriller. I’m also partial to a good historical whodunnit.

B J's book list on young adult crossover mystery

B J Mears Why did B J love this book?

After the Snow follows the adventures of a boy who finds his family is missing when returning home in the snow-bound hills. The settings and atmosphere in the book are beautifully worked, as is the voice, which I found to be bold, fluent, and captivating. The characters are strong and the plot bumps along at a good pace. Another must-read!

By S. D. Crockett,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked After the Snow 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?

The oceans stopped working before Willo was born, so the world of ice and snow is all he's ever known. He lives with his family deep in the wilderness, far from the government's controlling grasp. Willo's survival skills are put to the test when he arrives home one day to find his family gone. It could be the government; it could be scavengers--all Willo knows is he has to find refuge and his family. It is a journey that will take him into the city he's always avoided, with a girl who needs his help more than he knows.

S.D.…


Book cover of The Evaporation of Sofi Snow

Kerry Nietz Author Of A Star Curiously Singing

From my list on modern science fiction from a Christian worldview.

Why am I passionate about this?

A computer programmer turned author; I’ve been a fan of science fiction for as long as I remember. Star Wars, Dune, Alien, you name it. I’ve also been a follower of Christ since childhood and so enjoy stories where authors have a faith component to their work. It’s hard to imagine a future where belief systems won’t be in play—for good and evil. So, why not explore that element? Even if it means taking the Amish into space to encounter vampires? (As I did in one of my stories.) Hopefully, we discover something about ourselves and the world we live in along the way.

Kerry's book list on modern science fiction from a Christian worldview

Kerry Nietz Why did Kerry love this book?

I was intrigued by this book because of its gaming angle.

Cyberpunk-ish stories are difficult to find in the Christian market, even with me doing my best to change that. There’s a whole lotta science fiction in this book: surveillance states, virtual realities, aliens, cloning...anything is fair game. The characters are fascinating and well-drawn, the plot is interesting and complex, and it isn’t preachy or labored in any way. The Evaporation of Sofi Snow simply tells a fun story.

By Mary Weber,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Evaporation of Sofi Snow 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?

The line between virtual and reality is about to EVAPORATE.

In a world where skycams follow your every move and the details of your life are uploaded each hour, Sofi knows that her eyes are the only caring ones watching her brother, Shilo.

As an online gamer, she works behind the scenes to protect Shilo as he competes in a mix of real and virtual blood sport. But when a bomb destroys the gaming arena, she is helpless to rescue him-and certain that his disappearance was no accident. Despite all the evidence of Shilo's death, Sofi's nightmares tell her he…


Book cover of Hit

Jeremy L. Jones Author Of Saturnius Mons (Ruins of Empire)

From my list on the end of civilization as we know it.

Why am I passionate about this?

Why do I have expertise in end-of-the-world scenarios? Well, I am a person living in the 2020s who reads too much. But more than that, I’ve had an interest in space exploration and history for as long as I can remember. While those two might seem like completely unrelated fields, it gives me a wider view of our world in the sense of where we are and where we are going. Civilization is not always a straight line upward. And when it dips down… well interesting things happen. Saturnius Mons specifically blends my love of Roman history with my interest in humanity’s future.

Jeremy's book list on the end of civilization as we know it

Jeremy L. Jones Why did Jeremy love this book?

Here’s the premise: One bank rules the world and has decided to get rid of some deadbeats. A young woman trying to keep her sick mother alive is given a list of debtors, a gun, and a choice. She can kill everyone on the list or she can die herself.

My favorite part of this book is the mood Dawson sets as the main character interacts with a world that is desperately pretending that everything is okay. I could actually feel the young woman’s anxiety and desperation in my stomach.

By Delilah S. Dawson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hit as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

In order to save her mother, a teen is forced to become an indentured assassin in this sizzling “movie ready” (Kirkus Reviews) dystopian thriller.

No one reads the fine print.

The good news is that the USA is finally out of debt. The bad news is that it was bought out by Valor National Bank, and debtors are the new big game, thanks to a tricky little clause hidden deep in the fine print of a credit card application. Now, after a swift and silent takeover that leaves 9-1-1 calls going through to Valor voicemail, they’re unleashing a wave of…


Book cover of The Sky So Heavy

Paula Weston Author Of The Undercurrent

From my list on YA set in Australia – but not quite as we know it.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m Australian and there’s a big place in my heart for Australian-set stories. I read mostly for escapism, but there’s a deeper connection with tales from my own backyard. I’ve also always loved speculative fiction – everything from epic and paranormal fantasy to space opera and dystopian thrillers – and I’m excited when my favourite genres and setting come together. My day job is in local government. I’ve seen how government decisions can impact the trajectory of a society, and I’m particularly drawn to stories that explore that theme. I’m the author of five speculative fiction novels with Australian settings: the four novels in The Rephaim series (supernatural fantasy) and The Undercurrent (slightly futuristic/pre-apocalyptic). 

Paula's book list on YA set in Australia – but not quite as we know it

Paula Weston Why did Paula love this book?

This book equally moved and unnerved me because its premise is all too possible. It’s a brilliantly written end-of-the-world story with an understated sense of menace and an unmistakable Australian flavour. 

The novel offers an intimate and fascinating first-person view of what happens to a ‘normal’ neighbourhood when life as we know it irrevocably changes – in this case through a nuclear winter. Often, apocalyptic/dystopian stories skim over the transition from order to chaos/social breakdown, and Claire handles it in a way that’s unsettling by its understatement.

I cared deeply about these characters. And while this novel is gritty, it’s also a story of hope and what it means to survive. 

By Claire Zorn,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Sky So Heavy 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?

This haunting dystopian novel thrillingly and realistically looks at a nuclear winter from an Australian perspective.

For Fin it’s just like any other day—racing for the school bus, bluffing his way through class, and trying to remain cool in front of the most sophisticated girl in his universe. Only it’s not like any other day because, on the other side of the world, nuclear missiles are being detonated. When Fin wakes up the next morning, it’s dark, bitterly cold, and snow is falling. There’s no internet, no phone, no TV, no power, and no parents. Nothing Fin’s learned in school…


Book cover of The List

Sue-Ellen Pashley Author Of The Rise

From my list on dystopian books with watery issues.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an author who, in my ‘other’ life, has studied psychology and social work, I love to write about the impact of change on individuals and communities – what do my characters grieve, what relationships become important to them, what are the roles or goals that motivate them now and what do they need to do to survive, both individually and in their new society. And I love to be able to write about a place – a location – that I know well, hence the Sunshine Coast Hinterland as a setting for The Rise. I hope you enjoy the books that I’ve recommended as much as I have!

Sue-Ellen's book list on dystopian books with watery issues

Sue-Ellen Pashley Why did Sue-Ellen love this book?

This is one of those books I thought about long after I’d finished reading. Through human greed and global warming, the resulting decimation of the planet means food and water are rationed for survival…but so are words. Noa, the leader of the community, believes that words and how they were used, led to the downfall of humanity so allows people to only use a list of specific words. Except for the wordsmiths, who are allowed to know them all. 

As an author whose life is all about words, this was a really interesting book to read – what does it do to a society when ideas, thoughts, creativity are stifled by lack of words? And when everything is rationed – water, food, words, enjoyment – what does that do to a community?

By Patricia Forde,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The List 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?

Fahrenheit 451 meets The Giver in an award winning dystopian story about the dangers of censorship and how far we will go in the pursuit of freedom.

What if you were only allowed to speak 500 words?

The city of Ark is the last safe place on Earth: the polar ice caps have melted and flooded everything, leaving few survivors. To make sure humans do not make the same mistakes, Ark's leader John Noa decrees everyone in Ark must speak List, a language of only 500 words. Language is to blame for mankind's destruction, John Noa says, as politicians and…


Book cover of The Extinction Trials

Lauren Stabler Author Of Trials of the Realm

From my list on dystopia set in the UK.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an English writer based in Sheffield. I started reading dystopia when I was around 19 and in a very bad place mentally, it became an escape for me and I would read everything in the genre. It got to the point where I was writing in the notes on my phone (not very well, I might add). Somehow dystopia ignited my passion for writing and so I went to university to study it. Almost everything I wrote for both my undergrad degree and my master's was set in a future dystopian UK. It is where my passion still lies and I hope to create more futuristic worlds like those I have listed.

Lauren's book list on dystopia set in the UK

Lauren Stabler Why did Lauren love this book?

Why am I recommending this book? First of all – Dinosaurs. I don’t know where they came from in the book series and frankly I don’t care. I’ll read anything with dinosaurs. I think this book series is set in a modern UK but it’s never explicitly stated. It’s set in a futuristic world where nature has failed us – because of us – and humans need to find a new way of living. They must learn to live with dinosaurs. Maybe the new Jurassic World film could learn from the characters? Who knows. 

By S.M. Wilson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Extinction Trials 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?

The first book in the heart-stopping The Extinction Trials trilogy, for fans of The Hunger Games and Jurassic Park.

Betrayal. Sacrifice. Survival. Welcome to The Extinction Trials...

In Stormchaser and Lincoln's ruined world, the only way to survive is to risk everything. To face a contest more dangerous than anyone can imagine. And they will do anything to win.

But in a land full of monsters - human and reptilian - they can't afford to trust anyone. Perhaps not even each other...

Shortlisted for the 2019 Scottish Teenage Book Prize