Oct 04

Welcome to DystopYA:  the Books on the Nightstand reading challenge for Dystopic Young Adult fiction.

If you’ve read any of my posts or listened to our podcast lately, you know that I’m going through a ‘dystopic fiction’ phase. Some of the best books have been published as young adult novels. I find that they can stand side by side with the best adult fiction, and in many cases the stripped down language and precise writing fit the landscape of the book itself.

What is dystopic fiction? Wikipedia defines it as:

The utopia and its offshoot, the dystopia, are genres of literature that explore social and political structures. Utopian fiction is the creation of an ideal world, or utopia, as the setting for a novel. Dystopian fiction is the opposite: creation of a nightmare world, or dystopia. Many novels combine both, often as a metaphor for the different directions humanity can take in its choices, ending up with one of two possible futures. Both utopias and dystopias are commonly found in science fiction and other speculative fiction genres, and arguably are by definition a type of speculative fiction.

Suggested title list:
Here are some suggested titles in the category of Dystopic YA Fiction. These are books that we have read or that have been recommended to us by trusted booksellers. We talk about several of these books in Episode 47 of the Books on the Nightstand podcast.

 Feed by M.T. Anderson
Candor by Pam Bachorz
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (the sequel to The Hunger Games)
The Maze Runner by James Dashner
Gone by Michael Grant
The Giver by Lois Lowry
The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
House of Stairs by William Sleator
Uglies by Scott Westerfield

The Rules:

There are always rules in dystopic societies. We will be benevolent despots in the running of this challenge. Your participation is voluntary and we will be deactivating the Reading Challenge Police, so you are on the honor system.

1. You must do as you are told. You are hereby commanded to read 3 works of dystopic fiction that were written or published primarily for young adults. A partial list of titles is above; you may choose other books that are not on this list. Books must be read between October 5, 2009 and December 31, 2009 in order to count for the challenge.

2. Secret activities are forbidden in dystopic societies. You must post your reading list and/or your review(s) of the books that you’ve read. Reviews can be formal or informal, as you like. You may post them one at a time or all at once, it’s up to you. If you have a blog, please post there. If you do not have a blog, there are two options:

  • A. (Preferred) – use one of the special discussion threads we’ve set up on Facebook or Goodreads. Note: Facebook membership is required to post there, but anyone can read the messages. Goodreads requires you to be a member to post or read on the discussion board. Membership to both Facebook and Goodreads is free.

  • B. Post your reading list and/or reviews in the comments on this post.
  • 3. A dystopic society controls the spread of information among its citizens. If you have teens or tweens in your life, tell them about this reading challenge, and consider doing it together.

    4. Dystopic governments control your behavior with a system of rewards. So, there will be prizes!We’ll do a random drawing from all participants at the end of the challenge.

    5. Dystopic governments can track the identities of community members. Post the URL of your list/review in the Simply Linked box below. If you posted at Goodreads or Facebook, include the URL of the discussion post.

    If you’ve chosen to post your list/review in the comments section below, you can still use the Simply Linked feature. Just type your name in the “Link Title” box followed by the word “comments” in parentheses, like this: Ann Kingman (comments) so that readers know that your reviews are at the end of this post. You can put anything in the in the URL box, it just can’t be left blank.

    This will give everyone an easy way to read your reviews, and will make the random drawing for the contest prize easier.

    Need a button for your blog? Grab this one:

    Our community begins on October 5, 2009. Will you be one of us?

    (note: I just learned of another Dystopian YA Fiction Challenge over at Bart’s Bookshelf. That meanst that you can knock off two challenges at the same time, though Bart’s starts on October 15th. Go check out his challenge and sign up over there, too!)

    • I LOVE this challenge! I can’t wait to hear what people are reading–and I’d like to recommend SKINNED and CRASHED by Robin Wasserman, THE ADORATION OF JENNA FOX by Mary Pearson, THE ROAR by Emma Clayton, and INCARCERON by Catherine Fisher. And LITTLE BROTHER by Cory Doctorow if that isn’t on your list already. 🙂

    • I LOVE this challenge! I can’t wait to hear what people are reading–and I’d like to recommend SKINNED and CRASHED by Robin Wasserman, THE ADORATION OF JENNA FOX by Mary Pearson, THE ROAR by Emma Clayton, and INCARCERON by Catherine Fisher. And LITTLE BROTHER by Cory Doctorow if that isn’t on your list already. 🙂

    • Carolina

      I love this idea, I’ve already read four of the suggested titles and plan to read The Forest of Hands and Feet for the challenge.

    • Carolina

      I love this idea, I’ve already read four of the suggested titles and plan to read The Forest of Hands and Feet for the challenge.

    • Don’t forget Patrick Ness’ The Knife of Never Letting Go and the second in the series The Ask and the Answer from Candlewick Press. Both are as good as Suzanne Collin’s novels and have LOTS of provocative themes to discuss! Also, good is Bernard Beckett’s Genesis from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Excellent!

    • Don’t forget Patrick Ness’ The Knife of Never Letting Go and the second in the series The Ask and the Answer from Candlewick Press. Both are as good as Suzanne Collin’s novels and have LOTS of provocative themes to discuss! Also, good is Bernard Beckett’s Genesis from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Excellent!

    • Tanya

      I read THE COMPOUND (by S.A. Bodeen) and THE HUNGER GAMES (By Suzanne Collins) right before the DystopYA Challenge began. I can’t count them, but I’ll include a comparative component from THE HUNGER GAMES when I post about the sequel, CATCHING FIRE.

      I’ll definitely be reading THE GIVER (by Lois Lowry) and LIFE AS WE KNEW IT (by Susan Beth Pfeffer) as well as the aforementioned CATCHING FIRE (by Suzanne Collins.)

      If time permits, I may read more. I’m trying to reach my personal goal of reading or listening to 100 titles a year and, reading YA is a great way to get through the end-of- the-year crunch!

    • Tanya

      I read THE COMPOUND (by S.A. Bodeen) and THE HUNGER GAMES (By Suzanne Collins) right before the DystopYA Challenge began. I can’t count them, but I’ll include a comparative component from THE HUNGER GAMES when I post about the sequel, CATCHING FIRE.

      I’ll definitely be reading THE GIVER (by Lois Lowry) and LIFE AS WE KNEW IT (by Susan Beth Pfeffer) as well as the aforementioned CATCHING FIRE (by Suzanne Collins.)

      If time permits, I may read more. I’m trying to reach my personal goal of reading or listening to 100 titles a year and, reading YA is a great way to get through the end-of- the-year crunch!

    • hilariously, I just finished The Giver- unprompted. In fact I came here to tell you that I was done with dystopia, for good, unless it has zombies in it- perhaps.

      I could probably handle something like ‘a Wrinkle in Time’ that DEPICTS dystopia, but doesn’t go all Little Match Girl on me in the final pages. Geez.

      In other, similar news, yesterday I bought “The Sound of Music” for my kids, and came home and it was on TV.

    • hilariously, I just finished The Giver- unprompted. In fact I came here to tell you that I was done with dystopia, for good, unless it has zombies in it- perhaps.

      I could probably handle something like ‘a Wrinkle in Time’ that DEPICTS dystopia, but doesn’t go all Little Match Girl on me in the final pages. Geez.

      In other, similar news, yesterday I bought “The Sound of Music” for my kids, and came home and it was on TV.

    • oh- and I concur that ‘Little Brother’ is fun. Also, ‘Holes’.

    • oh- and I concur that ‘Little Brother’ is fun. Also, ‘Holes’.

    • Hope! Forest of Hands and Teeth — YA dystopia with zombies. It’s perfect for you!

    • Hope! Forest of Hands and Teeth — YA dystopia with zombies. It’s perfect for you!

    • Tanya

      I also wanted to compliment whoever came up with the Soviet-style button!

    • Tanya

      I also wanted to compliment whoever came up with the Soviet-style button!

    • Tanya, that logo was Michael’s graphical genius at work! Thanks!

    • Tanya, that logo was Michael’s graphical genius at work! Thanks!

    • Thanks everyone, for the great lists of titles. Keep ’em coming. I may just try to read them all!

    • Thanks everyone, for the great lists of titles. Keep ’em coming. I may just try to read them all!

    • Tanya

      This is slightly off-topic, but I just recently put a book on my wishlist that Michael may be interested in: RED STAR OVER RUSSIA: A VISUAL HISTORY OF THE SOVIET UNION FROM THE REVOLUTION TO THE DEATH OF STALIN (by David King.) The book contains poster art and propaganda photos from the USSR.

    • Tanya

      This is slightly off-topic, but I just recently put a book on my wishlist that Michael may be interested in: RED STAR OVER RUSSIA: A VISUAL HISTORY OF THE SOVIET UNION FROM THE REVOLUTION TO THE DEATH OF STALIN (by David King.) The book contains poster art and propaganda photos from the USSR.

    • I am in the middle of Catching Fire and can hardly put it down (hooray for long waiting room visits!).

      The Forest of Hands and Teeth was amazing.

      I loved The Giver sequence, especially Gathering Blue. Interesting commentary on creativity.

    • I am in the middle of Catching Fire and can hardly put it down (hooray for long waiting room visits!).

      The Forest of Hands and Teeth was amazing.

      I loved The Giver sequence, especially Gathering Blue. Interesting commentary on creativity.

    • Ok, I will give it a go. It’s not that I love zombies, but it seems like books that HAVE them usually have a tongue -in-cheek sensibility about them that stops them short of shredding my emotional well being with a cheese grater. I will go read the forest of bits.

    • Ok, I will give it a go. It’s not that I love zombies, but it seems like books that HAVE them usually have a tongue -in-cheek sensibility about them that stops them short of shredding my emotional well being with a cheese grater. I will go read the forest of bits.

    • I’m in. I’ll probably read The Hunger Games and Catching Fire (I gave in and recently bought both of them), and The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. And if I have time maybe, Battle Royale by Koushun Takami.
      My post about the challenge.

    • I’m in. I’ll probably read The Hunger Games and Catching Fire (I gave in and recently bought both of them), and The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. And if I have time maybe, Battle Royale by Koushun Takami.
      My post about the challenge.

    • Scott L.

      This is fantastic. The Hunger Games and the sequel are in my top five favs for the year so far. All of these titles sound great, and I commit to reading The Giver and The Maze Runner. Let me offer up another title: How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff. I just picked this up at a used booksale, and will use this as my 3rd. Now, as for a forth and fifth?!

    • Scott L.

      This is fantastic. The Hunger Games and the sequel are in my top five favs for the year so far. All of these titles sound great, and I commit to reading The Giver and The Maze Runner. Let me offer up another title: How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff. I just picked this up at a used booksale, and will use this as my 3rd. Now, as for a forth and fifth?!

    • This is such an awesome idea! I love dystopias, so I’m definitely joining in =)

    • This is such an awesome idea! I love dystopias, so I’m definitely joining in =)

    • I love this idea! I love how the challenge was set up in the way it would appear in one of these cultures! I can’t wait to do this challenge!

    • I love this idea! I love how the challenge was set up in the way it would appear in one of these cultures! I can’t wait to do this challenge!

    • Nute

      Great idea! I am completely down for this. I love dystopic fiction. A fact proven by how many of these titles I already possess. Can’t wait to get started. Just can’t decide which three. Ann has me really intrigued with The Maze Runner so I think that I will start there.

    • Nute

      Great idea! I am completely down for this. I love dystopic fiction. A fact proven by how many of these titles I already possess. Can’t wait to get started. Just can’t decide which three. Ann has me really intrigued with The Maze Runner so I think that I will start there.

    • Laura

      I love dystopia fiction! I’m in. Another great series is Margaret Peterson Haddix’s Shadow Children. Fast reads, but intense. Hunger Games was good, though it dragged a little for me; I will be reading Catching Fire anyway. On my list is Candor by Bachorz, The Knife of Never Letting Go, and Maze Runner for a start. A few others I’ll have to find first. Another great book is Max Barry’s Jennifer Government, even though it’s not YA, it’s still a good dystopia novel.

    • Laura

      I love dystopia fiction! I’m in. Another great series is Margaret Peterson Haddix’s Shadow Children. Fast reads, but intense. Hunger Games was good, though it dragged a little for me; I will be reading Catching Fire anyway. On my list is Candor by Bachorz, The Knife of Never Letting Go, and Maze Runner for a start. A few others I’ll have to find first. Another great book is Max Barry’s Jennifer Government, even though it’s not YA, it’s still a good dystopia novel.

    • Laura, I loved Jennifer Government, but had forgotten all about it. Thanks for the reminder!

    • Laura, I loved Jennifer Government, but had forgotten all about it. Thanks for the reminder!

    • Kerry McCabe

      Add “Into the Forest” by Jean Hegland as one of the best of the type.

    • Kerry McCabe

      Add “Into the Forest” by Jean Hegland as one of the best of the type.

    • Shannon Wells

      I LOVE this challenge, and have had a great time participating…. I have a list of books I have read, and a list that I want to read. Here is what I have read so far:

      The Hunger Games/Catching Fire: Really like this series, and can’t wait for the last book. (Technically, I had read The Hunger Games this Spring, and had been waiting for the follow up). Katniss is an interesting character, as is Peta, but the rest of the characters aren’t as well fleshed out. Hunger Games my favorite of the two.

      The Uglies Trilogy: Out of the “Dystopya” books I have been reading, these were my least favorite. They are OK, and Scott Westerfeld has created an interesting premise, but I really had a hard time not getting distracted by the language/phrasing/slang used. I know that I am not the intended audience, as I am a 40 YO woman, but by the end of the trilogy, I really had to push myself to finish. First book in the trilogy was the strongest.

      Forest of Hands and Teeth: I liked this one, again I liked the “premise” of the book more than I liked the actual execution. I thought the ending was a bit of a let down, but not sure what I was actually expecting.

      The Maze Runner: LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this book, and can’t believe I will need to wait until next Fall for the next book. (But, I guess I survived after The Hunger Games….) Like the Uglies “slang”, it took me a bit of time to get into the rhythm of the language, but pretty quickly got up and running with it. I didn’t find it distracting like I did with Uglies… I couldn’t put it down, and really felt invested in both the characters and in finding out the big secret…. I am even OK that we don’t find out everything (but then, I guess, we wouldn’t need the rest of the trilogy!).

      Out of the ones I have read since the challenge began, listed above, I can give the highest recommendations to The Maze Runner and the Hunger Games/Catching Fire.

      What I am going to try to read before the end of the challenge:
      The Giver and Jennifer Government, and I might also even jump into my copy of Battle Royale, which I had purchased right after reading The Hunger Games, but just haven’t been able to bring myself to start. It’s been sitting on my nightstand!

      I can also give a good recommendation for Life as We Knew it, which I read last fall, and The Unit (while it isn’t YA, and so not for this challenge, I have just read it and can recommend it to those who like Dystopian fiction…).

      Thanks for the challenge!!

    • I LOVE this challenge, and have had a great time participating…. I have a list of books I have read, and a list that I want to read. Here is what I have read so far:

      The Hunger Games/Catching Fire: Really like this series, and can’t wait for the last book. (Technically, I had read The Hunger Games this Spring, and had been waiting for the follow up). Katniss is an interesting character, as is Peta, but the rest of the characters aren’t as well fleshed out. Hunger Games my favorite of the two.

      The Uglies Trilogy: Out of the “Dystopya” books I have been reading, these were my least favorite. They are OK, and Scott Westerfeld has created an interesting premise, but I really had a hard time not getting distracted by the language/phrasing/slang used. I know that I am not the intended audience, as I am a 40 YO woman, but by the end of the trilogy, I really had to push myself to finish. First book in the trilogy was the strongest.

      Forest of Hands and Teeth: I liked this one, again I liked the “premise” of the book more than I liked the actual execution. I thought the ending was a bit of a let down, but not sure what I was actually expecting.

      The Maze Runner: LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this book, and can’t believe I will need to wait until next Fall for the next book. (But, I guess I survived after The Hunger Games….) Like the Uglies “slang”, it took me a bit of time to get into the rhythm of the language, but pretty quickly got up and running with it. I didn’t find it distracting like I did with Uglies… I couldn’t put it down, and really felt invested in both the characters and in finding out the big secret…. I am even OK that we don’t find out everything (but then, I guess, we wouldn’t need the rest of the trilogy!).

      Out of the ones I have read since the challenge began, listed above, I can give the highest recommendations to The Maze Runner and the Hunger Games/Catching Fire.

      What I am going to try to read before the end of the challenge:
      The Giver and Jennifer Government, and I might also even jump into my copy of Battle Royale, which I had purchased right after reading The Hunger Games, but just haven’t been able to bring myself to start. It’s been sitting on my nightstand!

      I can also give a good recommendation for Life as We Knew it, which I read last fall, and The Unit (while it isn’t YA, and so not for this challenge, I have just read it and can recommend it to those who like Dystopian fiction…).

      Thanks for the challenge!!

    • Tanya

      I commented on three titles: The Giver Trilogy (by Lois Lowry,) Catching Fire (by Suzanne Collins) and, The Maze Runner (by James Dashner) under one post labeled as “The Giver Trilogy” (#7 above.) I tried to keep the comments brief, no easy task considering the wealth of materials at hand!

    • Tanya

      I commented on three titles: The Giver Trilogy (by Lois Lowry,) Catching Fire (by Suzanne Collins) and, The Maze Runner (by James Dashner) under one post labeled as “The Giver Trilogy” (#7 above.) I tried to keep the comments brief, no easy task considering the wealth of materials at hand!

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