Book List

6 “Utopian” Worlds That Aren’t As Perfect As They Seem

November 28, 2016
Sarah Jane Abbott
Riveted Editorial Board

Sometimes when real life gets tough, it’s fun to escape into a perfect world through a book—a utopia where there’s no stress or pain or hard decisions or sickness. But after a few chapters, it’s usually pretty clear that utopias aren’t all they’re cracked up to be and the line between utopia and dystopia can be pretty fine.  Here are some “perfect” worlds to escape to that will leave you feeling like our real world isn’t quite so bad after all.

Scytheby Neal Shusterman

Two teens must learn the “art of killing” in the first in a chilling new series from Neal Shusterman, author of the New York Times bestselling Unwind dystology.

A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery: humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now Scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.

Scythe is the first novel of a thrilling new series by National Book Award–winning author Neal Shusterman in which Citra and Rowan learn that a perfect world comes only with a heavy price.

The Giverby Lois Lowry

Jonas lives in a seemingly ideal, if colorless, world of conformity and contentment. There is no sadness or pain and everyone is satisfied to do their job. But when Jonas is chosen as the Receiver of Memory, he learns the dark, complex secrets behind his fragile community.

Perfect Ruinby Lauren DeStefano

Morgan Stockhour knows getting too close to the edge of Internment, the floating city and her home, can lead to madness. Even though her older brother, Lex, was a Jumper, Morgan vows never to end up like him. There’s too much for her on Internment: her parents, best friend Pen, and her betrothed, Basil. Her life is ordinary and safe, even if she sometimes does wonder about the ground and why it’s forbidden.

Then a murder, the first in a generation, rocks the city. With whispers swirling and fear on the wind, Morgan can no longer stop herself from investigating, especially once she meets Judas. Betrothed to the victim, Judas is being blamed for the murder, but Morgan is convinced of his innocence. Secrets lay at the heart of Internment, but nothing can prepare Morgan for what she will find—or whom she will lose.

Matchedby Ally Condie

Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander's face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows he is her ideal mate . . . until she sees Ky Markham's face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black. The Society tells her it's a glitch, a rare malfunction, but Cassia can't stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society's infallibility.

Betaby Rachel Cohn

Elysia is a clone, created to serve the inhabitants of Demesne, an island paradise for the wealthiest people on earth. Everything about Demesne is bioengineered for perfection. Even the air induces a strange, euphoric high, which only soulless clones like Elysia are immune to.

At first, Elysia's life is idyllic and pampered. But she soon sees that Demesne's human residents, who should want for nothing, yearn. But for what, exactly? She also comes to realize that beneath the island's flawless exterior, there is an under­current of discontent among Demesne's worker clones. She knows she is soulless and cannot feel and should not care—so why are overpowering sensations clouding Elysia's mind?

Free to Fallby Lauren Miller

In a near future world, a tech giant has developed Lux, an app that flawlessly optimizes decision-making for the best personal results. Just like everyone else, sixteen-year-old Rory Vaughn knows the key to a happy, healthy life is to follow what the app recommends. When she's accepted to the elite boarding school Theden Academy, her future happiness seems all the more assured. But once on campus, something feels wrong beneath the polished surface of her prestigious dream school. Then she meets North, a handsome townie who doesn't use Lux, and begins to fall for him and his outsider way of life. Soon, Rory is going her own way, questioning Lux and listening instead to the inner voice she's been taught to ignore--a choice that leads her to uncover a truth neither she nor the world ever saw coming.

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