Book List

6 Dystopian Worlds That Pull from Reality

March 30, 2017
Sam Benson
Riveted Editorial Board

The dystopian books I’ve always found the most interesting (read: scary) are the ones that take things that really happened in the past or are happening now, and use them as inspiration for their crumbling society. I get this overwhelming feeling that it could happen because so much is based in reality, and that makes it all the more terrifying. Take, for example, The Forsaken by Lisa M. Stasse. I was reading it the other day (because it’s one of our free reads until April 10th), and it struck me that the premise seemed a bit familiar. Not because I’d read the story before (this book is truly unique), but because in this book, our main character Alenna is sent to an island where her country sends all potential criminals. If that doesn’t sound familiar, maybe you haven’t gotten to that history lesson yet. Once upon a time, the British government sent all their criminals to Australia. Yeah, a country sent all of its criminals to an island and thought that would go over well. This connection between reality and The Forsaken is made all the more creepy when you think about the old phrase “History repeats itself.” If we came up with a test that could predict people’s capacities for violence, it’s completely plausible that we could go back to shipping away our undesirable people out of fear. *shudder*

The Forsaken certainly isn’ the only dystopian that hits a little too close to reality. Continue reading for the complete list of my favorite dystopians that draw on real life. Read through them and take to the comments to let me know…are you creeped out yet?

The Forsakenby Lisa M. Stasse

Choose a tribe. Watch your back. And don’t stop running.

Filled with thrilling adventure and romance, The Forsaken is praised by EntertainmentWeekly.com as “a fast-paced novel [that] you’ll get sucked into. You just can’t seem to put [it] down.”

As an obedient orphan of the U.N.A. (the super-country that was once Mexico, the US, and Canada), Alenna learned at an early age to blend in and be quiet—having your parents taken by the police will do that to a girl. But Alenna can’t help standing out when she fails a test that all sixteen-year-olds have to take: The test says she has a high capacity for brutal violence, and so she is sent to the wheel, an island where all would-be criminals end up.

The life expectancy of prisoners on the wheel is just two years, but with dirty, violent, and chaotic conditions, the time seems a lot longer as Alenna is forced to deal with civil wars for land ownership and machines that snatch kids out of their makeshift homes. Desperate, she and a charismatic warrior named Liam concoct a potentially fatal plan to flee the island. Survival may seem impossible, but Alenna is determined to achieve it anyway.

The Hunger Gamesby Suzanne Collins

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before-and survival.

Among the Hiddenby Margaret Peterson Haddix

In a future where the Population Police enforce the law limiting a family to only two children, Luke, an illegal third child, has lived all his twelve years in isolation and fear on his family's farm in this start to the Shadow Children series from Margaret Peterson Haddix.

Luke has never been to school. He's never had a birthday party, or gone to a friend's house for an overnight. In fact, Luke has never had a friend.

Luke is one of the shadow children, a third child forbidden by the Population Police. He's lived his entire life in hiding, and now, with a new housing development replacing the woods next to his family's farm, he is no longer even allowed to go outside.

Then, one day Luke sees a girl's face in the window of a house where he knows two other children already live. Finally, he's met a shadow child like himself. Jen is willing to risk everything to come out of the shadows -- does Luke dare to become involved in her dangerous plan? Can he afford not to?

Ready Player Oneby Ernest Cline

In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he's jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade's devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world's digital confines—puzzles that are based on their creator's obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them.

But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade's going to survive, he'll have to win—and confront the real world he's always been so desperate to escape.

Ugliesby Scott Westerfeld

Everybody gets to be supermodel gorgeous. What could be wrong with that?

Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can't wait. Not for her license—for turning pretty. In Tally's world, your sixteenth birthday brings an operation that turns you from a repellent ugly into a stunningly attractive pretty and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time. In just a few weeks Tally will be there.

But Tally's new friend Shay isn't sure she wants to be pretty. She'd rather risk life on the outside. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world—and it isn't very pretty. The authorities offer Tally the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all. The choice Tally makes changes her world forever.

Other Books In This Series:

Pretties (Uglies #2)

Specials (Uglies #3)

Extras (Uglies #4)

When She Wokeby Hillary Jordan

Bellwether Prize winner Hillary Jordan’s provocative new novel, When She Woke, tells the story of a stigmatized woman struggling to navigate an America of a not-too-distant future, where the line between church and state has been eradicated and convicted felons are no longer imprisoned and rehabilitated but chromed―their skin color is genetically altered to match the class of their crimes―and then released back into the population to survive as best they can. Hannah is a Red; her crime is murder.

In seeking a path to safety in an alien and hostile world, Hannah unknowingly embarks on a path of self-discovery that forces her to question the values she once held true and the righteousness of a country that politicizes faith.