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

In The Forsaken, sixteen-year-olds are given a test to determine their capacity for brutal violence. When Alenna fails the test, she is sent to the Wheel, an island where all supposed future criminals end up. This may sound absurd, but as I mentioned earlier, penal colonies have existed. The British government sent convicts to Australia even for crimes as small as stealing. In addition, many of England's undesirables, including beggar children, were sent to the American colonies because the government predicted they would drain resources and possibly become criminals. 

The Hunger Gamesby Suzanne Collins

Let's face it, we all spend too much time binging on reality TV. Think of all the options we have: The Bachelor/Bachelorette, Dance Moms, America¹s Next Top Model, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, and even some we borrow from across the pond like The Great British Bakeoff. The list goes on and on. It's easy to see how a TV producer could get a little (okay, A LOT) carried away and end up with something like The Hunger Games. Not to mention that Russia already has its own extreme reality show cooking up. Game 2: Winter producers have hinted that their show could even include murder! 

Among the Hiddenby Margaret Peterson Haddix

Among the Hidden has always been one of my favorite books. In the future, the government implements a policy that forbids families from having more than two children.  This results in the "Shadow Children," children who are born to families after they already have two. This effort by the government to control overpopulation and save resources may sound extreme, but up until recently, China had implemented a one child policy. If a second child was born, the families would have to face similar decisions of those in the Shadow Children world.

Ready Player Oneby Ernest Cline

In this fictional future, everyone spends their lives within a virtual reality world. Today, people spend countless hours online and connected to their devices. Plus virtual reality is becoming more prevalent and seems only to be improving. One day soon we might have the option to live the majority of our lives in a virtual world.

Ugliesby Scott Westerfeld

In Uglies, sixteen-year-olds are forced to undergo surgery to change their appearance and become "Pretty." While this sounds a bit extreme for our society,more and more teenagers are electing to undergo plastic surgery to fit society's ideal look. Even non-surgical procedures, such as the Kardashian waist training method, can allow a teenager to alter their body and can cause real damage. What's worse is that many times, these procedures are encouraged by society rather than rejected. So maybe the world of the Uglies isn't so far away after all?

When She Wokeby Hillary Jordan

In Jordan's dystopian future, people's skin color is genetically altered to match the crimes they commit. The main character becomes a Red—her skin marked to match the crime of murdering her unborn child. In Texas, where Hannah lives in the novel, there are currently many pieces of legislation introduced to restrict abortion access. When looking at these efforts, the world of When She Woke doesn't quite seem too far-fetched.

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