Great Reads: Dystopia

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The dystopia genre has become increasingly popular thanks to the likes of The Hunger Games and the Divergent Series. Many authors have followed in their book-ish footsteps, some riding on the coattails of the dream, and others being established in their own right. I’ll be giving you a comprehensive top five list of great dystopia reads for you to get your teeth into.

These books are in no particular order.

1

Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman

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Sephy is a Cross — a member of the dark-skinned ruling class. Callum is a Nought — a “colourless” member of the underclass who were once slaves to the Crosses. The two have been friends since early childhood, but that’s as far as it can go. In their world, Noughts and Crosses simply don’t mix. – from Goodreads.com

This was probably the first dystopia I ever read, and I didn’t even realise it was a dystopia! This collection of books were exciting and action packed beyond belief. A really good starting point for someone looking to get into the dystopia genre.

2

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

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Fifteen-year-old Daisy is sent from Manhattan to England to visit her aunt and cousins she’s never met: three boys near her age, and their little sister. Her aunt goes away on business soon after Daisy arrives. The next day bombs go off as London is attacked and occupied by an unnamed enemy. – from Goodreads.com

This book perfectly captures not only the horrors of World War but also the hope for a better life that comes afterwards. Besides, who wouldn’t want to hole up in an idyllic house in the countryside? Me, please!

3

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

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Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can’t wait. In just a few weeks she’ll have the operation that will turn her from a repellent ugly into a stunning pretty. And as a pretty, she’ll be catapulted into a high-tech paradise where her only job is to have fun. But Tally’s new friend Shay isn’t sure she wants to become a pretty. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world– and it isn’t very pretty. – from Goodreads.com

I was a bit skeptical at first upon reading the synopsis for this book, as I thought it would all be a bit obvious. However, I really, really enjoyed reading Uglies and thought the world that Westerfeld created was very vivid. It’s a book that gives a great message and is a well developed dystopia too.

4

Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill

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In a world in which baby girls are no longer born naturally, women are bred in schools, trained in the arts of pleasing men until they are ready for the outside world. At graduation, the most highly rated girls become “companions”, permitted to live with their husbands and breed sons until they are no longer useful. For the girls left behind, the future – as a concubine or a teacher – is grim. – from Goodreads.com

In the short time it took to read this book, I was in a perpetual state of disgust and fascination. There most disconcerting thing about this novel was that this could definitely be our future! That is a very, very scary thought.

5

Never Let Me Go by Kauzo Ishiguro

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As children, Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy were students at Hailsham, an exclusive boarding school secluded in the English countryside. It was a place of mercurial cliques and mysterious rules where teachers were constantly reminding their charges of how special they were. Now, years later, Kathy is a young woman. Ruth and Tommy have reentered her life, and for the first time she is beginning to look back at their shared past and understand just what it is that makes them special—and how that gift will shape the rest of their time together. – from Goodreads.com

I never thought of this book as a dystopia, but it is set in the future and a strange one at that. It oddly mirrors the world we know today except with the appearance of clones. It certainly makes a comment on how we live our lives and what it means to be human.

So these are my list of great reads for the dystopia genre. Have you read any of these? Or do you have a few you’d like to add to the list? Let me know in the comments!

 

Top 10 Books of 2016 (9&10)

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So let’s kick off with my top ten books of 2016. I read over a hundred this year, but I’ve managed to whittle down my list to a tenth of that size, and so I give you a comprehensive list of my favourites. Let’s kick off with books number nine and ten.

10

Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill

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eves are designed, not made.
The School trains them to be pretty
The School trains them to be good.
The School trains them to Always be Willing.
All their lives, the eves have been waiting. Now, they are ready for the outside world.
companion . . . concubine . . . or chastity
Only the best will be chosen.
And only the Men decide. – from Goodreads.com

I read this while on holiday and absolutely gobbled it up. There was something so disturbing and yet fascinating and incredibly, incredibly scary that one day this could be our reality. I’m looking forward to soon reading Asking For It by O’Neill, which is a book that got a lot of buzz this year.

9

Eligable by Curtis Sittenfeld

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Liz is a magazine writer in her late thirties who, like her yoga instructor older sister, Jane, lives in New York City. When their father has a health scare, they return to their childhood home in Cincinnati to help—and discover that the sprawling Tudor they grew up in is crumbling and the family is in disarray. Youngest sisters Kitty and Lydia are too busy with their CrossFit workouts and Paleo diets to get jobs. Mary, the middle sister, is earning her third online master’s degree and barely leaves her room, except for those mysterious Tuesday-night outings she won’t discuss. And Mrs. Bennet has one thing on her mind: how to marry off her daughters, especially as Jane’s fortieth birthday fast approaches. – from Goodreads.com

I SO enjoyed this retelling. I feel you could read it independently from Pride and Prejudice and still enjoy it as a cute, quirky contemporary. It completely reinvents the story and puts a perfect twist on an old classic.

Both of these books were big YA releases this year and both got four or five star reviews on Goodreads from yours truly. Tomorrow, I’ll be naming books number eight and seven on my list.

Top 10 Young Adult Standalones

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I have read many fantastic young adult books over my time, and many not so fantastic, but today we’re going to focus on the positives and examine my top ten favourite young adult books I’ve read so far.

These books are in no particular order.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

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Charlie is a freshman. And while he’s not the biggest geek in the school, he is by no means popular. Shy, introspective, intelligent beyond his years yet socially awkward, he is a wallflower, attempting to navigate his way through uncharted territory, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite. But Charlie can’t stay on the sideline forever. Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor. – from Goodreads.com

Both Stephen Chbosky’s book and film are very near and dear to my heart. He manages to sum up perfectly what in England we call an “inbetween-er” and express feelings I couldn’t find the words to say myself.

Looking for Alaska by John Green

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Miles “Pudge” Halter is abandoning his safe-okay, boring-life. Fascinated by the last words of famous people, Pudge leaves for boarding school to seek what a dying Rabelais called the “Great Perhaps.” Pudge becomes encircled by friends whose lives are everything but safe and boring. Their nucleus is razor-sharp, sexy, and self-destructive Alaska, who has perfected the arts of pranking and evading school rules. Pudge falls impossibly in love. When tragedy strikes the close-knit group, it is only in coming face-to-face with death that Pudge discovers the value of living and loving unconditionally. – from Goodreads.com

In May 2011 I picked this book up second-hand in Budapest for less than a British pound. I read it practically in one sitting and fell in love. I had been yearning for something to express all the feelings and unanswered questions I had surrounding the death of my father, and reading this book felt like coming home. It has become my holy grail YA, my go-to recommendation and what made me realise WHY I wanted to be a writer. I can’t sing it’s praises enough.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

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Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan… But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids. But Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind? – from Goodreads.com

I didn’t know I needed this book until I read it. I needed Rainbow Rowell to write a book detailing my life in online Fandom, how it laid the foundations for my writing career, allowed me to talk to others about the books/films that I loved, and how it gave me more confidence to be myself and not be ashamed of my obsessions. A must-read for anyone who has spent time online, written fan fiction, and ship-ed characters into OTP-dom.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

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Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten. – from Goodreads.com

 I don’t think I’ve met someone who hasn’t read The Fault in Our Stars (commonly shortened to TFioS). If you want a tear-jerking story that will fill your heart with sadness and happiness in equal measure then this is the book for you. I felt physically hungover after reading this book, but don’t let that stop you from immersing yourself in the delectable story of  Hazel and Augustus.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

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Melinda Sordino busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops. Now her old friends won’t talk to her, and people she doesn’t even know hate her from a distance. The safest place to be is alone, inside her own head. But even that’s not safe. Because there’s something she’s trying not to think about, something about the night of the party that, if she let it in, would blow her carefully constructed disguise to smithereens. And then she would have to speak the truth. – from Goodreads.com

This is one of the most important books I’ve read on rape culture. (Don’t shout at me. (Not) Asking for It by Louise O’Neill is on my TBR!) Written lyrically and beautifully, we are taken on Mel’s journey as she narrates her own internal monologue and eventually has to face up to the truth of that night. 

Paper Towns by John Green

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Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs into his life—dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge—he follows. After their all-nighter ends, and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues—and they’re for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer he gets, the less Q sees the girl he thought he knew… – from Goodreads.com

 A cat and mouse chase-type road trip full of fun and friendships. This novel poses some really important questions, especially since the rise in popularity of social media, and the lines between virtual reality are becoming more and more blurred.

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler and illustrated by Maira Kalman

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Min Green and Ed Slaterton are breaking up, so Min is writing Ed a letter and giving him a box. Inside the box is why they broke up. Two bottle caps, a movie ticket, a folded note, a box of matches, a protractor, books, a toy truck, a pair of ugly earrings, a comb from a motel room, and every other item collected over the course of a giddy, intimate, heartbreaking relationship. Item after item is illustrated and accounted for, and then the box, like a girlfriend, will be dumped. – from Goodreads.com

Poetic, vivid and expertly written, this novel, complete with beautiful illustrations by Maira Kalman, narrates Min’s journey as she details all the reasons why she broke up with charismatic jock Ed.

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

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Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers thirteen cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, his classmate and crush who committed suicide two weeks earlier. On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out how he made the list. – from Goodreads.com

Thrilling, exciting and completely engaging. This breakout novel from Jay Asher makes it’s mark on the young adult genre and is a must-read for any readers looking for a book full of mystery and intrigue.

We Were Liars by E Lockhart

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A beautiful and distinguished family. A private island. A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy. A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive. A revolution. An accident. A secret. Lies upon lies. True love. The truth. – from Goodreads.com

Another gripping read from one of my almost-auto-buy authors E Lockhart. With a massive twist at the end that is set to make your head spin, it’s impossible not to envision this as a film in the coming years.

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

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Fifteen-year-old Daisy is sent from Manhattan to England to visit her aunt and cousins she’s never met: three boys near her age, and their little sister. Her aunt goes away on business soon after Daisy arrives. The next day bombs go off as London is attacked and occupied by an unnamed enemy. Despite the war, it’s a kind of Eden, with no adults in charge and no rules, a place where Daisy’s uncanny bond with her cousins grows into something rare and extraordinary. But the war is everywhere, and Daisy and her cousins must lead each other into a world that is unknown in the scariest, most elemental way. – from Goodreads.com

This book is as electrifying as it sounds. It breaks the mould of the dystopian genre and a becomes one-of-a-kind book that leaves you wondering about the future of our world, and draws you into a love story as delicious as the idyllic farm where Daisy and Ed’s romance is born.

That concludes my top ten young adult standalone books. Are there any you’ve read that missed the short list? Which books do you agree are worthy of a recommendation? Let me know in the comments.