Seventeen-year old Jackson is pretty smart. Living in a future where kids are split into two types of institutions, Learning Communities and Local Academies, Jackson's life is relatively normal until one day he is attacked in the street and left for dead.
After that, things become weird. Teachers don't know who he is, claiming they have never seen him before. It seems that his whole life has been erased and after spending so much time at a top Learning Community, he is taken to a Local Academy - which is more like a prison - and enters a world where fighting is the new way to gain respect.
Will he escape and form an allegiance with the other students or will the new world he lives in consume him?
Being well versed in creating a whole new world, check out C.J.'s pick of the weirdest and most wonderful dystopias out there..
10. Birthmarked by Caragh O’Brien
I love reading dystopian books and I always like to think about how I would behave in the kind of world described in the story (in my mind I mostly behave like Buffy). What I loved about trainee-midwife Gaia in Birthmarked is that she doesn’t act like a hero right from the beginning; she DOESN’T do what her heart tells her. Instead, she follows the rules and gives up a new-born baby from her community to the all-powerful Enclave.
Actually, I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that if I was living in dystopia I would be a bit of a wimp. I would probably follow the rules too. Eventually, Gaia is very brave and breaks into the privileged enclave to try to rescue her parents. I like to think that eventually I’d get up the guts to be really brave too. Either that or I would find a really kick-ass hiding place.
9. The Declaration by Gemma Malley
In the future, in order to avoid over-populating the planet, life-prolonging drugs are only given to those who sign a declaration agreeing not to have children. This is the story of Anna, one of the ‘surplus’ children illegally born to parents who signed the declaration. I’m the fourth out of five sisters, so I know what it’s like to feel like there are too many of you (when you split a Vienetta between seven people it doesn’t go far).
What I liked about Anna’s narration is that she’s totally indoctrinated with the government line. It’s only when she meets Peter that we witness her gradual realisation that what she has been taught to believe is not the truth. The Declaration is a brilliant combination of an exciting escape story and a haunting tale that leaves important questions lingering in your mind.
8. Never Let Me Go by Kazou Ishiguro
Katy shares her memories of an exclusive boarding school where teenagers are encouraged to be creative and taught they are special, but what exactly are they being prepared for? I know you’re probably sick of love triangles but this story features one that is different, this one is BELIEVABLE.
When I spotted Kazou Ishiguro at a publisher’s party I managed to squeeze my way to the front of his crowd of admirers. I really wanted him to sign a copy of Never Let me Go for my sister, Chani, who is a huge fan. Unfortunately, I was a bit excited, a bit awed and a bit out of breath (which was absolutely not because I been elbowing other fans out of the way) so I only managed to squeak out a few words. Kazou Ishiguro may have got the idea that MY name was Chani and my sister may have ended up with a book that says ‘To Chani, it was so nice to meet you, from Kazou Ishiguro.’ But he is a very nice man and Never Let me Go is a beautifully written book.
David and his sister are transported into his favourite 1950s TV show. I love old TV shows and I think I would be as thrilled about falling into a vintage sitcom as David is (although I might be as unhappy about wearing a pointy bra and sensible shoes as David’s sister is). David thinks living in Pleasantville is much better than his own life, but gradually he realises that the characters he loves so much are living their lives without colour.
By helping them fulfil their hopes and dreams he and his sister learn a lot about themselves. I love films like this that tell a serious story, but still have some funny moments. Even when I’m writing something dark I like to throw in some black humour.
6. Gone by Michael Grant
We’ve all had dreams about this one: on an ordinary school day all the adults disappear. One moment they’re there, the next they’re gone. But would it be as great as you imagine?
Gone is a scarily realistic story about what would happen if everyone over fourteen disappeared. Some of the children try to work together to look after the youngest kids, but some others are more interested in gaining power and possessions. Gone also features super-natural powers, gang warfare and a little bit of romance. Just like my high school then.
Click NEXT to check out the Top 5 including body parts fused to household objects and a world where cosmetic surgery is the only way to get ahead >>
5. Pure by Julianna Baggot
When I heard that this book is about a girl who gets a doll’s head fused to her hand, I knew I wanted to read it. I love a creepy dolly! In Pure, the flesh of Wretches is peppered with fragments of metal and glass and some of them are fused with whatever they were touching at the time of the Detonations.
The unscathed Pures are those who escaped the Detonations and live in the supposed safety of the Dome. Pure tells the story of a Wretch girl who meets a Pure boy. I loved screwing up my face at the gross parts of Pure; it’s not for the squeamish!
4. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
I get confused when people’s faces don’t match their necks so I’m pretty much against cosmetic surgery, but I wonder if I would change my mind if the government decided everyone should have surgery to eliminate ugliness.
In Uglies Tally is ready to undergo extensive procedures to become a Pretty, but when she changes her mind the authorities are not happy. Full of crazy gadgets of the future, this book is both fun and thought provoking.
3. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
In this dystopia, handmaids are women who are forced to have sex with married men in order to bear them children. When I was fifteen I went to an all-night party where my worst enemy made a pass at my best friend’s boyfriend; when he turned her down she ran off, tripped, and fell into a swimming pool taking a barbeque with her. Such a shame no one had cameras on their mobile phones in those days.
When I finally got home at nine a.m. I really needed to a) phone everyone in my class to go over the whole thing again and b) sleep for about a week, but instead I ended up reading The Handmaid’s Tale in one sitting. That’s how good it is.
2. Unwind by Neal Schusterman
In Unwind difficult or unwanted children can be cut up and used for transplant parts. It’s a good job that this idea is completely fictional. I was a very difficult teenager and I can think of several people who would have liked to have put me on the list to be unwound!
Unwind features a brilliant scene of excruciating tension. I love that creeping sense that something terrible is about to happen. I was completely gripped by Unwind; I couldn’t move until I finished it and when I had finished it I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
1. Revolution (American series on NBC, coming to the UK soon)
One night the power goes out and never comes back on again. Imagine a world with no computers, no phones and no cars. (No phones? How will we take photos of mean boyfriend-stealing girls falling into pools?) Without power it’s chaos. When members of the Militia kill Charlie’s father and capture her brother, she sets off on a mission to find out the truth about her family’s connection to the loss of power and to bring her brother back.
This brilliant TV series has loads of action and always gives me the chills. Whenever I watch post-apocalyptic stories like this I start planning to hide tinned food under my bed and thinking about how I could fashion a weapon from my shoes. Here’s my top tip for surviving after an apocalypse: you know the water that sits in the tank on the back of the loo? In an emergency you can drink that. Unless, of course, I get you with my shoe-catapult first.
So what are your favourite dystopian stories? Are there any you would add to the list, and will you be reading The Disappeared?