Rachel Cohn, a seasoned author of books for teens, takes her first steps into the world of dystopian literature with her latest novel Beta. The first in a planned four book series, the novel takes place on Demense, an island paradise off the coast of the mainland. Demense is an escape from the problems that exist on the mainland following the Water Wars. Only the most elite can reach Demense, and once there are served by clones who were created so humans wouldn’t have to do any work on the island. In the book, readers are introduced to Elysia, a teenage clone prototype. Within the first chapter, the governor’s wife, Mrs. Bratton, purchases Elysia as a companion for her children, and to fill the hole left by her oldest daughter. She recently left the island to attend university on the mainland.
As Elysia grows accustomed to life with her new family, she finds that she is unlike other clones—she enjoys food, she has desires, and she remembers her First, the girl from whom she was cloned. Initially, Elysia decides to keep her unique qualities to herself, but as she learns more about her island home and the process of cloning, she realizes there is more at stake than pleasing the family that purchased her. Cohn reimagines our world in Beta, like the worlds created in other dystopian teen novels, such as Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games or Scott Westerfeldt’s Uglies. Fans of dystopian novels will surely enjoy the first in Cohn’s series. This novel deals with a number of mature themes, making it a better novel for older teens as well as adults. The book keeps readers guessing right up until the last sentence, and leaves us eagerly awaiting the next installment in the series.
Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that teens are driving the literary and cinematic marketplace these days. Popular series such as Twilight and The Hunger Games have exploded into pop culture, and many adults are coming along for the ride. In the crowded market of dystopian teen fiction, Ally Condie has carved out a niche with her Matched series. The long-awaited finale is Reached, and fans of the series will be thrilled to discover what becomes of Cassia, Ky and Xander.
The three main characters have been separated as they serve The Rising, and the action begins early as the “rebels” take over the territories and distribute the plague cure. Until it is certain that everyone is recovered, healthy and safe, a quarantine is imposed. Ky is flying aircraft that carries the cure as well as supplies for those in need. Xander is a medical officer, directly treating the infected and distributing the cure. Cassia is working as a sorter, and her sabotage of the matching ceremony data is the impetus for the Rising. As the days drag on, frustration and loneliness lead all three to question the effectiveness of the cure and even the rebellion itself.
The main messages in Condie’s Matched trilogy are the impact of creativity and individuality on a society. The importance of creativity on the human spirit comes full circle in this final book, and the singing of the first non-Society song is a tear-inducing moment. The theme of individuality that runs through the series is mirrored in the three protagonists, and Reached is told from their alternating points of view in quick chapters. Ky, Xander, and especially Cassia all show growth and maturity in Reached, as each becomes more self-aware and less egocentric. Love is still their underlying motivation, but it is no longer the intense, gut–wrenching angst of the young but a more thoughtful and inclusive love. New readers should begin with Matched by looking for the highly appealing and eye-catching cover art that easily identifies this well-written dystopian series.
Pia, the heroine of Jessica Khoury’s novel, Origin, is a perfect girl, or so she has been told all her life. In fact, Pia is far from perfect, but she is immortal. For years, a team of scientists has been working to create an immortal human being, and Pia is their first success. She has been raised in Little Cambridge (better known as Little Cam), a research facility hidden in the middle of the Amazon. The scientists, who have studied Pia since she was born, raised her to believe that she is perfect, and trained her to take over their operation permanently once she has passed all of their tests.
Most of the process of creating immortal beings has been kept secret from Pia, as has any information about the outside world. Beyond the scientific training deemed appropriate by the project’s directors, Pia is kept largely ignorant. However, with the arrival of a new scientist, things begin to change in Little Cam; Pia begins to question her life and everything she has been taught. This pushes her to sneak out of Little Cam, leaving for the first time in her life, at which point, Pia meets Eio, a boy around her age. As their relationship develops, Eio tries to convince her that Little Cam is dangerous and that she should flee. The mystery deepens the more Pia investigates his claims and considers leaving.
Origin imagines a future drastically altered by scientific advancements. Pia’s investigation into Little Cam’s quest for immortality leads her to ask—at what cost? Khoury offers readers a thought-provoking story full of science, romance, and suspense. Teen and adult readers alike will enjoy Khoury’s debut novel.
Readers of the dystopian fiction genre will thoroughly enjoy Gennifer Albin’s debut novel Crewel. Albin has created a world which is fascinating and imaginatively detailed, with believable characters that are both likeable and imperfect. In the novel, the inhabitants of Aras are fortunate to have The Guild oversee their civilization. This governing body of men instructs the Spinsters in fulfilling the needs of its citizenry. Only the most gifted and talented girls are selected for the elite role of Spinster, whose job is to weave together substance and time. Through this process the population can be fed, sheltered, kept safe, and everyone’s life can run smoothly. 16-year-old Adelice Lewys is an extraordinarily gifted girl who would be an obvious selection for this elite role. However, since she was a young girl, her parents have secretly been training her to be clumsy and awkward in an attempt to hide her ability from the Guild.
If Adelice fails to prove she can weave during “testing” she can look forward to a life just like her mother’s. She will have a prearranged marriage, a job determined for her, possibly as a secretary or a teacher, but most important to Adelice, she will be allowed to maintain contact with her family. To pass the Guild’s test means being taken away to the Western Coventry, never to see her parents or sister again and unfortunately this is just the situation she finds herself in. Events take a tragic turn when her parents try to help her escape before the official retrieval.
Watch out Suzanne Collins, step aside Lois Lowry, there is a new author in town that will truly captivate your fans. Crewel is fast-paced, with an intense plot, and will grip readers from page one as Adelice discovers the truth behind the perfection.
Kresley Cole opens her new Arcana Chronicles series for older teens with Poison Princess. Evie Greene is a sixteen-year-old cheerleader from a privileged upbringing whose life changed last year when she began having apocalyptic hallucinations. She begins her junior year of high school desperate to fit in and get her life back, but the terrible hallucinations begin again. This time, other strange things start happening to her. Evie knows that telling anyone about what she sees would definitely cause her mother to send her back to the Children’s Learning Center, a mental institution for disturbed children where she spent the summer “recovering” from her visions.
Then, the Flash happens, and everything that Evie saw comes true. The blinding light and heat kills most people, leaving behind only ash. All plant-life dies, and the Bagmen, zombie-like creatures desperate for water, now roam the world that was left behind killing the survivors to drink their blood. Evie meets up with another survivor, Jackson Deveaux, the gorgeous Cajun bad boy who tormented her during her last week of school. Evie is now suffering auditory hallucinations and debilitating visions where she sees the evil Poison Princess and hears voices telling her that the Major Arcana, other people with talents based on the most powerful cards in the tarot deck, are hunting her down. When Evie was a child, her grandmother called her Empress and told her that one day the Arcana would come for her. Jackson and Evie set out for North Carolina to try to find Evie’s grandmother who Evie believes can explain what is happening.
Readers who know Cole’s Immortals After Dark series for adults are familiar with her remarkable talent for world-building. The world that she creates for this new series, along with the complex tarot card-based mythology, builds slowly throughout the book. It does take some time for the reader to understand where the series is going, but the payoff is huge. Readers will be clamoring for the next story in the series to find out what happens to Evie when she finally understands and accepts her fate.
Even after the smoke clears, technology fails, science runs amuck, society as we know it collapses and the power-drunk take over, there is still a glimmer of hope for mankind. After: Nineteen Stories of Apocalypse and Dystopia presents tales that take place after of the end of the world as we knew it. Editors Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling commissioned work from some of the most popular and critically acclaimed authors for young adults. The resulting stories are both disturbing and thought-provoking, leaving readers pondering the what-ifs.
Carrie Ryan explores the zombie territory that made her name as a writer in “After the Cure,” where the teen protagonist has been “rehabilitated” from her former life as a member of a pack of the bloodthirsty undead. The zombie plague began as a diet drug gone wrong; the girl’s secret--her taste for flesh has merely been sublimated. Science again spins out of control in “Fake Plastic Trees” by fantasy author Caitín R. Kiernan, where a replicating “goo” intended to provide food for an ever-expanding population goes rogue. The nano-assemblers creating the substance begin rapidly transforming “just about anything” into plastic. Narrator Cody tells her story after The Event, but the threat of mutating strains of nanos persists.
Echoes of Nazi and Khmer Rouge soldiers brutalizing families under a dictator’s orders make Susan Beth Pfeffer’s “Reunion” one of the most chilling stories of the lot. Set entirely in an office where the walls and even the lone window have been painted a dull brown, the leader of a totalitarian government in a nameless location has fallen. Isabella’s mother seeks her oldest daughter, who had been taken away years ago by soldiers and given to a childless colonel and his wife. How will they know for certain which of the brainwashed young women is really Maria?
An afterword by the editors chronicles a brief history of teen interest in the dystopian genre, which has its roots in often-assigned adult classics written by authors such as H.G. Wells, Aldous Huxley, Ray Bradbury and William Golding. The stories of After make worthy thematic companions.
Fans of James Dashner’s best-selling Maze Runner trilogy rejoice! The events preceding the construction of the maze and the fates of the Gladers are now revealed in The Kill Order.
Long before Thomas created and entered the maze, the earth was bombarded by solar flares which destroyed most of the living creatures on the planet. Those who survived were left to fight against a disease that ravages both brain and body. Alec, Mark and Trina are among these survivors, and with a small group in tow they stay on the move in the mountains near what was Asheville, North Carolina. They do their best to avoid others at all costs, for fear of contagion, but other wanderers do find them. The group gets smaller and smaller as members succumb to the disease, and Mark and Alec strike out alone to find answers and hopefully a cure.
Much like the Maze Runner trilogy, Dashner presents as many questions as answers in this prequel; however, the background information regarding the solar flares and their consequences does explain some of the events that follow in latter books. As always, Dashner provides a good mix of high-octane action and intense emotion that will keep readers engaged. He is currently working on the screenplay for the film adaptation of The Maze Runner, which is now in pre-production with Wes Ball making his directorial debut.
Hope has always been rooted in the future. Each generation hopes that the ones who come after them will safeguard humanity and make things even better. So what happens to hope when there is no next generation?
In Partials, Dan Wells shows us a future in which hope is dying. In the aftermath of war, there is a virus that infects every newborn at birth, and none survive more than a few days. What remains of the government is a group called the Senate, and they have created The Hope Act, which requires all females age 18 or above to become pregnant in order to try and save the human race. But more babies are not the answer…finding a cure is. 16 year-old Kira is a trained medic who works on the maternity floor of the hospital. She sees babies die every day and watches young mothers grieve loss after loss. When her best friend becomes pregnant, Kira decides to try something radical—to capture and study one of the “partials.” Partials are genetically engineered beings that were created to protect and serve humans but later rebelled, launched a war, and attacked with the virus. Partials are the enemy, and the Senate officials will not condone such a mission; therefore Kira and a select group decide to strike out in secret. What Kira finds outside of the boundaries of East Meadow is not what she expected, and she learns that truth depends entirely upon who you ask.
Wells is the author of the thrilling John Cleaver series (I am not a Serial Killer, Mr. Monster.) He has been nominated for both the Hugo and the Campbell Award. Great writing seems to run in the family, as his younger brother Robison Wells is the author of the teen chiller Variant. Dan Wells’ first teen novel, Partials, is a smart post-apocalyptic thriller with great teen/adult crossover potential that will appeal to fans of medical thrillers, and dystopian and science fiction.