by Serena Chase)
Dictionary.com defines dystopia as: "a society characterized by human misery, as squalor, oppression, disease, and overcrowding." And these books show those kinds of society very well ... and very differently ... all while weaving adventure and romance across the pages. They might not be what every reader considers dystopian lit, but here is a little bit about why I'm giving them that distinction — even if, in some cases, their publisher didn't.
Remnants: Season of Wonder by Lisa T. Bergren
What it's about (from the author):
Andriana is a Remnant, one of the gifted teens born on the seventh day during the seventy-seventh Harvest after the Great War, and destined to act as humanity's last shield against the horrors that now plague those who remain.
After years of training in stealth and warfare, Andriana and her Knight protector, Ronan, are finally ready to answer the Call and begin the life they were designed for. But as they embark with the other Remnants on the first of their assignments, they quickly discover that the world beyond their protected Valley home is more dangerous than they imagined.
The Sons of Sheol will stop at nothing to prevent Dri and Ronan from rescuing anyone sympathetic to the Remnants' cause. And as the Remnants attempt to battle the demonic forces, other enemies close in. Dangers intensify, but so do Dri's feelings for Ronan--the one emotion she is not meant to feel. In the midst of their mission, Andriana must find a way to master her feelings, or risk compromising everything.
What makes it a sure-fire rec'd read: A beautiful hybrid of what has drawn adults and teens to devour Bergren's books in the past, this first installment in her new Remnants series injects something entirely new into the dystopian lit genre. Combining supernaturally gifted characters and the pull of forbidden love within a post-apocalyptic world, Lisa T. Bergren invites readers into a romantic dystopian adventure that feels like epic fantasy, has the energy of a paranormal romance, and jabs the heart with truth each time characters meet at the intersection of the demonic and the divine. If you think you know what YA dystopian lit is all about, think again! With Remnants: Season of Wonder, Lisa T. Bergren takes this genre to the next level and sets a new bar for those coming after. I cannot recommend this book strongly enough! Grab your copy now!
The Here and Now by Ann Brashares
What it's about (from publisher Delacorte Press):
An unforgettable epic romantic thriller about a girl from the future who might be able to save the world ... if she lets go of the one thing she's found to hold on to.
Follow the rules. Remember what happened. Never fall in love.
This is the story of seventeen-year-old Prenna James, who immigrated to New York when she was twelve. Except Prenna didn't come from a different country. She came from a different time—a future where a mosquito-borne illness has mutated into a pandemic, killing millions and leaving the world in ruins.
Prenna and the others who escaped to the present day must follow a strict set of rules: never reveal where they're from, never interfere with history, and never, ever be intimate with anyone outside their community. Prenna does as she's told, believing she can help prevent the plague that will one day ravage the earth.
But everything changes when Prenna falls for Ethan Jarves.
Why I recommend it as "dystopian" romance: From the author of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants comes another YA novel that mixes a bit of the fantastic with the ordinary, but in a fresh new way. This book is not necessarily being billed as dystopian YA, but when you consider why Prenna is in our world (the future was so messed up she had to leave to survive) and the community of which she is a part (a super-controlled society with advanced knowledge and advanced technology which operates as its own little world within a world), I think it qualifies as dystopian-ish on two different levels. But at the same time … not.
Hang with me, cuz if you like relationship-centered dystopia, you're gonna want to read this one.
I'm calling it dystopian(ish), but The Here and Now could just as easily sit among the time-travel sci-fi, coming-of-age, or romantic thrillers of YA. Honestly, even though I really don't know how to categorize it, I loved it — and the ending made me hope (really, really hope!) for a sequel, although the author, via Twitter, told me she did not write it intending a sequel. *Serena whimpers and begs a little* But … she did say she could imagine returning to these characters, so … we shall see!
With mild language, and some allusions to the sex-that-could-happen (don't worry, Moms, nothing graphic!), this is a pretty clean read with mature themes, vivid characters, and sincere emotional depth that will stick with you long after the final page is turned.
Elusion by Claudia Gabel and Cheryl Klam
What it's about (from publisher Katherine Tegan Books):
The mind-blowing beginning of a futuristic series about the seductive nature of a perfect virtual world and how far one girl will go to uncover the truth behind the illusions.
A new technology is sweeping the country. To enter Elusion, you need an app, a visor, and a wristband and you'll be virtually transported to an exotic destination where adventure comes without the complications or consequences of real life. When there are accusations that Elusion is addictive and dangerous, Regan is determined to defend it and is pulled into incredible new worlds to discover deeply buried truths and to make the ultimate choice between love and loyalty ...
Full of thrilling mystery, romance, and intriguing technology, this Inception-inspired thriller is perfect for fans of dystopian and sci-fi novels such as Uglies by Scott Westerfeld, Matched by Ally Condie, and Partials by Dan Wells.
Why (besides that gorgeous cover!) you should read it: OK, it was the cover that sold me. *Click, click, MINE*
In this version of Detroit, the authors create a vividly depressing and gray future and then add the possibility of mentally escaping to a utopian world through technology. Here, freedom isn't challenged as much by government oppression or apocalyptic events like in many dystopian novels, but by the limitations of the environment. Pollution has escalated to require oxygen masks when outdoors and people work or attend school seven long days a week, skirting frequent bursts of acid rain when in transit.
Kind of sounds like a place needing an escapism sort of relief, eh? Enter Elusion — and that escape can be yours.
Character and world building steadily pace the first half of the book without weighing it down, but a full-on adrenaline rush kicks you in the head around the halfway mark of the story. From there on out you're as addicted to Elusion as some of the characters in the story are to their like-named app. Considering the pace of technological advancements, this story is frighteningly cutting-edge, but it is also romantic (there's a love triangle … sort of) and suspenseful with plenty of thrills. There is evidence of a teen "hook-up" and the spare use of strong language, but it is a pretty clean read without the graphic violence common to a lot of the dystopian lit out there. Yes, I am calling this futuristic sci-fi romance "dystopian" — even though I may be the only one who does. And I can hardly wait to read the next book in this series!
A writer, performer and accomplished partaker of dark chocolate, Serena Chase lives in Iowa with her husband and two daughters. The first two books in her debut Eyes of E'veria series, The Ryn and The Remedy, are out now. You can find out more about her at serenachase.com.