Margaret Peterson Haddix is arguably the queen of children’s dystopian. She launched her shadow children series in 1998. Nancy Farmer followed several years later with House of Scorpion which was nominated for multiple awards. City of Ember, by Jeanne DuPrau reached similar popularity. Today these books are still in demand, and other authors have jumped into the fray to offer their take on the dark side of society and where it may take us in the future.
The City of Ember (series) by Jeanne DuPrau
Hundreds of years ago an underground civilization was created by the Builders. They left behind a message with directions to an exit. Now the situation is dire. Food and light bulbs are running out. Two children find a piece of the original message and the race is on to save the people from catastrophe.
Among the Hidden (series) by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Classic dystopian series about the shadow children. In the future, families are only allowed two children, but Luke is a third child and no one can find out. When a new subdivision goes up in the woods behind his house, he notices a child’s face at the window of a home that already has two children. It’s another shadow child and Luke is desperate for a friend.
The Big Dark by Rodman Philbrick
An electromagnetic event occurs that shuts down all electricity, including batteries. Charlie lives in New Hampshire and it’s the dead of winter. He must help his family stay warm, get food and most importantly get the medicine his mom needs for diabetes. The only pharmacy in town has been destroyed. An anarchist family is wreaking havoc. The only chance for medicine is 50 miles away.
The Firefly Code (series) by Megan Frazer Blakemore
Mori and her friends live in one of several utopias in the U.S. At age 13, they choose a “latency” based on a series of skills tests. Soon after, they undergo a surgical procedure to enhance their latency, or natural born talent. When a new girl moves in across the street and they decide to search the abandoned home of the original founder of their town, the friends begin to question the purpose behind their perfect utopia.
The House of Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
This book is unsettling, but absolutely spellbinding. Matt is a clone of the very wealthy El Patron. El Patron is trying to beat death using clones. They are created for spare parts and therefore are treated as lab animals, rather than humans. This book will leave you thinking about the ethical dilemma of cloning. Nominated for multiple top literary awards.
Masterminds (series) by Gordon Korman
Everything is perfect in Serenity, New Mexico. No crime. No unemployment. Perfect houses. One problem. It’s boring. When Eli and his friends try to leave the city limits, they are swarmed by a S.W.A.T. team. What’s going on? Who can they trust? Certainly not their parents.
The Giver (series) by Lois Lowry
This is one of the first children’s books to tackle the idea of utopian societies. People are equal. Negative emotions are stifled. Everything is chosen for you. At age 12, children are given their future job assignment. Jonas receives a mysterious assignment that is rarely handed out. He will work with the Giver, the keeper of memories, and what he learns will be unsettling.
A Whisper of Horses by Zillah Bethell
An event known as the Gases has changed London. There’s now a wall around the city and no one can leave. The government sends out deceptive images of the world outside the wall. When Serendipity’s mother dies, she must move to a cruel orphanage or take her chances on the outside. Along with Tad, a boy smuggler, she escapes the wall and goes in search of any horses that might still exist.
Dark Life (series) by Kat Falls
Earth has succumbed to environmental changes that has left 20% of the land underwater. The United States is overcrowded and a colony has been built underwater in the ocean. A band of outlaws are wreaking havoc on the ocean colony and the government can’t catch them, so they are talking about closing the settlement. When ocean dweller Ty meets land dweller Gemma, they both get caught up in the fight to stop the outlaws.