Fri11282014

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Desperate for dystopia: Book recommendations for local teens

Young adults today are transfixed by the miserable fates suffered in the best-selling “Hunger Games” trilogy. But now that the series is complete, teens might not know where to turn to get their fix.

Thankfully, the concept of idealizing human misery has been around for quite some time. Following are some of my favorite dystopian novels. They can be enjoyed by anyone but are for the most part directed at teens. Because who knows dystopia better than a high school student?

In “The Maze Runner” (Delacorte, 2009), James Dashner introduces readers to Thomas. And that’s all we know about him – his first name. Thomas proceeds to meet several other children, who insist that they know him. They also tell Thomas that they are inside a giant maze, and they don’t know how to escape. Dashner’s pace and style make this book impossible to put down, as you never know what might happen next.

Michael Grant’s dystopian science-fiction series “Gone” (Katherine Tegen Books, 2009) features plenty of action but is very dark as well. It follows the adventures of Sam Temple in the eerie town of Perdido Beach, Calif. On a completely normal day, everyone in the town older than 15 vanishes. Not only that, but the city and the surrounding areas are engulfed in an impenetrable bubble. Sam subsequently discovers that he and his peers have developed a unique supernatural ability. The six-part series will conclude with “Light,” which Grant plans to release next year.

Dystopia has been around for a long time, and with any long-standing genre, there are many classics. One of the best is “The Giver” by Lois Lowry (Laurel Leaf, 1994). This classic revolutionized the genre, because Lowry wrote it as if it weren’t a dystopia. She attempts to deceive the reader by writing from a utopian perspective. However, it doesn’t take long for the reader to discover the true nature of the tale.

The story revolves around a 12-year-old boy named Jonas who lives in a society that attempts to eliminate arguments, pain and other challenges by converting to “Sameness,” which also limits the amount of emotion felt by people in this society. When a youth turns 12, a ceremony takes place in which each child is assigned his or her profession. But on the day of his ceremony, Jonas’ name is skipped. The novel follows what happens after, as Jonas learns things that he doesn’t want to know and his perspective on “Sameness” changes.

Another old dystopic tale that claims its place among the classics is “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury, originally published in 1953 but reproduced in many editions over the years. The story centers on Montag, who lives in a future United States where books are banned. Montag is a fireman, but his job isn’t to extinguish fires – his job is to make fire. Montag’s profession involves burning the houses of those who have committed the crime of owning books. All his life, Montag has performed his job without questioning authority. But after meeting a mysterious girl, his perspective on society changes and he finds himself in the middle of a self-inflicted conflict.

Other classics like George Orwell’s “1984,” written in 1948, and Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” from 1931 line library shelves. Newer titles – Scott Westerfeld’s “Uglies” series begun in 2005 and Veronica Roth’s “Divergent” series, the first of which was published last year – carry the dystopian torch.

Dystopias have been around for a long time, and all these new titles may even include a name that will eventually be heralded among the classics.

All titles are available at the Los Altos Library.

Nathan Desai is a sophomore at Monta Vista High School.

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