Dystopian Novels to Get Students

After a cataclysmic electromagnetic pulse explodes and sends mankind back to the dark ages, billions are left dead. Even more frightening, a large portion of the survivors have been irreversibly mutated, losing all sense of humanity and rendered the equivalent of hyper-aggressive zombies. As civilization is propelled into a downward spiral, young Alex finds herself at a crossroads.

Just moments before the disaster, she was already at the deepest depths of despair, mourning her dead parents and suffering from a terminal illness. Yet, as the world descends into chaos, Alex is left little time for self-pity. Overwhelmed by curiosity and feeling like she has nothing to lose, she sets off on an action-packed, heart-wrenching quest to make sense of the madness.

For most students, a world without selfies, social media and on-demand entertainment seems unimaginable. Certainly, they are reaping the rewards of an era bound to go down as one of the most transformational, prosperous periods of human history. Nonetheless, it’s easy to forget that the technology we’ve come to rely on is far from indestructible. With dependence comes vulnerability, and Author Lisa J. Brick masterfully illustrates the devastating effects of a forced, global digital detox.

The Ashes trilogy envisions a world where technological advancement has proven to be a double-edged sword. Use this as an opportunity for students to imagine a life without digital devices. Then, instruct them to write a brief essay on what 21st Century perk they’d miss the most. Alternatively, you could divide the class into groups, challenging each one to create a survival kit that would still prove useful in a world completely void of modern conveniences.

In the world of Delirium, a futuristic United States has devolved into a totalitarian regime, one that’s isolated from the world and micromanaged with brutal efficiency. In fact, the very notion of “love” itself has been declared an enemy of the state. Love for pets, love for spouses, even showing too much affection towards your children are all crimes punishable by death. Until their 18th birthday, boys and girls are kept segregated and strictly forbidden from interacting with the opposite sex. Once they turn 18, they are given a “cure”, rendering them incapable of forming sentimental attachments. Afterwards, both their marriage partner and career are assigned by the state. For the most part, 17-year-old Lena Haloway is happy with the way things are. After all, she’s known nothing else. However, months before receiving a cure for Deliria (love), she meets Alex — a dark, rebellious young man that causes her worldview to come crashing down.

When it comes to psychopathic ideologies becoming official government policy, history is riddled with tragic examples. However, novels as well-written as the Delirium trilogy immerse young readers in a way that a WWII documentary never could. Certainly, author Lauren Oliver Harper breathes fresh air into a genre often criticized for repackaging the same old plot lines. When we really drill down into it, the series has more in common with Orwell’s 1984 than something like the Hunger Games. Students may not be able to understand every nuance of totalitarianism, but love is always sure to resonate. By outlawing such a fundamental human trait, readers are left with a clear understanding of why personal liberty must never be extinguished.

Considering Divergent is based around a crucial choice, have students provide an example of an important decision they were forced to make. How has it impacted their life? Alternatively, you could ask the class to write an essay on the importance of accepting and working with people of different beliefs and backgrounds.Along those same lines, you could also give students a list of 10 personality traits and have them rank each one in order of importance. Afterwards, surprise the class by assigning teams according to the trait students deemed most desirable. Then, issue a task/project and strictly limit communication to those within the same group. Once this is complete, have the class reflect on the experience

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