Laurie Halse Anderson, author of Speak, on the question “Have any readers ever asked questions that shocked you?”
Read that again. Read it again, and again, and again. Over and over guys have asked her why Melinda was so upset about being raped. This is a girl who went to a party with friends. She was thirteen. She had a drink, because everyone else was. And a senior held her down and raped her while she was too drunk to get away.
And guys don’t understand why she was upset.
Read that again and then come back and tell me again why I should just shut up and take a joke when a comedian blows off rape as a big deal, or women’s bodies are casually treated as commodities in media. Remind me why I shouldn’t care about the very real harm that society’s treatment of women and sexual assault does.
You’ve already stuffed yourself with multiple readings of Suzanne Collins’ YA sensation The Hunger Gamesand its two sequels, Catching Fire and Mockingjay. For dessert, you popped in your copy of the first movie adaptation (for the fifth time). But you still aren’t satiated—even after preordering your tickets for the midnight premiere of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, in theaters tonight.
What’s a starving fan of brutal, proactive dystopian young adult novels to do? Check out one of the six book series below, guaranteed to soothe your Hunger pains. (They will unfortunately do nothing for the pain caused by this extended metaphor…I’m sorry.)
The Giver Quartet, by Lois Lowry (The Giver, Gathering Blue, Messenger, Son): The grandfather of modern YA dystopian lit offers a gentler take on the story of oppressive governments controlling your every thought and deed. The Giver, published 20 years ago, is a classic for a reason, the heart-rending story of a boy forced to choose between the world he knows and the freedom he realizes has been stolen from him. The first two sequels are only loosely connected, but the final book, 2012’s Son, brings all the story threads together.
The Chaos Walking Trilogy, by Patrick Ness (The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Ask and the Answer,Monsters of Men): Like The Hunger Games but thought it was a little too cheerful? Patrick Ness’ grimmer-than-grim series is the one for you. Set in a world where men can hear one another’s thoughts (a jumble of sounds and feelings they call “noise”), the story follows a boy named Todd who is thrust into a violent world of politics and civil war when he happens upon an outsider from another world—a girl named Viola. The fact that men can’t hear women’s “noise” is only a hint at the themes of gender equality and feminism that come into play—and even that is only another element in a larger story focused on gray moral choices, security vs. freedom, and race relations (even if one of the races is truly alien). Word of warning: dog lovers, bring tissues.
The Divergent Trilogy, by Veronica Roth (Divergent, Insurgent, Allegiant): The clear successor to the subgenre throne, the just-completed Divergent trilogy is sure to become even bigger next year with the release of the first film adaptation. It’s set in a postapocalyptic Chicago whose inhabitants are tested as teenagers and placed into one of five factions that make up the “virtues” of humanity: Amity (peacefulness), Abnegation (selflessness), Candor (honesty), Dauntless (bravery), and Erudite (intelligence). Unfortunately for our hero, Tris, she doesn’t fit into any of the factions—she is Divergent. That’s a big no-no. Like The Hunger Games, the Divergent series offers a perfect blend of fight against government oppression and swoon-worthy romance. (Not to mention a controversial finale.)
The Maze Runner Trilogy, by James Dashner (The Maze Runner, The Scorch Trials, The Death Cure): If your favorite part of The Hunger Games are the titular games, this might be the series for you. A boy named Thomas wakes up in a mysterious setting called the Glade with no memories of his past. The only inhabitants are other boys, who all work together to try to solve the treacherous Maze that surrounds the Glade. As seems to be a recurring theme in these books, everything changes when a girl shows up. This series will also be getting a 2014 film adaptation.
The Matched Trilogy, by Allie Condie (Matched, Crossed, Reached): Perhaps closer in spirit to The Giverthan The Hunger Games, Condie’s trilogy nevertheless features many of the same themes, including a rigidly structured society (in this case, all teenagers are told who to love), a fight against government oppression, and a well-executed love triangle.
The Silo Trilogy, by Hugh Howey (Wool, Shift, Dust): Though not marketed as YA lit, Howey’s series (which began life as a self-published collection of novellas before attracting major readership—and major publisher interest) pushes all the same buttons. It takes place in a future world devastated by nuclear war, where the remnants of humanity huddle together in a giant underground missile silo–turned-habitat. Protagonist Juliette, who could give Katniss a run for her money in the badass department, starts off the series as a lowly engineer but quickly takes on a world-changing role when she discovers those who run the silo aren’t telling people the truth about what’s really going on. The second book, Shift, is a prequel that explores how things got so bad, while the final installment, Dust, continues Juliette’s story