Great Summer Reads with Carol Jago: Dystopian Tales, Grades 6-8

Carol Jago Blogs5

Dystopian novels—often set in the future—depict undesirable or frightening societies where the citizens suffer from restrictions and/or injustices.

Dear Readers,

You may be wondering why this is a good time to read a dystopian novel. Who needs more to worry about? I would like to argue that stories about “what could happen” can help prepare us for the unimaginable.

Happy reading!



Novel by Corey Ann Haydu

Eventown is a perfect place—perfectly organized, perfectly beautiful, perfectly friendly. But what happens to normal imperfections in this utopia? After all, utopia literally means “nowhere.” Newly arrived twins, Naomi and Elodee, discover in the course of a series of unfortunate events that perfection is actually a false goal. This is a gently told story about important issues. It might be perfect to pair with Lois Lowry’s The Giver.


Novel by Suzanne Collins

This prequel to the Hunger Games trilogy is set decades before Katniss Everdeen is even born. Unlike the trilogy, this book mainly focuses on the experiences of a capitol teenager, Coriolanus Snow, who is in charge of mentoring one of the district tributes forced to participate in the annual Hunger Games. As Coriolanus considers his future—and tribute Lucy Gray’s—what is right and wrong becomes less and less clear. Survival is all that matters in times of war.


Novel by Nancy Farmer

This unputdownable science fiction coming-of-age story won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature and was named both a Newbery and Printz honor book. The compelling story is set in the future in a land called Opium with a hero, Matt, who is a clone. If that isn’t enough to pique your interest, how about the fact that Matt was created to be an organ donor for a drug lord? Along with plenty of action, there is a lot to think about here in terms of the ethics of bioengineering.

As you read these titles, consider:

  • What are the “rules” that members of these dystopian societies must follow?
  • Why is attempting to be perfect dangerous?

Try out one of these activities to further your reading:

  • Check out these characteristics of dystopian societies as described by ReadWriteThink. What characteristics do you recognize from the novel you read?
  • Read more about Suzanne Collins's thought process for developing Coriolanus Snow’s backstory and the overall plot of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. Then, read The Hunger Games trilogy!
  • Use these reading guide questions to think critically about The House of the Scorpion. Then, review the activities listed on the webpage to find interesting research topics related to the text.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of HMH.

HMH is not responsible for the content of third-party websites.


For texts and tasks designed to engage students in reading that matters to them, watch the recording of Carol Jago's webinar Fresh Literature That Widens Readers’ Horizons.

Photo of Carol Jago provided by ©Andrew Collings

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