Dystopian novels—often set in the future—depict undesirable or frightening societies where the citizens suffer from restrictions and/or injustices.
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.
THE MEMORY POLICE
Novel by Yoko Ogawa
Things are disappearing. Hats, ribbons, roses, perfume, birds, boats, photographs. Most of the people living on the unnamed island don’t notice the change when it happens, but few have the power to recall the lost items. They live in fear of the Memory Police, who are responsible for making sure what has disappeared remains forgotten. Yoko Ogawa is a bestselling author in Japan. This novel was just recently translated into English. Chilling!
Novel by M.T. Anderson
Imagine that you had no need for a smartphone because the connection, your “feed,” was implanted inside you? Imagine being connected 24/7 through a brain implant to a vast computer network. “The thing about the feed is that it knows everything you want and hope for, sometimes before you even know what those things are.” This novel will make such a world seem very close indeed.
Novel by Scott Westerfield
In a postapocalyptic world, everyone receives an operation at the age of 16 that makes them physically perfect. Prior to this operation, they are known as “uglies” and after, “pretties.” “Pretties” enjoy a life of endless partying and pleasure, so Tally can’t wait until she turns 16. Before her 16th birthday, Tally befriends Shay. Shay tells Tally all about a secret community—known as the Smoke—made up of “uglies” who refused the operation. Shay runs away to join them, and Tally is given a choice by the police: help them find the Smoke and betray her friend, or remain an ugly forever.
As you read these titles, consider:
- What are the “rules” that members of these dystopian societies must follow?
- Why is attempting to be perfect or getting everything you want dangerous?
Try out one of these activities to further your reading:
- Listen to this book club podcast discussing The Memory Police. Consider creating your own podcast reviewing this book or another.
- Check out these videos and activities for STEM read, Feed by M.T. Anderson.
- Visit Scott Westerfield’s website for Uglies discussion questions. Is this a book you think more young adults should read? Why or why not?
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