With the popularity of The Hunger Games, it comes as no surprise that more young adult readers are looking for dystopian type novels. I teach eighth grade and when looking to add a few new selections to the bookshelf in my classroom, I came across these titles, all of which I enjoyed:
The Roar by Emma Clayton (2009)
In the future, civilization is protected by high security fences. A deadly plague has infected the animals, turning them into vicious killers, but Mika, the main character, begins to have his suspicions once his twin sister mysteriously disappears. The Roar combines dystopian elements with science fiction and suspense. There is also a sequel, The Whisper, which is equally good.
Gone by Michael Grant (2008)
Every adult vanishes unexpectedly, and what happens in the confusing aftermath is even more horrific. Gone is an action packed novel turned series that many of my students not only enjoy, but fight over who gets to read the next book.
Black Hole Sun by David Macinnis Gill (2010)
This novel reminds me of Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles, only Black Hole Sun actually has a suspenseful, enjoyable page-turning plot. The novel takes place on a polluted, festering Mars. It has sort of a Firefly, space cowboy feel to it that makes it a lot of fun to read.
The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch (2011)
Post-apocalypse, humanity has been shattered by a devastating strand of influenza, and the novel focuses on a community that struggles to deal with the aftermath. The great thing about this novel is that it completely suspends disbelief, making Hirsch's scenario about the end of civilization as we know it completely realistic and believable.
The best thing about all of the above-mentioned novels is that they all have young teenage main characters that most young adult readers can really identify with.
I would encourage you to consider another series, collectively known as The Book of Ember. The first book in the series is The City of Ember, which was selected for a number of awards including the American Library Association Notable Book list and time on the New York Times Children's Paperback Fiction Bestseller List.
Ember is a city living on the edge. Before the opening of the story, a nuclear war has destroyed much of the world as we know it and has critically damaged the infrastructure of most of what survives. Ember, “the only light in the dark world,” is the only human settlement that still has electricity, but the equipment is failing.
The two main characters, twelve-year-olds (which makes them adults in Ember's society) Lina and Doon, join forces to attempt to find a solution to the deteriorating condition of the generator providing electricity to Ember. Doon's position as a pipeworks laborer allows him to get access to the generator; Lina's travels as a messenger allow her to see and hear things and make connections that contribute to progress in attempting to solve the problems that arise.
It's detailed, filled with enough intrigue to keep middle-schoolers interested, and a good discussion-starter!
I would offer a word of caution about using The Giver in a middle school setting; I taught it to my eighth grade classes a couple of years, and once to a section of seventh graders. While the eighth graders generally seemed to do all right with it, a couple of my seventh graders became very distressed as it became apparent that the "releasing" of community members meant they were actually being murdered, or to make it sound more palatable, "euthanized". The students who seemed the most upset about it were very good students, serious students, and among the more mature of the students studying the book. So I guess the question would be, was it upsetting to them because of their age (middle school) or advanced maturity level? I'm not sure, and I do recommend The Giver to students sometimes if they're looking for a dystopian-type book to read, or if it seems like they would like it, but I always caution them about the themes, and suggest that if they have any questions or concerns, they should direct them to their parents, or to me, or both.
Is this intended for an independent read or a whole class read? If it's independent, I would recommend Matched by Allie Condie. It's a great dystopic novel- especially for girls- and is turning into a series, but I'm not sure I would recommend it for a whole class read. It probably isn't literary enough and focuses a bit too much on the love story aspect.
The Maze Runner trilogy is also excellent, and it's adding a prequel. Again, though, I would only recommend this for an independent read rather than a whole class read.
A recent series of science fiction dystopian novels that are very accessible for young adults is the WOOL series by Hugh Howey. They were initially self-published but have now been published by a major house, and are to be developed into a major motion picture soon. Essentially, they are about people who live in a post-apocalyptic society where everyone lives in self-contained silos, protected from the outside world.
An interesting post-apocalypse story is Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve and the first in a quartet of related books. Book 1 tells about Tom who is a third class apprentice in the Tracton City of London. The Earth underwent the effects of The Sixty Minute nulear War and was ravaged by natural disasters. Tractons were invented as a way to save populations and elevate them above Earth.
I have to second the aforementioned classics--Animal Farm, Brave New World, 1984, and Lord of the Flies--all which I first read in junior high during the late 1960s and early 1970s. I might also suggest Jerzy Kosinski's The Painted Bird, the tale of a boy's horrifying experiences escaping the Nazi Holocaust in World War II Poland.
I'd second the suggestion of Fahrenheit 451. This novel is good for middle school level readers, though it may be a bit of a stretch/challenge for a some seventh and eigth grade readers. This book is hailed as a classic and it nicely represents the genre of dystopian novels.
Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix is a future dystopian sci-fi that is also good. Its a bit simpler (more 6th grade than 8th grade) but very poignantly written. The Shadow Children series continues with several books that follow different protagonists to a thrilling conclusion!
City of Ember is another future dystopian sci-fi that is simple but enjoyable. This is also a series.
Both of these novels focus on children as the protagonists which is an added bonus.
The divergent trilogy is a good choice for dystopian novels. Another dystopian series that is very good is the delirium trilogy. The maze runner, city of embers, 1984, brave new world are some other more advanced novels bur I have also heard them to be some very good dystopian novels
"Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card.
It's easily mine and my son's favorite book to date. He read it at age 13, but there are elements in it that are questionable for the age. I'm not an efficient or fast reader, but I flew through this book with eagerness unrivalled in any novel. I could not put it down. A very, very close second would be "Ender's Shadow" by the same author. It tells the same story from another character's perspective revealing more about the bigger picture.
1984 is a fantastic dystopian novel I would also suggest a fairly recent book called "The Book of Dave" which is about a post apocalyptic society finding a book written by a london taxi driver, using it as a religious scripture and forming their society around it. A very odd book.
This one is a hit-or-miss, but at a certain intellectual age you might enjoy the graphic novel "V for Vendetta" by Alan Moore; it and Watchmen are the only superhero-based graphic novels that are really of any depth. Also, Orwell is great but he must have been mentioned in every comment so far. Avoid Fahrenheit 451 at all costs; it is absolute garbage because of the twin curses of bad writing and bad philosophy.
Divergent has shown to be very popular. Ender's Game, The Maze Runner, Hunger Games, City of Ember. These are just some options you could use.
Divergent and Insurgent by Veronica Roth are incredible.