Top 10 Dystopian Novels for High School Students

Dystopian literature, especially of the young-adult variety, has exploded in popularity in recent years. Are you considering teaching these kinds of books? Already teaching dystopian literature? Share your favorites in the comments below.


Totalitarian Government • Censorship • Surveillance State • Culture of Fear • Erasure of History

Orwell's speculation on government's ability to control citizens is still relevant today, and the book continues to be a favorite in schools.

The Handmaid's Tale

Totalitarian Government • Feminist Theory • Surveillance State • Theocratic State

Told from the perspective of one downtrodden handmaid whose sole purpose is to reproduce, Atwood’s 1985 novel will be sure to spark classroom discussions and student responses.

Brave New World

Population Control • Anti-intellectualism • Constant Consumption • Entertainment as Escapism

Originally published in 1932, Brave New World depicts a dystopian future in which humans are genetically designed and are willing to go along with an authoritarian government.

Fahrenheit 451

Totalitarian Government • Censorship • Anti-intellectualism • Entertainment as Escapism

Bradbury's surreal tale of a dystopian future where reading is eschewed and firemen start blazes to burn books is one of science fiction's enduring classics.

The Giver

Totalitarian Government • Erasure of History • Descruction of Individuality

The Giver is an interesting read with significant topics for discussion, such as whether sameness is good and suffering is bad and how tradition can be used as a controlling mechanism in society.

The Hunger Games

Totalitarian Government • Extreme Economic Inequality • Reality Television

This dystopian novel set in the not-so-distant future is filled with fast-paced action and suspense that will enthrall readers from the first few pages.

The Time Machine

Class Struggles • Marxist Theory • Mythological/Archetypal Theory • Decadence of the Upper Class

H. G. Wells’s famous novel can be taught as pure science fiction, as a classic frame narrative, or as social commentary.

Lord of the Flies

Anarchy • The Brutal Nature of Humanity • Society as Good Influence

The unconventional plot, the soaring language, and the complex symbolism within this harrowing story make Golding's masterpiece one of the most important books your classes will read.

Ready Player One

Economic Collapse • Escapism into Virtual Worlds • Exhaustion of Natural Resources

A rollicking adventure set in a dystopian future, Ready Player One is the story of a teenager who spends most of his free time in a virtual reality playground that offers him a more fulfilling life than does the physical world.


Post-Apocalyspe • Rigid Social Classes • Persecution of the Different

This dystopian thriller, filled with life-changing decisions, heartbreaking betrayals, and unexpected romance, is a favorite in classrooms nationwide.