Dystopia – what is it?


What is a dystopia? 

My definition is: a future or near-future society or world that has been decimated causing a fractured humanity. 

To me, so many books fit under the dystopian category, but so many of us don’t realise it, which is why I wanted to write this post to clarify what I mean when I call a book “dystopian”. Whilst there are your strictly dystopian dystopias, like The Hunger Games, 1984, etc., there are millions of books which I would also classify under the genre. This includes any books that focus on some form of future or near future society and discuss something along the lines of human rights, mental health, corrupt leadership, environmental impact or anything similar. Any aspect of our own society that is causing serious concern or having a great impact, and is discussed in a society separate from our own (usually by it being in the future or another “world”), is generally speaking a dystopia.

What is a dystopia? A guide to my definition of dystopia and lots and lots of recommendations - there's a dystopia for everyone. Read on to find out why.


The recent craze of dystopias has died down after the massive hype of The Hunger Games and Divergent, and with it, a lot of people seem to have switched to having a negative view of dystopias. From what I can tell, many people have given up on the genre and have the misconception that dystopias are very formulaic and unrealistic, featuring either female heroines who are “too” strong or who are too easily love swept. This is simply a generalised view of dystopias — it would be like me saying that all fantasy or horror books are the same, and we all know that’s not true.


What is a dystopia? A guide to my definition of dystopia and lots and lots of recommendations - there's a dystopia for everyone. Read on to find out why.


My (current) all time favourite book, A Court of Mist and Fury (book 2 of A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas) is actually labelled under fantasy, but to me, it 100% fits into the dystopian category. It deals hugely with mental health, slavery, cruel leadership, war, controlling figures and so much more. On the outside it looks strictly a fantasy because it involves mythical creatures, magic and immortals, but it in my eyes it is as it has aspects that are identical to those in other dystopian books.


What is a dystopia? A guide to my definition of dystopia and lots and lots of recommendations - there's a dystopia for everyone. Read on to find out why.


The funny thing is, many fantasy books are closer to my definition of dystopia (or even completely fit it) than 90% of science fiction books, which seem to be the ones most commonly compared to dystopias. Why do I believe this? For the reason that fantasy books often deal with darkness, a corrupt society, slavery, dysfunctional leaders… the list really is endless. In comparison, most science fiction books are about aliens, space, time travel and massive advances in technology, and aren’t really about humanity, which is what dystopias should, and are, about. Of course, I’m not suggesting that high fantasy books like The Lord of the Rings or A Game of Thrones fit into this category (though to some extent this could be justified) but that many books you might not think are dystopian do actually have enough dystopian elements to make them part of the genre, at least it does here on Delve into Dystopia.

What is a dystopia? A guide to my definition of dystopia and lots and lots of recommendations - there's a dystopia for everyone. Read on to find out why.

Maybe it’s because basically all I read is dystopia, so I’ve explored the genre a lot more than other people, but I definitely have a different view on its definition. I wanted to write this post to show how versatile the genre is. If all dystopian books were all very similar and stuck to the same formula as people seem to think they do, then I’d have got bored and given up by now. The truth is they’re not all the same; in fact there’s so much variety, I can assure you there’s a dystopia for everyone. Listed below are dystopias that are hybridised with other genres, so if you’re a fantasy, sci-fi, contemporary or horror fan, I’ve got you covered. Some titles are repeated as they fit into more than one category.


A Court of Thornes and Roses by Sarah J Maas (YA)

The Throne of Glass series by Sarah J Maas (YA)

The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer (YA)

The Shadow Queen by CJ Redwine (YA)

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon (YA)

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard (YA)

The Hunt by Andrew Fukuda (YA)

Angelfall by Susan Ee (YA)


The 100 by Kass Morgan (YA)

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey (YA)

The Host by Stephanie Meyer (YA)

Red Rising by Pierce Brown (YA)

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (adult)

The Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness (YA)

Beyond the Red by Ava Jae (YA)


Birdbox by Josh Malarian (adult)


Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill (YA)

Typical YA Dystopia

Divergent by Veronica Roth (YA)

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (YA)

The Maze Runner by James Dashner (YA)

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld (YA)

Legend by Marie Lu (YA)

Delirium by Lauren Oliver (YA)

Birthmarked by Caragh O’Brien (YA)

Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi (YA)


The Road by Cormac McCarthy (adult)

The End of the World Running Club by Adrian J. Walker (adult)

The Fireman by Joe Hill (adult)

Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins (adult)

The Rain by Virginia Bergin (YA)

Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel (adult)


Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi (YA)

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard (YA)


Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill (YA)

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (adult)

Classic dystopias

The Children of Men by PD James (adult)

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (adult)

1984 by George Orwell (adult)

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (adult)


The Last Wild by Piers Torday

UK based dystopias

The Rain by Virginia Bergin (YA)

The Glimpse by Claire Merle (YA)

The Declaration by Gemma Malley (YA)

The Killables by Gemma Malley (YA)

Crow Moon by Anna McKerrow (YA)

Slated by Teri Terry (YA)

Defiance by Sarah Jayne Tanner (YA)

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff (YA)

The Ship by Antonia Honeywell (YA)

Alternate dystopias

The Bees by Laline Paull(adult)


Smoke by Dan Vyleta (adult)


  • Kirsty 27/08/2016 at 9:01 pm

    I Love the UK based dystopia list. I’ll be checking those out. Sometimes I get bored with the vast amount of books set in the States and love something closer to home.
    It’s nice to see that your view on dystopia is quite close to my own. It shouldn’t be limited to just the typical YA books. It applies to books from all sorts of genres as you point out 🙂

  • Jess @ POB! 22/07/2016 at 7:59 pm

    Oh wow, your definition of dystopian is way different than what I’m used to! When I first started reading YA, I was really into dystopian. While I’ve taken a break from it for now, your blog actually makes me want to dive into it more (at least from the “typical dystopian” category). I’ve read/own a few books from your definition of dystopian, like Red Queen and Throne of Glass. I’ll have to take a look at that classic dystopian list, along with the UK based dystopians! I look forward to your future content, love!

    Jess @ POB!

    • Jess 23/07/2016 at 5:19 pm

      Awwww thanks for such a sweet comment – it means so much to me! I’m so glad Delve into Dystopia makes you want to go back to the genre – I wrote this post in the hopes that would happen! I wanted to share that dystopia is a lot more varied than it seems and isn’t just books like The Hunger Games ect. which are brilliant books, but can seem limited if that’s all you see as being dystopia. Hope you enjoy the blog! X

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