Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday - Books that Would Be on Your Syllabus If You Taught YA Dystopians 101

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Here at We Live and Breathe Books, two of us choose five books each week. This weeks topic is...

Books that would be on your syllabus if you taught YA dystopians 101!

Kiersten's Picks

The Giver
Lois Lowry
The Giver Quartet, #1 
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

I read The Giver when I was in elementary school, and while I was definitely too young to fully understand the society that Lois Lowry built, I really enjoyed it - this is definitely the part where I became a fan of dystopians before I even knew what those were. Even though there were definitely dystopians written before The Giver, I'm pretty sure it was one of the early YA dystopians, bringing a more intellectual look at the world to younger readers, which is why it would be the first book on my syllabus.

The Hunger Games
Suzanne Collins
The Hunger Games, #1

I think this one is kind of a given. Even though there's quite a time gap between The Giver and The Hunger Games (since I'm only doing five picks for this topic, a book that was published between these two, such as The City of Ember, had to be removed for my top picks), I think The Hunger Games is definitely a major part of YA dystopian history - it's where dystopian really became prominent in popular media. With the success of the movie, so many more people were picking up the books and being introduced to a dystopian world. I mean, this is the book that turned me into a reader as a high school student, so that's a pretty impressive thing.

Lauren Oliver
Delirium, #1
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

I was between Delirium and Divergent for this pick, but since I liked the ending to this series slightly more than Divergent (it still wasn't the best), I decided to pick this one. While it may not be the strongest dystopian, it was one of the first ones I read after The Hunger Games and I did enjoy it. I also like having this book on this list because it's one of the less action/violence driven books (although it does get there in later books).

Marie Lu 
Legend, #1
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

While Legend is certainly not the most popular dystopian, I really love this series, so I wanted to include it in my syllabus (it was a hard choice between Legend and The Young Elites since they're both awesome). The Legend series really evolves throughout the books, changing from a Romeo and Juliet type of scenario into something much larger than that. Marie Lu does an excellent job showing a very political side to the change that I think is sometimes missed in dystopians, which makes Legend a great addition to my syllabus.

Red Queen
Victoria Aveyard
Red Queen, #1

Last but not least on my abbreviated syllabus is Red Queen. I wanted to pick a new dystopian to end the syllabus because awesome YA dystopian novels are still coming out, and also because it would torture the class since they can't just binge read the whole series to find out what happens since the series is incomplete! (I know, seriously evil.) Anyway, I really enjoyed Red Queen, and I think it's a great fusion of magic into a dystopian world.

Noor's Picks

Two sidenotes:
1. I would have put The Giver and Delirium on my list if Kiersten hadn't beat me to it and I just needed that out there.
2. There was a YA Lit class offered at my school that I tried to get into -- it wouldn't fit into my schedule or some issue like that -- and while it wasn't exactly dystopian literature I just like that this TTT is like potentially a real thing. 

Scott Westerfeld 
Uglies, #1
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

I read Uglies so long ago that I actually got it at a Scholastic book fair -- actually I got the second book, because that's what they had, and then I bought the first book later, and those were the only two published at the time. Anyway, I think this is an excellent YA dystopian novel/series not only personally (which I definitely do -- this is the series that introduced me to Scott Westerfeld which I'll forever be thankful for) but also as teaching material. There's so much to discuss: the moral ambiguity of Tally Youngblood (is she a hero, a villain, some murky combination???), the in-your-face theme of what it means when a society is purely beauty and leisure focused, the slang and the language used throughout the books. This series is like a treasure trove of discourse and I love it!!

Dan Wells
Partials Sequence, #1
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

What a beautiful book. There are so many dystopian novels out there marketing very similar things and while I definitely believe that every book one reads has something to offer, it still is nice to get a taste of something new and I think this is an unprecedented book/series. It isn't without its cliches and "I figured out that major plot point" moments but I'd still teach it because I feel like it embodies the basic core of what many people think when they hear the phrase "dystopian literature" -- cymborgs, viruses, war-torn society -- so I think it serves as a good reference point for discussion and comparison.

Marissa Meyer
The Lunar Chronicles, #1
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

I don't know if this actually counts as dystopian? On Goodreads at least a few people categorized it as such and one of the genres it was listed under was Sci Fi > Dystopia so I feel like I can include it here. Cinder is another "I love this with all my heart but also it's super teachable" things. It digs its roots in fairytales -- Cinder is Cinderella, but there are more books so more fairytales of course -- which provides my imaginary students a chance to analyze the way these classic stories are being restructured. Also, I love the whole fractured fairy tale thing, I can't get enough of it, so I needed to stick this in here. Also, Marissa Meyer is perfect and The Lunar Chronicles are amazing.

Michael Grant
Gone, #1
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

In Gone, everyone over the age of 15 disappears, leaving this entire town with this Lord of the Flies-esque situation, which is a comparison I would definitely make if this was on my syllabus in a class I taught. Most students read LotF in high school so we could discuss the two books comparatively -- clearly these are two different situations but two similar things are happening and why are they being handled in these ways? Is it the time period difference? Gender? Age? Location? If I have students who didn't read LotF, they can discuss how they might expect the handling of the situation to change if things were changed: if everyone over 12 disappeared rather than 15, if the kids who took charge were people of color, if everyone was female. It's interesting to see, in this book, the ways everyone interacts and reacts to the situation and it would be even more interesting to see it analyzed.

The House of The Scorpion
Nancy Farmer
Matteo Alacran, #1
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

I didn't even obtain this book on purpose. I was really young and I was buying books and my parents told my brother he should buy a book too and he picked this one because it had a scorpion on the cover and he never read it but I finished all my books and went for his and I even bought the sequel (which came out 11 years later) and he probably doesn't remember buying this book. But it was a really good book. It's about a drug lord in a country called Opium, located in modern-day Mexico, who not only uses humans with computer chips in their brains to do his harvesting (so they won't protest) but uses clones so he can harvest their organs and live forever. And the protagonist, Matteo, is one such clone, and the book is really good, and also features entirely Mexican characters (even the clones) I'd love to talk about the research behind it and the themes within the book, such as the fact that the United States is a third world country and people run from the US to Mexico, or the dehumanizing of the people who are working in these poppy fields, even if they can't "feel" it.

What would be on your syllabus?
Let us know in the comments!

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