Currently viewing the category: "Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic/Apocalyptic"

Author: Neal Shusterman
Published: January 9, 2018 by Simon & Schuster

Guest Review by Natalia Sperry

Summary: Rowan and Citra take opposite stances on the morality of the Scythedom, putting them at odds, in the second novel of the chilling New York Times bestselling series from Neal Shusterman.

Rowan has gone rogue, and has taken it upon himself to put the Scythedom through a trial by fire. Literally. In the year since Winter Conclave, he has gone off-grid, and has been striking out against corrupt scythes—not only in MidMerica, but across the entire continent. He is a dark folk hero now—“Scythe Lucifer”—a vigilante taking down corrupt scythes in flames.

Citra, now a junior scythe under Scythe Curie, sees the corruption and wants to help change it from the inside out, but is thwarted at every turn, and threatened by the “new order” scythes. Realizing she cannot do this alone—or even with the help of Scythe Curie and Faraday, she does the unthinkable, and risks being “deadish” so she can communicate with the Thunderhead—the only being on earth wise enough to solve the dire problems of a perfect world. But will it help solve those problems, or simply watch as perfection goes into decline?

Review: Thunderhead packs a punch as a conceptually compelling and action-packed follow up to award-winning Scythe. While at times it moves slowly and teeters on the precarious edge of “middle book syndrome.” Its expansion of the world of the Scythdome helps the book feel more well-rounded. Despite the action, Thunderhead shines most in its explorations of democracy and the implications of AI technology.

Citra’s questioning of identity, though immediately rooted in her struggle between her civilian past and scythedom, provides a good example of identity searching for teen readers. For Citra and Rowan, the stakes are high– despite the novel’s focus on the guiding AI of the Thunderhead, the fate of the world rests not on the shoulders of the political technology or the Scythe’s government, but on the teenage protagonist’s shoulders. Though Thunderhead didn’t invent the trope of teens saving the world, in 2018 it feels all the more prevalent.

Teacher’s Tool For Navigation: As a sequel, Thunderhead will primarily be useful in addition to classroom libraries. However, in discussing the Arc of a Scythe series as a whole, Thunderhead raises interesting questions of power dynamics in politics, democracy, and the role of AI technology. If Scythe is already a text you’ve considered using in literature circles, a discussion about the themes raised in the sequel could provide an interesting supplement to the unit.

Discussion Questions:  Is the Thunderhead justified? Is the Scythedom?  In what ways is the world of the Scythes in MidMerica and beyond a dystopia or utopia?

Flagged: “You may laugh when I tell you this, but I resent my own perfection. Humans learn from their mistakes. I cannot. I make no mistakes. When it comes to making decisions, I deal only in various shades of correct.” (Chapter 4).

Read This If You Loved: Scythe by Neal Shusterman, Illuminae by Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff, This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

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That Inevitable Victorian Thing
Author: E. K. Johnston
Published: October 3, 2017 by Dutton

Guest Review by Kaari von Bernuth

Goodreads Summary: Set in a near-future world where the British Empire was preserved, not by the cost of blood and theft but by effort of repatriation and promises kept, That Inevitable Victorian Thing is a novel of love, duty, and the small moments that can change people and the world.

Victoria-Margaret is the crown princess of the empire, a direct descendent of Victoria I, the queen who changed the course of history two centuries earlier. The imperial practice of genetically arranged matchmaking will soon guide Margaret into a politically advantageous marriage like her mother before her, but before she does her duty, she’ll have one summer incognito in a far corner of empire. In Toronto, she meets Helena Marcus, daughter of one of the empire’s greatest placement geneticists, and August Callaghan, the heir apparent to a powerful shipping firm currently besieged by American pirates. In a summer of high-society debutante balls, politically charged tea parties, and romantic country dances, Margaret, Helena, and August discover they share an unusual bond and maybe a one in a million chance to have what they want and to change the world in the process —just like the first Queen Victoria.

My Review: The futuristic setting of this novel that wasn’t a dystopia was very intriguing to me. Most of the futuristic novels that I’ve read have featured dystopian societies, so it was refreshing to have something that worked. I really enjoyed the multiple perspectives from the different characters, and became personally invested in their lives and experiences. I’d find myself hurting for Helena as she struggled to reconcile her identity, and rooting for August to do the right thing. In some way, all of the characters have to struggle to come of age and develop their identity based on who they want to be. 

However, I wish that this novel had placed a little more effort on the ending. While the rest of the novel had dealt with realistic challenges that an adolescent might face, the ending seemed rather contrived, and less realistic like the rest of the novel. The solution proposed at the end of the novel is not a solution that an adolescent in current society could replicate and learn from, which was disappointing.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book poses great questions about racism (or rather the eradication of racism), as well as questions of morality. It also would be great for discussions about the influence that society can have on your life verses the influence that you decide for your life. I think that this book would be a great addition to a classroom library for kids to enjoy, or a book to be used in a reading circle. It’s engaging and could lead to interesting discussions, especially about the futuristic government and setting of the novel, and the aforementioned topics of racism, morality, and societal influence vs self. However, I do think that other novels cover these topics in a better way, which is why I wouldn’t recommend it for large classroom discussions.  

Discussion Questions: Is this novel a utopia? Dystopia? Does it fit either criteria?; How is race approached in this novel? Is there racism in the society?; What is the role of colonialism in this novel?; What is the role of the Computer? Do you think this is a good advancement?; What does the computer lack?; What morality questions does this novel pose?

We Flagged: “The Computer is sufficient if you want to know your future without taking into account your soul. I don’t mean in the eternal sense, but in the worldly. The Computer can tell you if your genes are prone to carcinoma or if you might be six feet tall, but it cannot tell you if you will enjoy dancing or if you will prefer cake to pie. I would argue that the latter is more important in terms of a long and healthy relationship” (p. 254).

Read This If You Loved: Matched by Allie Condie; Delirium by Lauren Oliver; The Luxe by Anna Godbersen; The Selection by Kiera Cass

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**Thank you to Kaari for reviewing this book!**


Landscape with Invisible Hand
Author: M. T. Anderson
Published: September 12, 2017 by Candlewick

Summary: National Book Award winner M. T. Anderson returns to future Earth in a sharply wrought satire of art and truth in the midst of colonization.

When the vuvv first landed, it came as a surprise to aspiring artist Adam and the rest of planet Earth – but not necessarily an unwelcome one. Can it really be called an invasion when the vuvv generously offered free advanced technology and cures for every illness imaginable? As it turns out, yes. With his parents’ jobs replaced by alien tech and no money for food, clean water, or the vuvv’s miraculous medicine, Adam and his girlfriend, Chloe, have to get creative to survive. And since the vuvv crave anything they deem “classic” Earth culture (doo-wop music, still-life paintings of fruit, true love), recording 1950s-style dates for the vuvv to watch in a pay-per-minute format seems like a brilliant idea. But it’s hard for Adam and Chloe to sell true love when they hate each other more with every passing episode. Soon enough, Adam must decide how far he’s willing to go – and what he’s willing to sacrifice – to give the vuvv what they want.


  • Futuristic, dark satire that is an unusual, intelligent social commentary
  • Forces readers to think deeply about their personal, social, and political lives
  • Somewhat non-linear story with an interesting layout: each chapter has a title that corresponds with the artwork created by the main character
  • Stylistically, Anderson chooses every word with intention. The text is a 149-page novella that features chapters that can be taught instructionally as vignettes.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation:  Teachers might ask students to begin by looking closely at the text for short passages that they find particularly interesting or inspiring. Students might write a one-pager that a) unpacks the passage they chose, and b) examines the passage through the lens of a topic that they find particularly interesting and relevant. For example, they might connect a passage to the following topics which are relevant in the text:








Extraterrestrial Life

Health Care








After the students have written several one-pagers and explored a variety of topics, they might select one topic that interests them most. They can research scholarship about the topic and look across the entire text for relevant passages.

Sample research paper topics:

Examining economic disparities and classism within Landscape with Invisible Hand

Finding the soul: M.T. Anderson’s treatment of love and art in Landscape with Invisible Hand

Discussion Questions: Do you think M. T. Anderson had a purpose for writing this text?; What kind of social commentary does this text offer?; What does it tell us about love? Society? Humanity?; How does Anderson use art to enhance the story?; How is the text structured? How does this enhance your reading?

Flagged Passage: “We are tiny figures, faceless, pointing at wonders, provided for scale, no lives of our own, surveying the landscape that has engulfed us all.”

Read This If You Loved: Feed by M. T. Anderson; Books by Scott Westerfeld; The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

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Thank you, Candlewick!


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top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. The feature was created because The Broke and Bookish are particularly fond of lists (as are we!). Each week a new Top Ten list topic is given and bloggers can participate.

 Today’s Topic: Top Ten Dystopian Books We’ve Ever Read

So many dystopian books have come out over the last few years, but these are our favorites.


Kellee listed The Hunger Games and Divergent series, and I am relieved. There were too many books on my list, and I couldn’t narrow them down! Please know that those two series are obvious favorites for me, but here are five others I loved just as much.

1. 1984 by George Orwell


I loved teaching this book. My students always fell in love with it. It takes a bit of time to get into it, but it is so foundational as a dystopian text. Every time I read it, I remember all of the reasons I love it.

2. The Legend series by Marie Lu

legend series

I found this series to be more engaging than most of the other dystopian series. There is an excellent balance of plot and characterization.

3. The Maze Runner series by James Dashner

maze runner series

This series creates readers. Because of these books, my most reluctant readers fell in love with reading.

4. Unwind series by Neal Shusterman

unwind series

Admittedly, I haven’t read the third (or fourth) book in this series, but I enjoyed it very much. I need to get my hands on a copy of them!

5. The 5th Wave series by Rick Yancey

5th wave series 2

Oh, Rick Yancey, you are such a wonderful writer. I have only read the first book in this series so far, but it was fantastic. (As you can tell, I don’t like to read entire series!)


I am going to put these in order of when I read the first of the series. Although some of these may be a big cliche, these are some of the best dystopian books (series) out there.

1. The Giver series by Lois Lowry

the giver quartet

If you follow the blog, you know that The Giver is my favorite book of all time, so it is no surprise that it would end up on this list. I feel like The Giver is so powerful without being over the top. It truly makes you think and see your world differently.

2. Among the Hidden series by Margaret Peterson Haddix

shadow children books

I read the Shadow Children series with my brother because he read the first one and insisted I read it too (he is a third child, so I am sure it affected him in an intense way). Unlike The GiverAmong the Hidden is so suspenseful and lays a foundation for an action-packed series.

3. The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins

hunger games trilogy

I read The Hunger Games right when it came out, and I was blown away by the basis of the plot and the strong characters. I couldn’t put it down and waited impatiently for each of the books in the trilogy. Although it has become uber popular, I think it is deserving of all of the hype.

4. The Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness

chaos walking

Chaos Walking is a perfect title for this series because so much craziness happens in these three books! When I read The Knife of Never Letting Go, I was blown away by Ness’s craft. It is such a unique series, unlike any other book I’ve read, and probably one of the best books/series I’ve ever read.

5. Divergent series by Veronica Roth

divergent trilogy

I love this series. I don’t know why it just grabbed me, but it did. Maybe it is that it takes place in Chicago. Maybe it seems realistic to me with unintentional segregation that still exists today. Maybe it is because it reminded me of The Giver and Hunger Games mixed together. Maybe it is because Tris and Four are just such complex and kick butt characters. Whatever the reason is, I devoured these books and was so impressed which all three of them.

Which dystopian titles are your favorite? 

RickiSig and Signature


the here and now

The Here and Now
Author: Ann Brashares
Published: April 8, 2014 by Delacorte Press

Summary: An unforgettable epic romantic thriller about a girl from the future who might be able to save the world… if she lets go of the one thing she’s found to hold on to.

Follow the rules. Remember what happened. Never fall in love.

This is the story of seventeen-year-old Prenna James, who immigrated to New York when she was twelve. Except Prenna didn’t come from a different country. She came from a different time—a future where a mosquito-borne illness has mutated into a pandemic, killing millions and leaving the world in ruins. 

Prenna and the others who escaped to the present day must follow a strict set of rules: never reveal where they’re from, never interfere with history, and never, ever be intimate with anyone outside their community. Prenna does as she’s told, believing she can help prevent the plague that will one day ravage the earth. But everything changes when Prenna falls for Ethan Jarves.

Review: I particularly loved the first half of this book. While time travel is at the heart of this text, I think it would be a great book to give to readers who love dystopian fiction. Prenna’s memory of her futuristic world was fascinating to me. At times, I found Brashares to be a bit didactic, but overall, the book is very well-written and will entice readers from the first page. I always enjoy reading books about time travel because my mind spins as I try to grapple with the paradox time travel provides. If we change the past, will we exist in the future? And how can this work, if we are living in this previous time? Ah! My brain hurts. I enjoyed this book because it made me think.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: Similar to my review of All Our YesterdaysI think students would have a lot of fun selecting a time period to travel to, and perhaps, picking one event in history they would change and how it might impact the future. This could develop into a research project, and I can imagine there would be fantastic interdisciplinary connections with the subject of history. Alternatively (or additionally), teachers could link this text with the subject of science–where students research ways we are destroying our planet.

Discussion Questions: How are we destroying our planet? Do you think Ann Brashares’ prediction of the future is accurate? What is Brashares’ tone in this text?; If you could travel in time, what is one event in history that you would change and why? How might it change events in the future?

We Flagged: “People here act like the great things have already been lost, but they are wrong. They have so much still to lose” (Chapter Three).

“I guess memory is a deep well, and you don’t know what’s down there until you lower the bucket and start hauling it up” (Chapter Fifteen).

Please note: The above quotes are from the advanced reader copy. The quotes may have changed with publication.

Read This If You Loved: All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill, When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, The Giver by Lois Lowry, Legend by Marie Lu, Divergent by Veronica Roth

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All Our Yesterdays
Author: Cristin Terrill
Published September 3rd, 2013 by Disney Hyperion

Goodreads Summary: What would you change?

Imprisoned in the heart of a secret military base, Em has nothing except the voice of the boy in the cell next door and the list of instructions she finds taped inside the drain.

Only Em can complete the final instruction. She’s tried everything to prevent the creation of a time machine that will tear the world apart. She holds the proof: a list she has never seen before, written in her own hand. Each failed attempt in the past has led her to the same terrible present—imprisoned and tortured by a sadistic man called the doctor while war rages outside.

Marina has loved her best friend, James, since they were children. A gorgeous, introverted science prodigy from one of America’s most famous families, James finally seems to be seeing Marina in a new way, too. But on one disastrous night, James’s life crumbles, and with it, Marina’s hopes for their future. Marina will protect James, no matter what. Even if it means opening her eyes to a truth so terrible that she may not survive it… at least, not as the girl she once was. Em and Marina are in a race against time that only one of them can win.

All Our Yesterdays is a wrenching, brilliantly plotted story of fierce love, unthinkable sacrifice, and the infinite implications of our every choice.

My Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This is a book that keeps you reading. I couldn’t put it down. I found myself reading whenever I could (including times when I was holding my sleeping son or when I should have been sleeping).  When you find out how Marina and Em are connected, it just blew my mind! I then had to find out how everything was going to turn out. I was just so impressed with everything:

First, the plot. It is so complex and intricate. You have to pay attention to keep up with the timeline, but it isn’t so bad that you’ll get lost. It is so admirable that the author was able to craft such intense timelines and intertwine them seamlessly.

Second, the language. I loved how Cristin Terrill wrote. The imagery throughout transported you into the story.

Third, the suspense. I just HAD to know what was going to happen!

Fourth, the characters. In a way that I’ve never experience before, Cristin Terrill truly gets you into the minds and hearts of the characters. You understand their motives, who they used to be, who they’ll become, all because of the way that Terrill tells the story and crafts her characters. You feel their heartbreak with them (and one particular realization that you find out in the very end just broke my heart and blew my mind), and you are so invested in everything they do.

Finally, the themes. The discussions that would come from this novel would be so interesting. Just the idea of power and corruption that is dealt with would lead to quite a debate.

Ricki also pointed out in her review how fun it would be to have students imagine what they would change if time travel existed.

This text would be a wonderful mentor text to discuss plot and character development, theme, and style. And most importantly, it will be a text that students will be intrigued with, not want to put down, and share with everyone.

Discussion Questions: What would you change if you had the ability to change time?; How far would you go to protect your best friend?; How did Cristin Terrill build suspense throughout the novel?; Why does power lead to corruption? Where have we seen this happen in history?

We Flagged: “Far down the hallway, I hear the clink of a door. Someone is approaching. I bolt upright and lunge for the drain. No telling what the doctor will do if he finds me breaking into it, and if he sees the sheet of paper… The though sends ice through my veins. He’ll kill me for sure. Hands clumsy with rushing, I break the spoon into several pieces and drop them down the drain. I can now make out a pair of heavy boots against the cement. I jam the grating back onto the drain and replace the screws as best I can with fingertips and nails. I swipe up the plastic bag and piece of paper and throw myself at my mattress. I show them both underneath just as Kessler’s face appears at the small window in my cell door.” (p. 9-10)

Read This If You Loved: Chronal Engine by Greg Leitich Smith, Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier, Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky, Lost Time by Susan Maupin Schmid, When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, Found by Margaret Peterson Haddix, London Calling by Edward Bloor

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All Our Yesterdays
Author: Cristin Terrill
Published: September 3rd, 2013 by Disney Hyperion

GoodReads Summary: “You have to kill him.” Imprisoned in the heart of a secret military base, Em has nothing except the voice of the boy in the cell next door and the list of instructions she finds taped inside the drain.

 Only Em can complete the final instruction. She’s tried everything to prevent the creation of a time machine that will tear the world apart. She holds the proof: a list she has never seen before, written in her own hand. Each failed attempt in the past has led her to the same terrible present—imprisoned and tortured by a sadistic man called the doctor while war rages outside.

Marina has loved her best friend James since the day he moved next door when they were children. A gorgeous, introverted science prodigy from one of America’s most famous families, James finally seems to be seeing Marina in a new way, too. But on one disastrous night, James’s life crumbles apart, and with it, Marina’s hopes for their future. Now someone is trying to kill him. Marina will protect James, no matter what. Even if it means opening her eyes to a truth so terrible that she may not survive it. At least not as the girl she once was.

All Our Yesterdays is a wrenching, brilliantly plotted story of fierce love, unthinkable sacrifice, and the infinite implications of our every choice.

Review: This is a great science fiction text that will please readers who enjoy reading about time travel and/or dystopian settings. I was immediately pulled into the prison cell with Marina. Terrill does an excellent job with imagery, and I enjoyed the way the plot unfolded. As with most books that discuss time travel, I found a few paradoxes that felt like plot holes, but most books with a time-traveling plot seem to raise this concern for me, as time traveling is sort of a paradox in itself. Overall, I think Terrill did an excellent job trying to alleviate any possible plot issues, and I was impressed with her ability to build such an, intricate, complex plot. While there was a love story, it doesn’t take front and center of this novel, which I appreciated. Often, love stories forced in science fiction books, and Terrill seems to achieve the perfect balance between plot, theme, and romance. The book contains wonderfully richly realized themes that I will discuss in the next section, and I think teachers would be wise to add this book to their classroom libraries. Teens will absolutely love this one.

You can also see Kellee’s point of view by viewing her review here.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: The themes of this novel truly make it shine. This book would provide for some fantastic classroom discussions. Teachers could have students examine power and how it influences people, or they could look at loyalty and whether there is a limit to our loyalty to our loved ones. Students would have a lot of fun imagining one thing they would change if they could use a time travel machine (either changing a worldly event or a personal life event). The journal opportunities are endless.

Discussion Questions: How does power influence an individual? Given extreme power, will all people be driven to selfishness?; Who are we most loyal to? Is there a limit to our loyalty?; What events would we change if we could travel back in time? How would our changes impact the world or our lives in a positive way? What are the negative outcomes?; What paradoxes come with time travel? Is there any way to alleviate these?; If we had the power to travel in time, should we? How might time travel be harmful?

We Flagged: “‘Was [the world] always this beautiful and we just never noticed?'” (Chapter 5).

“…But progress is always dangerous, isn’t it? Most of the time, walls don’t get dismantled brick by brick. Someone has to crash through them” (Chapter 19).

Please note: The above quotes are from the Advanced Reader Copy. The e-book (a galley) did not provide page numbers. The quotes may change when the book is published.

Read This If You Loved: When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, The Giver by Lois Lowry, Legend by Marie Lu, Divergent by Veronica Roth

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**Thank you to NetGalley and Disney Hyperion for providing the Advanced Reader Copy for review!**

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