Gilded Cage by Vic James. ★★★1/2
Gilded Cage is a compulsively readable YA fantasy dystopia. I’ll admit, I was wary of picking it up. I haven’t had the best experiences with the YA dystopian genre, and at this point it feels like there’s a certain sameness to most of the books. But when Imyril over at x + 1 gave it a positive review, I reconsidered. As it turns out, I am glad I did.
Gilded Cage takes place in an alternate version of England where the ruling segment of the population, the Equals, posses immense magical skill. The vast majority of the population are commoners, who are utterly without magic or power. They have to give up ten years of their lives to serve as slaves for the Equals, a modern update on medieval fiefdom. Abi and Luke Hadley are commoners, and they’re about to begin their slave years. But due to Abi’s genius and hard work, she’s gotten their family a place at the Jardine estate instead of the sweatshops of the slave town. But as the day arrives, something goes wrong and Luke instead finds himself being sent to Millmoor, the aforementioned slave town. There he finds something entirely unexpected: revolution. Meanwhile, his sister Abi begins to wonder if she’s made the wrong choice by having the family serve the Jardines, for she soon finds that they can be heinously cruel in their power.
Chameleon Moon by RoAnna Sylver. ★★★★
I loved Chameleon Moon so much, and I think it would hold a strong appeal for fans of Welcome to Night Vale.
Patrol is a true dystopian – a city where the sky is chocked with smoke and ash and the ground is just one step away from crumbling into the fires below. And above everything the helicopters of Eye in the Sky survey the super powered citizens, making sure no one can escape. But within this hellhole, the citizens of Patrol have found love, families, and the will to resist. Among them is Evelyn Calliope, a singer with a sonic voice who is the heroine that Patrol needs.
The Swan Riders by Erin Bow. ★★★1/2
The Swan Riders is the sequel to the YA dystopia novel, The Scorpion Rules. I highly suggest reading the series in order. While I’ve been finding most of the YA dystopia genre pretty derivative, this series manages to be among the better half of what I’ve read, and it takes some turns in the road from the standard formula for the genre. Forewarning, this review will contain some inevitable spoilers for the previous book.
R/evolution by Tenea D. Johnson. ★★★
R/evolution is a novella that takes different short sections on different characters to present a dystopic view of the future, where America has been subsumed by race and class problems and genetic engineering is the norm.
Dystopians often take a current problem within our society and push it to an extreme. For instance, Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale does this with gender issues and patriarchy. R/evolution takes America’s current race issues combined with the possibility of genetically engineered children, “designer babies.”
Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee. ★★★1/2
Not Your Sidekick is an adorable YA LGBT superhero story. Jess Tran’s parents are the resident superheroes of Andover, Nevada. Jess wants nothing more than to be a superhero herself, but unlike her gifted sister, she’s never manifested powers. Determined to try and make her own path in life nevertheless, she applies and is accepted for a prestigious internship… which turns out to be for the town super villain. On the bright side, she gets to spend some time with her crush, Abbie. But as her internship progresses, Jess will begin to realize that there are secrets yet to be uncovered.
The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow. ★★★1/2
While The Scorpion Rules is a mixed bag, it’s ultimately one of the better YA dystopians I’ve come across.
Four hundred years ago, the humanity was on the edge of destruction when an AI named Talis decided to take control. After destroying a few cities, Talis instituted some rules for his new world order. All countries’s rulers must give up their own children as hostages. If a country goes to war, the hostage dies. Greta is a crown princess and one of the Children of Peace who live in the remote Precepture school. Her country is on the edge of war and so Greta lives on the edge of death. Greta doesn’t question the inevitable path of her life until a new boy is brought to school, one who refuses to accept the rules Greta’s been living with her entire life.
If you’re anything like me, your eyes probably would have started rolling at some point in that blurb, likely when I mentioned the “new boy” who “refuses to play by the rules” and “makes Greta question the system.” Basically the only reason I ended up reading it was because I’d heard the protagonist was bisexual. Luckily, I enjoyed The Scorpion Rules much more than I was expecting.
Broken by Susan Jane Bigelow. ★★★1/2
Broken is a fast paced story that crosses dystopia with superheros.
Decades in the future, earth’s been united under a single government and other planets have been colonized. Michael Forward is an extrahuman – someone with supernatural abilities. He was born with the ability to see possibilities of the future whenever he looks at someone’s face. And the possibilities show that the course of history depends on one mission. A baby boy can grow up to bring either great good or great evil to earth, depending on whether or not Michael succeeds in getting him off planet. And he sees that all possibilities of success depend on the presence of Broken, a homeless ex-superheroine. So this is a story about a teenage boy, a former superheroine, and a baby seeking an escape and hope for the future as the world falls apart around them.