YA’s Scariest Dystopian Societies

Divergent by Veronica RothUnless you’ve been living under a rock, you should know that we finally have a trailer for Divergent! We’re so excited to see Veronica Roth’s dystopian come to life on the big screen. In the book, citizens of futuristic Chicago are split into different factions to preserve social order. Unsurprisingly, this doesn’t work out super well. There’s something much, much darker hidden beneath the surface.

There are tons of great YA dystopians out there, and they all have one thing in common: they all feature societies that would be absolutely terrifying to live in. Inspired by Divergent, we’re counting down the most frightening fictional worlds. Which of these would you be most scared to find yourself in? Check out our picks, vote below, and then let us know which ones we missed in the comments.

Suzanne CollinsPanem

 The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Really, we can’t think of a single redeeming quality for a society that enjoys watching children fight to the death. C’mon, guys, who thought that was a good idea? Growing up knowing that there’s a good chance you’ll die in a terrifying, televised arena battle against trained child assassins probably makes for the worst childhood ever.


Ally CondieThe Society

Matched by Ally Condie

In Cassia’s world, you’re forced to get married at 18 to a partner the government picks for you. This seems scary enough, but when a glitch in the system occurs during Cassia’s matchmaking? Yeah, something tells us this “perfect” world isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.


Lauren OliverThe USA

 Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Like Matched, Delirium features a world where the government decides everything for you, from your partner to your job to how many kids you’ll have. To make matters worse, they’ve identified a deadly disease called deliria: When you turn 18, you get an operation that makes it impossible to love. No way that could go wrong.


Marie LuThe Republic

 Legend by Marie Lu

Oh, man, where do we even start with the Republic? First off, it’s a violent state constantly at war with its neighbors. Second, it trains its teenagers to be military assassins. And to top it all off, the government’s intentions aren’t quite as pure as they want everyone to believe.


Scott WesterfeldSeattle

 Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

In Scott Westerfeld’s futuristic world, everyone is forced to undergo an operation that guarantees physical beauty. Unfortunately, the operation has some side effects . . . like permanent brain damage. Living in a world where everyone’s the same and the oppressive government has absolute control? Do not want.


Lauren DeStefanoThe USA

Wither by Lauren DeStefano

In another version of the future U.S., a genetic experiment gone wrong has made it impossible for people to live past the age of 25. That’s pretty depressing on its own, but everyone’s also forced to spend their short lives in arranged marriages, trying to replenish the dying population. No thank you.


Patrick NessNew World

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

A horrible disease has wiped the entire female population. Seriously, even without the tyrannical government plotting destruction and the world-ending wars going on, that’s enough to make us beyond terrified of setting foot in this society.



Which of these worlds would you be most scared to live in? Vote now! Which terrifying dystopian societies did we leave out? Let us know in the comments!

55 thoughts on “YA’s Scariest Dystopian Societies

  1. You missed the Star Wars. Kind of. The Galactic Empire doesn’t seem that bad, but being ruled by a Sith? no thankyou.

  2. I wouldn’t want to live in any of them or in “the immortal rules” either where you risk getting eaten by rabids. Panem (The Hunger Games) would be my absolute last choice though.

  3. Panel is definitely scary.
    The Society in Matched is tolerable (especially if you are unaware of how screwed it is.
    The world of Delirium is the same way, although if you know what you’re missing, it’s more sad than anything.
    I havenot yet read Legend (although now I want to), but the Republic sounds rather brutal.
    The Uglies world is also not that bad. In fact, like can be awesome (that is, if you’re a brain damaged Pretty)
    Haven’t read Wither either (although once again, I now want to read it), but I can imagine how depressing that world must be. People dying at 25? That takes the whole “life is short” thing to a whole new level.
    New World is also scary. Mayor Prentiss is screwed in the head, and Mistress Coyle, his opposition, is no better. Which brings up an interesting debate: If you had to choose, would you follow a tyrant or a terrorist? The massive war in book 3 makes it an even scarier world.

    • I have to say, Delirium’s world seems pretty scary to me, because I would hate to have all my life’s choices taken away. I haven’t read Wither, Uglies, or the knife of never letting go, so I’ll add those to my “to read” list.

  4. Where did you get Seattle from? Even in Westerfeld’s official Uglies guide, he says he doesn’t have a name for Tally’s City. It *could* be Seattle, but do we know for sure? If he has said in his blog, I’ve missed it because I don’t follow him. So I could very well just be uneducated in the world of Uglies 🙂

    As for the scariest society, Panem is definitely the scariest. Though, if we stretch out of YA, the world of 1984 is some seriously freaky stuff.

    • Yes but even though we may be saying we want to go to those places, they too are not all they’re cracked up to be. In Percy Jackson, you have heartless, bickering gods who suck at parenting. There are monsters to constantly fight or hide from, and immense responsibility (such as saving the world or holding the weight of the sky on your shoulders). In Narnia, there are always villains to battle, such as the White Witch, or the even freakier kidnapping witch in “The Silver Chair.” In the final book you would face off against your fellow Narnians because some asshole monkey was tearing you apart. Oh, and simply by getting addicted to sweets, you can even be the cause of death of god (aka Aslan). In Harry Potter, you’re likely to lose at least one parental figure and/or friend due to Death Eaters, or He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. In book 8, the half-bloods are hunted down like criminals, elves are enslaved throughout the series, at your school you can be attacked by giant spiders, giant snakes, and even your own teachers. Oh and did I mention you could die because you have the soul of an evil being inside you! (not to mention there’s that b*%# Umbridge). None of the books we read are safe or peaceful for us, because it wouldn’t make a good story. All of our most beloved fiction have a lot of struggle and hardship, and it would only be through strength, intelligence, and determination that we could ever survive them…

      • Oh, please. If you’re going to complain about someone else’s amusing, harmless comment, at least get your facts straight! In Harry Potter, there’s no book 8. It’s muggleborns who are being hunted down, elves are enslaved throughout wizarding history because a society can’t be all good, even with VOLDEMORT. Harry and Ron weren’t SUPPOSED to go into the Forbidden Forest, and no one knew if the Chamber of Secrets existed, therefore it wouldn’t have ordinarily happened. Soul of an evil being?! That happened literally ONCE, and only because that snake-nosed freak tried to kill a baby with a sixth of a soul inside of him. Secondly, in Percy Jackson, after the last book, the gods were improving. Plus, if you don’t want to face monsters, stay in camp! Okay?

    • I thought Brave New World seemed way more accurate, but you’re right that Oceania is terrifying. It’s a world where the government controls even truth! Plus, I’ve been afraid of rats ever since I read 1984.

  5. It was hard to choose between Panem and the New World from the Knife of Never Letting Go (which is an awesome book that everyone should read). Ended up choosing the New World though :/ Just cause of how real the book feels, I guess~

  6. I have never read ‘Wither’ but I voted for it anyway. I know Panem is scary but there is not a “good chance” that you’ll die in the Hunger Games. There is less of a chance. But in ‘Wither’ you only live to 25? And you don’t even get to spend your short life in happiness? Gosh, my life would be half over already if I lived there! No thank you!

  7. I can’t take Panem seriously because it was so shoddily constructed there’s no way for me to believe it’d last as long as it did in the books. It’s like cartoonishly evil, and even if I had the misfortune of being a regular district person kept in the dark, I just couldn’t believe it would all work out the way Collins thinks it would.

    Wither sounds a bit scary. Divergent came off as cheesy but the whole abandoning family thing for your family was entirely depressing.

    Someone had mentioned The Handmaid’s Tale, and while it’s not YA its one of, if not the single most disturbing dystopia I’ve read.

    • I actually didn’t have too much of a problem with Fahrenheit 451. I’d rather live there than almost any of the options above. Although, living without books would really suck. 🙁

  8. The New World in Knife of Never Letting Go is even scarier when you learn what REALLY happened there….

    But you forgot futuristic USA in Unwind. Man that’s creepy as hell.

  9. The world of Ship Breaker is far worse than most of these. Being forced to marry someone, etc. is not nearly as frightening as the levels of poverty and despair in that book.

    I chose New World. I loved Knife of Never Letting Go. Certainly wouldn’t want to live in the same world as Prentiss.

  10. Definitely Uglies. They screw with your mind from the inside out! Maybe Panem is more physically horrible, but in the world of Uglies, it’s all in your head.

  11. Panem would be a scary place to live, but only two people from each district a year are chosen. Compared to some of the other stories here where people are dying daily, I think that Panem is pretty tame. Of course, I haven’t read any of the others, but the descriptions seem like you have less of a chance to survive in Legend or New World.

  12. I voted Panem, because that is probably the only one I am familiar with among these and because of the open celebration of brutality of the annual Hunger Games, but the USA in Wither and the New World also seem extremely horrible. The Rupublic and Seattle are horrible too, but not to the same degree. The Society and the USA in Matched is more culturally-subjective, given that arranged marriages where neither love nor compatibility is practiced is still practiced in several cultures, so it does not seem as horrifying from my non-Western perspective. Still, I based that solely on the description, but it might actually be more horrific, if I read the books for myself. Now, I have to go find myself a copy of these books.

    Another dystopia that should probably make it into the list is probably the planet in the Bone World Trilogy. Think of it as the Hunger Games on a planetary scale and everyone is a player while all these supposedly enlightened people watch you from their spacecrafts for entertainment. The entire planet is a prison for various species and their punishment is to kill and kill or be killed off. Meat is the driving force on this world where the only vegetation is poisonous and everything besides your tribe is out to get you and you are out to get everything, all for the sake of flesh. The weak are hunted and eaten or used as volunteers for the flesh trade to procure meat for the strong. The world is primitive, kept that way to make things interesting for the viewer. The worst part of all of this is the fact that the humans have been there for so long that they had come to accept it as the natural order and have forgotten that there had been any life besides the one that they are living.

  13. I was tied between the Society, till I realized it’s not that bad being paired up with somebody. Not THAT bad. Killing children is worse. My vote is for Panem.

  14. Okay, so yeah, most people chose Panem. But I think that’s because most people like the hunger games. To be perfectly honest, New World would be the most terrifying. I would probably rather fight to the death in an arena than constantly have people listening to my thoughts. Harsh, but true. A little like 1984…

  15. Breathe? Anybody? I personally like my air to be free of charge. Plus while all these options were pretty mortifying, there was always the option of escape. Not so much in Breathe.

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