Required Reading: Dystopic Books Where Kids Meet Tragic Fates

There’s a reason why books like the Hunger Games, the film version of which is expected to shatter box-office records when it premieres this week, are so immensely popular – adolescent and prepubescent readers just love dystopia stories, where the fate of a totalitarian-governed people rests entirely on the shoulders of one kid. Isn’t that what it feels like to be going through puberty, after all? One day you’re a child, and the next day these weird things are happening to you and everyone tells you that it’s normal and you totally don’t buy it for a second?

Well, it just so happens that there are a lot of other novels out there in which horrible stuff happens to a whole bunch of children, which we guess is supposed to be some metaphor for society’s corrupting influence, or something. And don’t worry, they’re not all tragic and depressing! Well, okay, most of them are. But a lot of them are quite good! Check out our picks for kids and adults who are looking for some Hunger Games-like reading material, after the jump.

Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix, 1998

In this seven-book series by Margaret Peterson Haddix, the future Earth is ridiculously overpopulated, so the government caps the number of children each family can have at two. Families who accidentally have more children must keep them hidden or face the wrath of the Population Police. Twelve-year-old Luke Garner is a third child, or “shadow child,” and has to live in total isolation until he is given the opportunity to escape. Even then, he and his shadow-child friends are constantly on the run or living in fear; a lot of them end up dead, in fact. That’s a rough life to get stuck with just because your parents didn’t use protection.