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The Most Apocalyptic YA Dystopias Of The 2010s

Updated January 2, 2020 520 votes 85 voters 2.7k views12 items

List RulesVote up the dystopias you wouldn't want to live in.

There were several depressing dystopias in 2010s young adult fiction that were adapted for film or television, each of them offering a different angle on the apocalypse. These are the most harrowing and catastrophic representations of what society should not look like.

Whether it's the extremes of poverty and hunger, hordes of zombies, or simply unending isolation, there are all kinds of apocalyptic misery in this list. Which brand of doomsday do you find the least appealing? 

Check out these sad YA dystopias and vote up the ones that upset you the most!

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  • The totalitarian government of Panem requires its citizens to compete in a yearly battle royale. Each of its 12 districts must select two tributes between the ages of 12 and 18 - one boy and one girl - who are then forced into mortal combat until only one is left standing. Life in this North American dystopia is one of constant fear. Even those outside of tributary age still fear for their family and friends.

    If you live in the 12th district, as Katniss Everdeen does, you can expect a very poor lifestyle. District 12 is a coal mining region, formerly known as Appalachia. This is where you would work and live, regardless of preference. It is a stark contrast to the opulence of the Capitol.

    Life in the Capitol is one of wealth and grandeur. The area is in what was formerly known as the Rockies. Here, food and drink are plentiful, and the elite care nothing for the common people.

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  • A massive spaceship hovers high above Earth, captained by aliens known as the Others. They release the 1st Wave - an electromagnetic pulse. This disables all electronics and, more importantly, all electrical power grids worldwide, leaving the world in darkness. The aliens then focus on Earth’s geology for the 2nd Wave. This causes megathrust earthquakes and megatsunamis that ravage coastal cities and eliminate island populations. The 3rd Wave is biological - a modified strain of the avian flu. It spreads across the planet rapidly through the world’s bird population. A large portion of the human race is exterminated.

    The 4th Wave brings the aliens to Earth. They possess certain humans, and these enhanced humans, known as Silencers, begin to wipe out the remaining population. Trust becomes a thing of the past. The 5th Wave is child soldiers. They're tricked into thinking they are eliminating the aliens when they are actually taking out the remaining human survivors. 

    Surviving in this apocalyptic landscape means being constantly hunted by aliens - and people. Trust is nonexistent, meaning you would likely have to survive alone. Food and clean water are in short supply. Earthquakes, tsunamis, and demolished cities limit the places you can hide. The bird flu remains, and getting sick means a certain end.

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  • The maze is mostly set on a large grassy meadow known as the Glade. It is enclosed by tall stone walls, and houses a society of stranded adolescent boys. At first appearance, it is a stark contrast to the apocalyptic wasteland found in most films in this genre. The problem is finding yourself in the middle of an intricate maze, along with a number of adolescents, with no clear escape from the ever-changing labyrinth.

    Waking in this world, you will find yourself knowing your name, but unable to recall your past. Make sure you make it back to the Glade at night, because darkness is something to be feared. After dark, techno-organic creatures roam the maze. These creatures, known as Grievers, have a fatal sting.

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  • Divergent is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Most Apocalyptic YA Dystopias Of The 2010s
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    Divergent is set in a futuristic version of Chicago. A giant fence encircles the Windy City, supposedly for safety from the outside world. The Chicago skyline remains familiar, with views of Willis Tower and the Ferris wheel at Navy Pier; however, many parts of the city are crumbling or in ruins. Lake Michigan has turned into an uninviting marsh.

    Living conditions in this world vary depending on what faction of society one finds themselves in. The rigid social structure of Divergent does not allow freedom of choice for residents in how they wish to live their lives. Each faction has its own style of dress and customs that are mandatory. Failure to fall into one of the well-defined factions will result in homelessness and despair.

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