It’s The End Of the World As We Know It but The Kids Are Alright

One of the biggest selling books this year has been The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. A young adult series that was published a few years ago that got the Hollywood treatment and saw its sales explode. Part of the success of the book has been that it has appealed to both teenagers and adults like Twilight did, but unlike Twilight it has also appealed to a male audience as well as a female one.

The Hunger Games has also been part of a new trend in publishing. Twilight saw a boom in paranormal books: vampires, werewolves, zombies and even angels. And The Hunger Games has seen the rise of books set in post-apocalyptic worlds.

I think there are a number of reasons for the rise of “Apoca-Lit” as it has been coined (ping John Birmingham). Firstly there has been a tradition in storytelling that goes back centuries, The Hero’s Journey, where the hero of a story is often an orphan who must undertake an epic journey. This has been employed in many famous stories including Star Wars and Harry Potter. I think post-apocalypse stories take this one step further. Rather than a hero being without their parents, they are without their world or other grown ups. There is also more urgency to the journey they must take as there is the added element of survival. And the other element that I think is fuelling this genre is the hyper-fear we now get from the media. Whether its politics, weather events or terrorism everything is reported nowadays in epic proportions and what can get more epic than the end of the world?

There was a great article about the new darker trend in children’s books in The Guardian which is well worth a read:

The Hunger Games is set in a dystopian future in a totalitarian society. The nation is divided between The Capitol and 12 Districts and every year two young representatives must compete against one another in a battle for survival know as The Hunger Games.

There are three books in the series and for those who have devoured them all here are some more suggested reading both for teenagers and adults alike:

Gone by Michael Grant

The kids of Perdido Beach suddenly-very suddenly-find themselves alone. Everyone over age 14 has disappeared without a trace. It’s up to the kids to make their own society to keep themselves alive. Most of the kids want Sam to lead them, but he’s not sure he’s comfortable in the role. His new friends, Astrid and Edilio, and his best friend, Quinn, have to help convince him to take his place as the leader of their newfound society, as well as struggle to stay alive amidst chaos, bullies, and the strange students from rival school, Coates Academy. Then Sam and other kids start to develop strange and frightening abilities… (4 more books in series)

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

In this chilling and at times terrifying novel Neal Shusterman paints a picture of a world where there aren’t any cures and doctors, just surgeons, transplants and replacements. Three unwanted teenagers face a fate worse that death — unwinding. Their bodies will be ‘harvested’, every part of them used, from their brains to their toes. But if they can stay out of the authorities’ clutches until the age of eighteen, they just might survive…. The most frightening science fiction novels are always the ones that you can actually imagine one. Shusterman doesn’t fail to describe how a wrong solution to a modern issue can affect generations to come. Thought-provoking, terrifying, and almost inconceivable, UNWIND will keep you reading late into the night (sequel in November)

Pure by Julianna Baggott

Inspired by accounts of a post-nuclear-bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Baggot has realised a hauntingly disturbing and grossly imaginative post apocalyptic world. Pressia is a survivor of the Detonations – a global nuclear holocaust that has left her and every other survivor with a diversity of glaring malformations and “fusions”. When the blasts came, they were so strong, the light so bright, humans fused with whatever material closest to them at the time of the explosion, whether it be inanimate, human or animal. Pressia, a child at the time, held her favorite doll and now carries the mark of that day in her doll’s head hand. There are other survivors of the Detonations however – Pures – who have been safely harbored in the Dome. These are the select privileged, protected, their skin perfect. But the Dome has its secrets too, and while the wretches outside the Dome have been busy surviving, those inside the Dome have been watching, and waiting, with a plan of their own.

The Bridge by Jane Higgins

Gritty, Australian adventure set in a future world where fear of outsiders pervades everything. In this novel, Nik and his fellow classmates of Tornmoor Academy live in a world where their city is at war. There’s the Southside where the hostiles live in desperate, harsh conditions and are fighting to cross the bridge to Cityside, whereISIS controls the area and keeps the hostiles at bay. When Nik’s school is bombed, he finds himself on the run with his best friends Dash, Fyffe and her little brother Sol. Sol is kidnapped by Southside, Nik and Fyffe infiltrate the Southside camp and uncover details about the war that Cityside has so masterfully concealed.

Adult books that are also great:

The Passage by Justin Cronin

This book combines the end of the world with vampires but not those mushy vampires from Twilight. These are vampires you don’t ever want to be kissing. Cronin combines elements of The Road, The X-Files and Michael Crichton to create an epic story that sprawls over 100 years and leaves you gasping for more. Luckily the sequel, The Twelve, is out in October. Perfect for 15 +, male and female readers alike.

Zone One by Colson Whitehead

This is a wickedly brilliant reinvention of the zombie novel. The zombie genre has always been open to brilliant social commentary and Colson proves this in spades. ZONE ONE is dark and cynical but also affecting and thought-provoking. Don’t judge this book by its genre, this is a zombie book you must read.

Sleepless by Charlie Huston

Addictive, thought provoking and one hell of a ride, Sleepless, effortlessly crosses genres weaving science fiction, crime, video games, philosophy and genetics into a novel destined to become a classic. Set in a not-to-distant future the world is gripped by a virus that causes those infected with it to stop sleeping. The repercussions of this plague are far-reaching. A pharmaceutical company claims to have the cure but demand outstrips supply and a black market quickly emerges further disrupting a now volatile society. LA cop, Park Haas, must go undercover to try and find the source of the black market trade. Meanwhile his wife hasn’t slept for weeks nor has their newborn baby.

I could go on and on! What great end of the world novels have you read that would be great for teens and adults alike?

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