8 of the best queer dystopian books

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I’m pretty sure I read every dystopian YA book in existence in the early 2000s. Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but I read a lot of them. There was something about the love triangles, the anti-establishment stories, the powerful and mostly female lead characters that hooked me. Considering the popularity of The Hunger Games, Divergent, Y the ugly ones, just to name a few, he was not alone! Movies, books, and merchandise flooded my classrooms, many of us sneaking pages under our desks during math class.

Looking back, the genre was sorely lacking in representation of anything except straight white people. All of the main characters were white teenagers, and all of the love triangles had a teenage girl and two male love interests to choose from, usually one with dark hair and the other blonde, for a bit of variety. You were a fan of Peeta or Gale, right?

Fortunately, the genre is still very much alive and has expanded in scope to put various other characters at the helm. It’s not just straight white people that will end up surviving the apocalypse, you know?

Here are eight queer dystopian books for a fresh take on a nostalgic genre!

Cover of the book An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon

A cruelty of ghosts by Solomon Rivers

The last of humanity is aboard the HSS Matilda way to the Promised Land. On the lower decks is Aster, a black sharecropper considered inferior to those above. After the ship’s sovereign dies, an autopsy links his death to the suicide of Aster’s mother, revealing secrets about a way off the ship and rumors of an uprising in his wake. This is a sci-fi dystopia filled with queer and autistic characters and completely themselves.

black wave tea cover by michelle

black wave by Michelle Tea

After Michelle moves to Los Angeles for a new life away from her San Francisco neighborhood, an official announcement shocks the world: they have exactly one year until it’s over. Soon after, people begin to dream of the life they would have had if the apocalypse had not happened. Michelle finds solace in an abandoned bookstore where she begins to write a novel about the end of the world. Hallucination, despair, and humanity plague these pages, making this one of the most riveting queer dystopian books to read right now.

cover of Manhunt by Gretchen Felker-Martin, photo of two plums in a red mesh bag with a bite in one of them

Hunt by Gretchen Felker Martin

In a world where anyone with a certain amount of testosterone runs wild, Beth and Fran hunt them down and harvest their organs while avoiding the violent factions of TERFs out to kill them. They team up with Robbie, a loner from the suburbs, and find themselves in a battle for their very existence. This bloody, violent and sharp novel is as horrific as it is captivating.

Cover of Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey

Erect women wanted by Sarah Gailey

In an effort to escape the marriage her father arranged for her, Esther hides in the Librarian’s wagon. They are supposedly “honest women”, and she longs to find a way to get rid of her feelings for other women. However, what she finds is a group of queer women fighting the system and not caring about the rules. This reimagining of the western dystopia is packed with gunplay and grit in equal measure.

book cover The Power of Naomi Alderman

The power by Naomi Alderman

When the girls gain the power to kill with a single touch, the world is rearranged overnight. Through the perspectives of a mobster’s daughter, a Nigerian journalist, a mayor and a fugitive, we see the impacts of this change. It is the women, now, defended as figures of force, and the men are the ones who are afraid to walk home alone at night. If you’re in the mood for interesting world building and an exploration of gender dynamics, this is a great option.

Adaptation of Malinda Lo Cover

Adaptation by Malinda Lo

In this young adult example of queer dystopian books, when flocks of birds go berserk and planes crash to the ground, America lands all the planes. Reese, stuck in Arizona, has to take a road trip to get home. On the way, one of the wild birds flies into her car and flips it over. They wake up in a military hospital with no answers about what happened. Coming home is even stranger, with curfews and hazmat teams everywhere. Eager for answers, Reese runs into a girl named Amber, and they both stumble upon something far more sinister than they ever imagined.

Salt Fish Girl by Larissa Lai Cover

salt fish girl by Larissa Lai

Set in an alternate version of China and the Pacific Northwest, salt fish girl follows the story of Nu Wa, an eternal shapeshifter, and Miranda, a girl who lives inside a walled city. She is haunted by memories of her mother. Nu Wa wonders if Miranda has the dream sickness where past and present get mixed up. This dystopian sci-fi exploration of memory, gender, and love is packed with Chinese mythology and lore.

Rory Power's Wilder Girls Cover

wildest girls by Rory Power

The school fence keeps them safe from toxins. At least he has in the 18 months since the horrible plague struck. Those who leave the perimeter of the school are safe as dead; those who survive are left with two hearts or another backbone. Hetty and Byatt have managed to survive it all. But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty is determined to find her no matter the cost to her. This scary and gritty boarding school novel is full of horror and queerness too!

Looking for more queer dystopian books? you might also like 9 of the best post-apocalyptic gay youth books.

In the mood for more dystopia in general? try these 12 dystopian books like 1984 either these YA books set in post-apocalyptic cities.

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