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Young Adult Dystopian Novels: Background information when reading We Set the Dark on Fire

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We Set the Dark on Fire

by Tehlor Mejia

We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Mejia X
We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Mejia
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2019, 384 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2020, 384 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Erin Szczechowski
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About this Book

Young Adult Dystopian Novels

This article relates to We Set the Dark on Fire

Print Review

In Tehlor Kay Mejia's debut novel We Set the Dark on Fire, men marry two wives – one Primera, who is logical and controlled, and one Segunda, who is beautiful and passionate. However, when Dani, a young Primera, joins the resistance as a spy, she becomes determined to invert the whole system. Dystopian novels, while often set in alternate versions of the future, remain a powerful way of critiquing the status quo, and seem to have exploded in popularity in the YA genre. So if you're craving more YA dystopia, here's five that I personally recommend:


The cover of The Hunger Games by Suzanne CollinsThe Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: This trilogy of novels is set in the nation of Panem, where each of 12 districts must offer up one boy and one girl to compete to the death for the Capitol's enjoyment. Made into a series of blockbuster films, The Hunger Games was profoundly influential on the YA dystopia genre, and if anyone out there hasn't yet read the books, they're in for a wild ride. The determined, brave heroines in We Set the Dark on Fire reminded me of the stoic, bold, and very badass heroine of Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen.


The cover of The Giver by Lois LowryThe Giver by Lois Lowry: Jonas lives in a stark, orderly world, where he feels little pain – but also little pleasure. However, when he is assigned an important job that forces him to learn the secrets of the world, he realizes that he can never go back to his ordinary life. The Giver is the oldest book on this list (published in 1993), and also features the youngest protagonist (Jonas is only 12), but this book is popular with readers of all ages. The Giver contains less action than your typical YA dystopia, offering instead a ruminative consideration of the effects of knowledge on a person.


The cover of Legend by Marie LuLegend by Marie Lu: Born to an elite family in a wealthy district of the Republic, 15-year-old June is destined to succeed in the military. Meanwhile, 15-year-old Day is the Republic's most wanted criminal. However, when the two teens cross paths, they uncover just how many secrets their country has concealed from the public. This series is perfect for those who love dystopian novels with plenty of action.


The cover of Feed by M.T. AndersonFeed by M.T. Anderson: In a world where people have chips implanted in their brains that allow them to mentally connect to the internet, a group of teens party on the moon, just before a system-wide hack causes everyone's chips to malfunction. With a focus on consumerist culture, Feed is a fast-paced, surreal adventure; I couldn't put it down.


The cover of Uglies by Scott WesterfeldUglies by Scott Westerfeld: In Westerfeld's Uglies, at the age of 16, "ugly" adolescents are meant to undergo an operation that turns them "pretty." However, when protagonist Tally's friend Shay runs away to avoid this procedure, Tally follows her to an underground settlement of rebels that change her view on everything she's ever know. Uglies offers trenchant commentary on societal beauty standards. Its dystopian setting isn't as outwardly terrible as the world in We Set the Dark on Fire, but readers will find tension and terror in the little, insidious details.

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This "beyond the book article" relates to We Set the Dark on Fire. It originally ran in March 2019 and has been updated for the January 2020 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

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