The Reading Life: Young Adult Apocalypse

Why are there so many young adult books about the apocalypse and what happens afterward? I kind of think it’s because being a teenager is life-changing to an explosive extent. You grow up, your brain gets more folds, you develop a world-view, and maybe you fall in love. I’ve been reading a lot of these turbulent books lately; I’m about five weeks away from finishing my master’s degree, and the anxiety I feel reminds me of being a senior in high school. I’m so close to being done, but far enough away that it’s driving me batty. Part of me thinks that an apocalypse would be easier to deal with.

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

The Knife of Never Letting Go

Todd lives in a world where there are no women. The women are all dead. Todd’s dog can talk, but he’s kind of stupid. And everyone in the world can hear everyone else’s thoughts. Todd can’t go anywhere without hearing the crude things that the men in his town are thinking. Except one day he finds a place where there is no Noise. What could it mean? Todd goes on a dangerous, tragic journey that doesn’t end when the book does; there are two more books in the Chaos Walking series. The last sentence will probably make you throw the book across the room.

how i live now by Meg Rosoff

Daisy is a rich kid from New York City who is sent to live with her cousins in England. Her Aunt Penn is often away from the house, so the cousins get to roam around and have adventures. After a few weeks of idyllic enjoyment, an unnamed violent force invades England, and thus begins Daisy’s adulthood. This is a slim little book, but it packs a powerful punch; it also includes the saddest sentence I have ever read.

Life as We Knew It

Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

What if the moon somehow moved closer to the Earth? How would that change our lives? Spoiler: everything would change. The weather would be different, the length of the day would change, there would be tidal waves and tsunamis and earthquakes. What if you were a normal girl from Pennsylvania caught in the middle of everything? This book is heart-wrenching and suspenseful. Pfeffer has published two companion books, too: the dead & the gone (which takes place at the same time as Life as We Knew It, but in New York City) and This World We Live In (which is a sequel to Life as We Knew It).

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

I wrote about this book a few weeks ago (TRL: Zombies), but it’s definitely an apocalypse book, too. Something happened in the world a long time ago, and everyone died, or became an Unconsecrated. Mary’s village is the only one left in the world. It’s surrounded by a fence. One day, the fence is breached and everything changes. Ryan just published a sequel titled The Dead-Tossed Waves.

The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

Ember is a beautiful city lit by electric lights. But the townspeople are running out of lightbulbs. Two teenagers need to figure out the secret of their city before its too late. Where do they live, really? Is their city what they think it is? I read this book in one sitting and then wanted to read it again.

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld


In the future, a new type of bacteria destroys the world’s oil supply. The new world is smaller and more controlled. When you are sixteen, you get plastic surgery and become a Pretty. That’s the world Tally Youngblood knows. Then she meets some other kids who tell her that she doesn’t know the whole story. This is the first in a series that includes Pretties, Specials, and Extras. Scott Westerfeld is a fantastic writer, and a concept that could have been really cliched in less able hands is crafted into a compelling, thought-provoking series.

What’s your favorite apocalyptic book? Let us know!


About Amanda K

Amanda K holds a master's degree in Library and Information Studies. She's a housewife, a Planned Parenthood volunteer, a sewist, and an aspiring gourmet home cook. View all posts by Amanda K

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