Melissa Welliver on Books That Prove Dystopian UKYA is Back in 2021

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Really pleased to welcome Melissa Welliver to the site today! She’ll be talking about dystopian books coming this year – including her own The Undying Tower (7th Oct, Agora.) This is high on my list of ‘wants’; it sounds amazing – as do the other books she’s talking about. Over to you, Melissa. 

In the far reaches of the future, on a seemingly post-apocalyptic earth, a Tower stands alone in the deserted ruins of a sand-covered city. This tower houses an isolated civilisation, one that punishes young boys for the war-mongering sins of their forefathers. A staggering matriarchy rules KL Kettle’s world in The Boy I am, where boys are indebted – quite literally – in eternal servitude to the ruling class of women. In the novel we follow Jude, a teenage boy who is trying to catch the attentions of the Chancellor, who he thinks murdered his best friend Vic. The stakes are high throughout this book, and the twists and turns don’t stop until the very end. An exciting addition to the Dystopian UKYA landscape.

(Wallace Publishing, 9th Feb)

Bethan Evans brings her dystopian world to life in this debut novel. Wyn is a sixteen-year-old girl brought up in the care of The Sisters, members of a religious community called The Old Collection. As Wyn nears the end of her care there, her thoughts turn to her future – a future which, in her society, is very limited due to being a girl. So Wyn makes a dangerous choice – disguising herself as a boy, she joins The Southern Company as a cadet in the army, and chases the excitement and freedom she has always craved. A new voice in the world of UKYA dystopia and one I’m hoping is here to stay.

(Faber & Faber 2nd March)

This may seem like a strange addition to a list about UKYA, but hear me out. Booker prize winning author Ishiguro is back with a new speculative novel that will make us question what it really means to be human. The plot centres around Klara, a solar powered robot who was built and sold as an AI robotic friend for one family’s teenage children. We see the world through Klara’s eyes and, in some respects, through the supposed ‘friendship’ she builds with these children. A family drama at its heart, I think any YA aficionado would rip through Klara and the Sun just as quickly as a conventional YA novel, especially if they are fans of the speculative genre. The novel feels eerily prescient, with the children completing school from home through their very own ‘screen professors’ – despite the fact that Ishiguro says he finished the first draft of the novel just before the pandemic began. With such a big name behind it, and such an incredible story to tell, I just couldn’t leave Klara and the Sun off this list.

(Chicken House, 4th May) 

The second instalment in the thrilling futuristic trilogy about Luka, a boy held captive by a sentient machine called Happy. Happy tortured Luka during his stay in his first prison, The Loop, and now he has recaptured him he once again subjects him to twelve-hour Energy Harvests to try and get him to reveal the location of his fellow prison-break inmates. The first book in this series set up this dystopia as a society on the brink of civil war, and I’m counting down the days until I can find out how Luka not only escapes this time, but how he’s going to raise an army for the fight to come. Certainly one to break any lockdown reading slump.

(Agora Books, 7th Oct)

I’d be remiss not to include my own novel! The start of the Undying trilogy, The Undying Tower tells the story of Sadie, a sixteen-year-old who suddenly finds herself separated from her ailing father and life as she knows it. Armed with little help and even less knowledge of what she’s getting herself into, Sadie is thrust into a cold and cryptic ‘correctional facility’ – The Tower – where she’ll have to rethink everything she’s been told about the Undying population in an attempt to save her life, protect a group of unlikely friends, and forge a new future for a society on the brink of catastrophic upheaval. It’s the beginning of an epic saga tackling isolationist culture, prejudice, and the struggle to become the person you want to be.

Melissa Welliver writes speculative fiction about how the End Of The World is never really the end of the world. After studying MA Creative Writing under Jeanette Winterson at the University of Manchester, she went on to complete Curtis Brown Creative’s Writing for Children course. Her work has listed in Bath Novel Award, Mslexia, the Hachette Children’s Novel Award, and the Wells Book for Children Competition. She has been published in two short story collections and is an avid member of the Twitter writing community. Born in Stockport, she now lives in the High Peak with an assortment of doggy friends. The Undying Tower is her first novel.

Find her at her website, on Twitter and on Instagram.

Check out The Undying Tower on Goodreads and Amazon.

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