1. The book must be written in first person and must feature a girl, usually one who doesn't consider herself pretty. She may not be popular at start of the book.
2. If she isn't physically fit at the start of the novel by mid-point she'll be kicking ass right and left. Also she'll be outsmarting people who are years older than she.
3. Boys will like her. Sexy mysterious boys, sneering unpleasant boys, milquetoast beta boys. Many will like her.
4. She won't be running with the in-crowd, but chances are she will be perfectly happy at the start of the book, or at least content.
5. The society will be obviously evil to anyone from our world, duh, but it will take her some time to figure it out because it's all she's ever known
6. The society will look like it has no cracks, but it'll fall in a few weeks/months depending on the girl's schedule because
7. By the middle or end she of first book, she will be ready to lead an entire revolution against a powerful society.
9. But success will take at least three books.
10. At least a few people she loves will have to die. Anyone who's pals with a feisty teenaged girl (or formerly obedient, now feisty) wake up. And if your friend seems to be developing powers or maybe just brains faster than anyone else around?
Watch out. You will have to die. Your solution might be to act dick-ish because only the good die young. (although in the latest one, two good friends die and one does act purely dickish. So best just stay away from her, okay?)
11. There will be a gang of kids who are out to get her. Imagine high school bullying to the nth degree.
12. She will kick their asses, oh, yes. She will.
13. I forgot! a huge DUH! She will have to pick sides or a new life or move to a whole new community or kill people because society demands it of her. She's come of age and is forced into action because society won't leave her the hell alone. These dystopias, I swear. They're worse than school for forcing kids to do stuff when they hit a certain age
As always, I'm mocking** a particular sort of book that I'm having a great time reading. I'm off to find more of these babies.
My favorite first-person teenaged-girl-with-powers book lately has been Diane Farr's Wicked Cool [corrected with the title and link because if she's going to bother to visit me, I'll bother to get it right] because the heroine is torn in a way I can understand and she doesn't seem to act like a moron, ever. It's not a dystopia book, so the heroine can get away with being silly or playful occasionally. I really like Farr's voice. I wish she'd finished writing more of them, dammit.
Same with the Divergent, another purely dystopian book I just read (follows nearly all of my rules above) -- and when I went to find the next? It's not done yet? WTF? Get writing, author. Faster.
Also another couple whose titles I've forgotten even though those titles are one word. They feature some girl inside a glass ball.....or something. Matched. And then there are the Linger, Shiver etc books although maybe they're not dystopian, more werewolfian, but they do have a powerful girl or two running around. Bah. It's all joined together in my brain as one big grim world, saved by a 14 to 17 year old girl. Yes, of course I read the Hunger Games trilogy. I read it while the rest of you were still gaga for Twilight which I haven't read and never will because my kid read the first page out loud in the bookstore in a fruity accent. It was too much.
The latest one I found (just starting it) has the brave, smart girl as an experienced thief. Heist Society. Not really a dystopian or superpowered girl book, but it looks like a version of high society White Collar with teenagers. As in sillier fun. Oh, boy!
Actually, the main trouble with the rash of dystopians I've read lately is that I've also read Shades of Grey by Fford and so now have a standard for a world and dystopia that will be hard to live up to.
I know, we're talking writing for adults vs. writing for YA, but the best YAs can go up against the best adult fiction, dammit. Maybe not the best in the literary fiction world, but otherwise, yeah. I'm serious. Good stuff out there. But Mr. J Fforde, when it comes to invention and new worlds, he raises the bar.
**mock is the wrong word. I mean pay homage to.
UPDATED TO INCLUDE THIS KICK ASS EDUCATIONAL CHART (via MagdalenB) Click to enlarge or embiggen it as some people really do say--with straight faces, even. ANOTHER UPDATE! The actual person who made the chart is Katie Anderson.