A cataclysmic event occurred. To control the chaos, society becomes highly ordered and stratified, with every person having a defined role and knowing what behaviors are expected.

In these stories, teen characters break away from expectations, in some cases fighting authoritarian powers and in some just trying to survive.

Teen post-apocalyptic fiction (or dystopian fiction) is a popular, thought-provoking genre, full of tense action and teenagers who grow to care about the people around them even as they discover dark secrets of the societies in which they live.

Many of these stories are set in a future United States. Many are currently being made into movies. Here are a few books to get you absorbed in this genre:

"The Giver," by Lois Lowry: This 1994 Newbery Medal winner is beautifully written and disturbing. There's no more war or poverty. It seems ideal, but there are also no choices, since controls are tight, with everyone's life equal and the same. This utopian society is really a bleak dystopia whose past is known only by The Giver.

"The Hunger Games," by Suzanne Collins: A totalitarian government forces teens to participate in a fight-to-the-death game show. With compelling characters, style and suspense, this series is a mega-hit in book form and movies. Maybe this series helped popularize the current trend in dystopian fiction. What is out there to read next?

"Divergent," by Veronica Roth: The first in a trilogy, this addicting action adventure is set in Chicago, where society is divided into five distinct factions, each based on a particular character trait. The story explores themes of identity, fitting in and choosing one's life path and provides plenty of action and romance. A movie is opening this spring.

"Delirium," by Lauren Oliver: Future Portland, Maine, is a police state. Love or any show of affection is outlawed, even between parents and children. A "cure" administered at 18 removes strong feelings such as love, jealousy and hate (but not fear). Kids who were friends all their lives don't feel the same toward each other after the cure. And parents raise children adhering to codes of loyalty and duty, without love.

"Under the Never Sky," by Veronica Rossi: A sheltered girl ends up outside the (literal) bubble in which her people live protected from the shifting electrical storms. Outside, she finds the people who inhabit the Death Shop. The novel is told in alternating points of view between the girl and the Outsider she meets in the wasteland.

"Legend," by Marie Lu: In Los Angeles, there is no more middle class. The military government is oppressive. The story is told in alternating points of view between a girl from a privileged, military background and a boy from the streets, a wanted criminal. When the girl's brother is murdered and their worlds come together, they begin to find out what the government is really doing.

"Ship Breaker," by Paolo Bacigalupi: On a beach along the Gulf Coast, kids tear apart ancient oil tankers to recycle copper wire and other valuable resources. It's a place where trusting the wrong person can mean your life. After a powerful hurricane, one of the kids finds the young sole survivor of a luxury yacht wrecked near the beach. This find could save him from a life of extreme poverty, or he could rescue the girl.

"The Maze Runner," by James Dashner: Teen boys are trapped in the center of a giant, shifting Maze inhabited by deadly creatures. The boys set up their own society complete with rules, jobs and slang as they look for a solution to the Maze. When a girl shows up one day, things begin to change, and more is revealed about the world outside the Maze and the shadowy organization behind its construction.

Although teens are the target audience for these books, a lot of adults enjoy them too. Browse the Newport Beach Public Library catalog at http://www.newportbeachlibrary.org.

CHECK IT OUT is written by the staff of the Newport Beach Public Library. All titles may be reserved from home or office computers by accessing the catalog at http://www.newportbeachlibrary.org. For more information on the Central Library or any of the branches, please contact the Newport Beach Public Library at (949) 717-3800, option 2.