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You can't throw a rock in a bookstore these days without hitting a post-apocalyptic, dystopian novel or three. There are SO MANY. Surprisingly enough, considering the saturated market, most of the ones I've read are quite good.

The thing is, they're all very different. Some are gory and scary, going into gleeful detail about a global catastrophe. Others are more character-centered, focused on an individual or small group of survivors, exploring what comes after the world-altering event rather than the disaster itself. This variety keeps me coming back to dystopian fiction—I've yet to grow bored with it because each author presents a new and fascinating riff on the theme.

Find Me, Laura van den Berg's debut novel, is another solid contribution to the dystopian bookshelf. The protagonist, Joy, lives in a hospital in rural Kansas. She and the other patients aren't allowed outside the building, and the nursing staff wear full hazmat suits at all times. A sickness has swept the nation, causing sufferers to lose their memories before succumbing to a painful death. Joy and the other patients are quarantined—and being studied—because they appear to be immune.

Prior to Joy's hospitalization, she lived a nomadic, desperate existence, shuffling in and out of foster homes and group homes. She is haunted by the absence of her mother. What kind of woman was she? How could she have abandoned her infant daughter? Joy has a lot of questions she'd like to ask her, despite her simmering rage at being discarded so callously. Her immunity to the disease, a possible genetic gift from her mother, only adds another layer to her complicated feelings.

Find Me is definitely more literary fiction than it is sci-fi. Van den Berg isn't too specific with the details of the plague or the biological reasons why some people would be immune to it, which I know would drive some readers crazy. She also takes the story far afield from the Kansas hospital where Joy's story begins (so don't get too attached to that setting or the other characters populating it). I didn't mind these narrative choices because I found myself more interested in unearthing Joy's childhood memories and plumbing the depths of her feelings towards her mom than analyzing the causes and effects of the sickness.

Ultimately, this is a novel about a girl and the mother who left her. The dystopian elements are just a frame around a personal story of loss.

If you're interested in more post-apocalyptic/dystopian fiction, here are some ideas to get you started:

Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel

The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

Bird Box by Josh Malerman

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood