Dystopian YA: On the Rise or Facing Death

Analyse whether or not dystopian young adult novels have become essential reading or a completely redundant genre. Make sure to include examples like The Hunger Games and Divergent and discuss how they have increased the popularity of dystopian fiction for younger readers. Also evaluate newer titles and their impact on the publishing industry (whether or not they serve a purpose, are simply a cash grab, etc.).

  • The popularity of dystopian fiction among YA readers is often explained by it being a theme with which they can personally relate. The world is in shambles and it's up to the young protagonist (representing the future generation) to attempt to fix it. If the state of the world continues on its current trajectory - as the current presidential candidates give us much reason to suspect - the looming threats that can be seen in the novels become all too real. Though this theme feels incredibly relevant at this current historical moment, the mass sensationalism of the genre since 2008 (particularly with the publishing, film, and merchandising industries doing whatever they could to strike while the iron was hot), has very rapidly exhausted its narrative potential - evidenced by how similar the plots of Hunger Games and Divergent are, indicating a lack of original content to fill the demand. Like all fads, it isn't long until people lose interest and move on to the next one. – ProtoCanon 6 years ago
  • Historically speaking, I think the rise and ultimately extreme popularity of dystopian YA novels is significant. I think it certainly says a lot about our culture. Does this automatically mean it is good literature? For most of it, probably not. Rereading the Hunger Games series will show that the quality of writing is very poor, and the characters are not compelling. I think that we tend to get sucked into these kinds of stories because of how horrifying the dystopian thing is, while we live comfortably with the knowledge that it is a highly exaggerated, excessively violent version of some of the real "dystopian" structures in our society (there are things about our world that are truly dystopian, but I don't necessarily think these are the themes and structures explored in YA novels). It doesn't matter if the book is good or not, we become fascinated because it's so sickening and yet usually unrealistic enough that we don't feel compelled to try and fix things. Years down the road, my guess is scholars will examine the eventual impact of this kind of literature, and it will be studied - but more for its value through the socio-cultural perspective than the literary one. – darapoizner 6 years ago
  • It may be helpful to consider the dystopian young adult novel from this perspective: imagine an alternate reality of Harry Potter where Voldemort won and people held to a 'resistance'. We see a glimpse of this reality preceding the battle at Hogwarts, and afterwards when Voldemort appears to have defeated Harry. From this perspective the dystopian young adult novel represents the version of our realities as youth where we are not imbued with a bildungsroman-style ascension to adulthood. In other words, this genre is an inevitable continuation of children's literature. The difference between film adaptations and the novels themselves -- especially for The Hunger Games -- will likely be of more interest to future scholars (i.e. do the books matter anymore once the film adaptation has entered the collective consciousness). As for whether this means that the value is more socio-cultural than literary is an interesting predicament given that the separation of the two could likewise be up for debate. – Kira Metcalfe 6 years ago

Want to write about Literature or other art forms?

Create writer account