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YA Dystopia Glut: A Sign of Despondency or Optimism?

After the success of the Harry Potter series, the YA market exploded. The books released by publishers under the YA category today are not as "dumbed-down" or childish as was the trend for a long time — offerings for the last decade have tackled many social issues and provided bleak scenarios of the future. As with HP, the success of the Hunger Games series has also inspired a number books and series, except the HG wave is filled with post-apocalyptic or near-apocalyptic settings.

My initial reaction to the premise of the Hunger Games series was sadness — I was not interested in reading about children fighting to the death for food. Recently at a convention I asked the group about whether or not they believed the dystopia trend signals a despondency amongst the young people reading them — a lack of hope for the future of the world. A junior high teacher spoke up to say no, that she hears that a lot but she believes the trend is a hopeful one, because even though the main characters of these novels are struggling to stay alive in ruined worlds, the fact is that within the story, humanity has survived whatever collapse has been portrayed, and the young people in the story are re-building a better society.

I’d be interested in seeing a well-researched article from a psychological perspective that compares several different popular YA series, and discusses the issue of hopefulness within those series.

I’m putting this in Literature, but it could also be an article for the Writing category, depending on approach.

  • I wrote an article about classic dystopian novels a while back that takes The Hunger Games as a starting point, seeming as it is a popular series :) it has been an interest of mine, thinking about how 'Dystopia' as a genre has changed over time, and how it has become such a YA genre when it wasn't always. I know this isn't exactly to the topic, but thought it might be useful! :) – Camille Brouard 9 years ago
  • I mean this topic can even spread to the Film category due to the mad grab for film adaptations of Hunger Games, Maze Runner, and Divergent. I do agree with the junior high teacher that these series in the end are hopeful. Typically they end with the main character destroying the world that they grew up in (which was corrupt to begin with) and creating a new and hopefully better one. Similarly the generation that has grown up with Harry Potter and Hunger Games and the like have to face a world that is drastically different than the world that the Baby Boomers lived in. One that is rife with problems that previous generations ignored. At the same time, this current generation has managed to look at the stark reality and embrace the notion that change can occur by challenging the current societal norms to create a new world for themselves. – ajames 9 years ago

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