Who here likes young adult fiction? Me too! Who here likes dystopian fiction? I did too–for a time. In fact, you’ll find positive reviews of some recent popular examples such as Hunger Games, Divergent, Legend, and The Lunar Chronicles at my blog. Now though, I’ve begun to dislike the genre. For that reason, articles about dystopian fiction catch my eye.
The first article I noticed, Coming of Age: The Darkness of Dystopia Fiction, is actually more about young adult problem fiction than about dystopian. The panel of adults interviewed in the article discussed why young people like darkness in their literature. Their reasons hold up from at least my own experiences of what I needed and wanted to read as a teenager. For example, problem literature can provide a way to the reader of finding others who have similar struggles or of processing traumatic experiences.
Because the article only infrequently dealt with dystopian fiction, I started a search for other articles on the topic. The article, Why are Teens Reading Dystopia Fiction?, reminded me that I still consider among my favorite novels some of our classical dystopian fiction such as Lord of the Flies by William Golding and Farenheit 451. What I most appreciated about this article is it cited reasons given for liking dystopian fiction, whether classic or traditional, by young people themselves. One teen noted that the themes and lessons that dystopian fiction has can help people with problems and can give answers about what they want to talk about. Another teen indicated that dystopian fiction can help one think about how the world will often change and how one might be part of bringing about positive changes. For the latter reason, dystopian fiction can even bring comfort and hope.
With all these great reasons for reading dystopian fiction, why am I starting to tire of the genre? My first reason is that the more of it I read, the more of it starts to sound the same. There always seems to be an unlikely heroine, who lives in a downtrodden society. She reluctantly gets roped into fighting against a political system, which always uses cruelty to maintain its dictatorship. After being trained for battle, she helps an often incredibly small group of rebels battle against a tyrannical political system which boasts a seemingly endless army. Many lives are lost, always including ones closest to the heroine. After several standoffs, the dictator is naturally killed and our heroine retires. Correct if I’m wrong, but classical dystopia had more original plots.
My second reason for tiring of dystopian fiction is the consistent bleak end. Although our heroine now can retire, she remains forever scarred by the conflict. She has no interest in living in the normal world. In fact, there will never anything average about her life again. Granted, this is realistic to the experience of many war veterans. I also understand the point of panelists in Coming of Age: The Darkness of Dystopia Fiction about how such epilogues strike a balance between survival and endurance. Even so, I still start to feel depressed when this becomes the refrain of my reading, and have come to realize I prefer to read books that offer at least some hope of a happy world.
Finally, there’s the issue of the amount of violence in modern dystopia fiction. Some would argue that kids grow up with an awareness of the violence of our world. Therefore, the depiction of it in young adult novels is perfectly acceptable. Without getting into the issue of censorship, I have to admit to feeling concern here. For years, I have hosted a writing club for elementary students. It’s only of late that their writing seems to revolve around the idea that fiction consists of battle scene after battle scene. While I don’t deny that kids will face bullies and other traumas, I’m not sure that their focus on endless war in their writing is a reflection of their lives. Rather, I suspect it’s a sign of the types of entertainment that fills their minds.
What about you? Why do you like/dislike dystopian? What are your favorites? Which of them break away from the standard plots? Let’s talk books!