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Why are Dystopian Novels so popular? Because they deal with reality...

by Adrienne - 3 Comment(s)

Why are Dystopian Novels so popular? This current trend not just with teens, it is also popular with many adults. These YA novels have even your parents following them! Why? Because they deal with real life issues that we either face in the world every day, or that the WORLD at large deals with every day. The proof is in the pudding eh? So what issues DO the current faves and bests deal with?

Wither The main issue this book deals with is the possible unknown side-effects of genetic engineering and insufficiently tested cures. This applies today to more than just genetics research; we have many diseases with unknown cures and unknown causes... Do we know the full effects of a lifetime of eating Kraft diner, painting our nails with formaldehyde polish, or spraying DDT on our vegetables and consequent genetic defects? No... and on and on and on with 100 million products and experiments we conduct every day. Diseases like ALS are New and just popping up and others like AIDS and many cancers still have no known cures.

Wither also deals with objectifying women and young girls solely for their looks (very western), reproductive capacities (prevalent in various countries today) and reproductive slavery. Slavery is slavery even within the confines of comfy couches and pretty lipsticks... As well as taking a look at what love really Is and Is not.

Birthmarked also takes a hard look at reproductive slavery, as well as being a case study for third world vs. first world paradigms. Set in 2403 in a society where our world and time is labeled "the cool age", it is an imaginative rendering of post apocalyptic survival - global warming style. The book even dares to propose how various current energy solutions such as using geothermic energy could have negative effects on society; or certain members of society, whenever dictatorship reigns. Our current world deals with global warming; 1st world vs. 3rd world; class issues and divisions within society (some more stark and apparent than others and some more covert); alternative energies and dictatorships Every Day. Perhaps the resonance of these books is not in their outlandish imaginings, but rather in their expressions of current realities made more digestible through the form of story. Check out the movie trailer here.

The Graceling series is perhaps one of the most multi-layered dystopian series of the bunch, teetering into the verge of fantasy, but striking home so closely to reality that I often found the books very difficult to read (even though this consequently made them my favourites of the bunch.) Dealing with issues of literacy and class, ability vs. disability, dictatorships, sociopaths, murder, justice, memory and healing, they also insert things such as birth-control and GLBTQ as givens, positive aspects of this much troubled society.

Bitterblue is the story of both a girl and a society recovering from the effects of a regime of terror. How does one uncover truth? How are "war crimes" dealt with fairly when the entire society is both implicitly guilty and traumatized at the same time? Can a thief be loyal, just, trustworthy and lovable? Can one be treasonous, break the law and yet be loyal and just under the law at the same time? How can just 4% of the population (the statistical existence of sociopaths) cause so much damage?

For some interesting thoughts on Dystopian Fiction check out the following INFOGRAPHIC: Is It Dystopia?

Social Studies 101 coming up, in the form of case studies presented in really engaging YA novels!

Stay tuned next Sunday for Part 2 of this blog: Dystopian Popularity Continued...


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by mike

i dont agree with what she says no ofense.

by Adrienne

Thank you for your comments and debate! And I thoroughly agree with most of your second paragraph. These books DO instill hope because of the strength of their characters and that is a large part of their appeal. However even though the books most often have a happy ending often Not all the ills of their society have been cured - just most of them.

The other thing I've come to realize as I've read more and more Dystopic fiction is that Utopia and Dystopia are intrinsically linked as two sides of the same coin. In particular, Divergent by Veronica Roth, which I will review next week, drives home the point that one persons Utopia may be another's Dystopia and so forth. Lastly, if you consider current affairs around the world as well as history; I would argue that although the Dystopian novels are "what ifs" - so were Hitler's concentration camps, and communist Russia; and so are the black market organ donor trade, current genetic engineering, the Dictatorships in Cuba and Singapore; as are so many things in the world that are in reality.. dystopic.

by The Optimistic Cynicist

This is going to sound harsh but I find it very difficult to accept that any of these books are "dealing with reality". The reason dystopian books are popular is because young adults enjoy thier DEVIATION from reality. The fact that everything we could imagine that would NEVER EVER happen to us in real life could happen in these books. Dystopian, by definition, is the opposite of utopian. Meaning, everything that could go wrong WILL in the settings and to the characters in the books. I sometimes even call them worst-case-scenario books.We love seeing how the author "solves" the issues layed out in the books and how they would be totally different in real life. We enjoy the element of fantasy and impossibility that comes with the wonderful genre (fiction).

Another reason that dystopian books are so appealing is their ability to extend faith and hope to the readers through thier characters, themes and events. When we read about the bad things that happen to the heroes and the heroines in the books, we also read into the hope and perseverance in their every action and thought thus, we can't help but root for them. In the end, when everything works out for the protagonists, evil is abolished, all's well that ends well, and whatnot, we as readers (Young Adults, at least) are satisfied by the happiness of the ending because we know it was accomplished through the characters' hard work and strong values.

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