Monday, June 13, 2011

Why Is Dystopian All The Rage?

Last week, National Post's Books Editor, Mark Medely, ran an interesting article on Dystopian books Appetite for destruction: Say bye to vampires and hello to Hell-on-Earth. The monstrous growth in that genre seems to have been lead by the success of the Hunger Games trilogy and is not going away.

My favorite sections of the article were responses from Melissa Bourdon-King, general manager of Mabel’s Fables Bookstore in Toronto (which is a must-visit children's book store!) and Judith Saltman, chair of the MA program in Children’s Literature at the University of British Columbia:

The themes and questions raised in these books are more sophisticated than those found in Twilight and Harry Potter, which have an almost-childlike innocence when compared to something like the Hunger Games. “So much of what’s great about dystopian YA right now,” says the bookseller, Bourdon-King, “is that they’re dealing with issues that teens are dealing with in our world right now, but to an extreme level.” Indeed, some of the youngest readers of these books were born after 9/11; the only world they’ve ever known is one of terrorism, invasive technology, reality culture and environmental and economical uncertainty — all themes present in this new crop of books.

“It’s always easier for teens to read about big philosophical questions in mythopoeic form such as fantasy and science fiction than to see it close up and personal in their daily lives,” says Judith Saltman, chair of the MA program in Children’s Literature at the University of British Columbia. “Perhaps reading the sociopolitical metaphors here gives them the educated imagination and critical thinking to apply courage and action in their daily lives.”
Dystopians often showcase a world where you should not accept everything you are told as the truth. Always full of action, the characters learn so much about themselves as they find courage stand up for what they believe.

So what is the draw that keeps you coming back to dystopian?


  1. hm. I'm not sure why. I'm just fascinated with the genre. It's like seeing the world and how it could possibly be in the near future I guess?

    It all started with 1984 that's how I got hooked...

    don't even get me started on why I love zombies and post apocalyptic genres either.. ;)

  2. This is a great question! And I don't know. I always like that there is an element of the world falling apart. Even in my fantasy and urban fantasy reads. Their is trouble and the world will end as we know it (or the characters know it) if not solved.

    I have found I've started to enjoy reading dystopian fiction. But the book publishers are making it easily available now too. They think the world is ready for more of it.

  3. I read it because it's thought-provoking, and it makes me consider the world in different ways. They are like the old cautionary tales in that they suggest a possibility of how the world will be if we don't take steps to change it. They also present teens in an empowering role- the main characters are not born heroes. They are forced into it by circumstance, but are everyday kids like the readers.

  4. Karoline ~ yes, some are a great warning to how things could turn out in the future

    Melissa ~ yes, sadly the world is falling apart, but there is hope too!

    Rachel ~ definately! The idea that a regular person can stand up is such a great message too.

  5. The cautionary parts of the story are usually dismal and make me anxious just reading them. It does give us insights into what life might be like, if we dont change certain things. But what I enjoy most in dystopian tales is the hope that is hinted at for a better world. There always seems to be one character that can see a better version of change.

  6. I fell in love with the dystopian genre with Margaret Atwood, which is not really YA dystopian but it is a love that has crossed from adult to YA fiction. I think the genre is incredibly engaging and an easier way to slip into deep discussions about the issues that our society faces. I love that it can explore the philosophical in a fresh and exciting light. It encourages and sometimes even begs us to be better and braver than we are. And I love being challenged. I hope that dystopian fiction stays around.

  7. Good question to bring up. That is what all the teens are reading at my library. I have read a few but I am taking a break from YA for awhile.

    I never really thought about the why.

    Thanks for posting this!

  8. O wow. How true.

    I think for me, I love seeing the human spirit prevail and I love learning tips on how to survive the stuff we all dread and hope never comes true.