Dystopia. It’s everywhere. On your bookshelves, in the hands of millions of readers, lurking in your nightstand drawer for a surprise sneak attack. Okay, maybe the last part is an exaggeration, but I think it’s safe to say that dystopian books are currently one of the hottest sub-genres in the world of young adult literature.
Most people in the YA blogosphere have heard of or read the amazing Hunger Games series, and I think its popularity with readers of all ages has helped to set the dystopian trend in motion. Just look at all of the titles that have been and will be coming out since Mockingjay’s August release: Matched by Ally Condie, Delirium by Lauren Oliver, Wither by Lauren DeStefano and Divergent by Veronica Roth. And those are just the ones that I can think of off the top of my head.
While The Hunger Games is original and gripping, it’s certainly not the first, only or best dystopian novel out there. Let’s not forget Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, 1984 by George Orwell or The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. These are stories of people who’s actions and daily lives are controlled and watched, where anything that deviates from the norm is unacceptable.
It may be particularly popular now, but I think dystopia is a genre that we will always read because of the fears it presents. I know a lot of you may be rolling your eyes or slamming your head against your keyboard right now, but hear me out. As much as I like America, in most places throughout the country same-sex couples still aren’t allowed to marry. This is messed up to me. But let’s take a circumstance from a YA dystopia novel that is applicable to real life. In The Hunger Games, the citizens of Panem often go hungry because of an oppressive government. I think we can definitely think of similar instances in history.
This post isn’t to say that the themes and horrors of dystopian novels are an impending reality. However, I don’t think dystopia as a genre will ever fade away entirely. Sure, some people may read solely for thrills without desire to give a lot of deep themes, yet for me, the cautionary elements are still there. Even if they aren’t reality, the themes in these novels are enough to keep us lying awake at night, asking ourselves, “What would I do if that happened to me?”