#5 Dystopian Fiction

“The early summer sky was the color of cat vomit.”

This quote is the first sentence of one of the first young adult novels I ever read, Uglies by Scott Westerfeld. The first in a trilogy, Uglies is a story about a girl named Tally, who lives in a future society where everyone at the age of sixteen receives a series of operations and medical procedures to make them “pretty.” This, the future government believes, will keep conflict from happening and make everyone happy. But little do the citizens know, it’s not just their looks being altered during these operations.

This novel is one of many in the dystopian sub-genre of teen literature. What does “dystopian” mean, you ask? Dystopian fiction explores the future as a nightmare. Corrupted governments, humans being used, discriminated, and tortured, cities existent during a total collapse of society, or even like the world in Uglies, where the corruption is less visible, where everything seems hunky-dory until some free-thinking rebel decides to stick their nose where it doesn’t belong. I’ve always had an affinity for dystopian fiction. I don’t know if that means I’m disturbed or if I’m just a nerd. I just find the stories of the genre more exciting than those taking place in the modern world.

Adult examples of dystopian fiction would be books like Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, 1984 by George Orwell, and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. These three are definitely the most well-known and most popular of the adult genre, and that’s why I’m naming them.

Young adult examples, on the other hand, I am more familiar with. Above, I mentioned Uglies, which has two sequels (Pretties and Specials) and a spin-off novel (Extras). The series is perfect for someone looking to get into dystopia for the first time. Then we have Westerfeld’s other novels, Peeps, about a future rife with a virus that turns people into “vampires,” and So Yesterday, where readers discover all trends in the world are pre-determined and monitored. Other popular titles include Feed by M.T. Anderson (think, Wikipedia in your brain), The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, and my personal favorite, Little Brother by Cory Doctorow. In Little Brother, the world is in a constant state of alert, keeping citizens under close watch because, it is believed, they are on the lookout for terrorists. The teens in the novel find a way to hack into government agencies and fight back against the power hungry leaders invading everyone’s privacy. The most popular dystopian novel in pop culture right now is The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. The Hunger Games revolves around a world after the collapse of modern society, probably the result of nuclear war. It is hundreds of years after that collapse and a corrupt government is in control. North America is divided up into twelve districts, each in charge of a certain good or service, which serves the Capitol. To keep these districts under control, the Capitol forces each to give up one boy and one girl a year to compete in a competition where the point is to be the last one to survive. This book is soon to be a movie out in theatres, and I find myself very optimistic about the way it will be portrayed.

The reason I favor the genre of dystopia so much is because the stories and plots more often than not hold a deeper meaning than just personal morals. The books tell us that the world cannot change until someone makes that first move. They tell us that by working together, we can prevent an awful future.

In a strange way, reading dystopia makes me feel like a soldier preparing for war. I’d like to think that in my own personal future (hopefully of the utopian variety), I will read a dystopian novel to my children and, while showing them that humans are capable of bringing down evil, I will simultaneously be scaring the crap out of them.


This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to #5 Dystopian Fiction

  1. D. Hill says:

    Sounds like you’ll be up for Parent of the Year awards. Nice consideration of this genre, which seems to continue to hold the interest of readership decade after decade. I think you described the psychology of it quite well – that even among the ruins, these stories present models of hope, but only based on the actions of the people. Did you read C. McCarthy’s The Road? That seemed to receive a great deal of acclaim, but I found myself unable to continue reading it after the first 50 pages (my limit for “trying” any book).

    You could get rid of that question, “What does “dystopian” mean, you ask?” and the flow would still work really well to just go right into the definition of the genre. And I’d recommend a new paragraph at “The most popular dystopian novel ” to help break that long paragraph up.

  2. Wow! This genre sounds awesome! I’ve heard of The Hunger Games, but haven’t gotten a chance to start reading them. As far as Uglies goes, that sounds interesting as well! It kind of reminds me of a book I had to read when I was in middle school. I think it was called The Giver. I haven’t read it since, but at the time I hated it! Now, as an adult I think I’d probably enjoy it a lot more. I am really enjoying your posts; it is broadening my horizons not only on Young Adult Lit, but on all Literature as well. I’m one of those people who, once I like something, I’m stuck on it and I will only read other things of that sort. I keep reminding myself to buy The Fault in Our Stars, but keep forgetting!

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s