I am terribly surprised at the level of interest in The Hunger Games trilogy and the movie. I have to admit that I did not expect it since dystopic fiction, which I have always been a big fan of, really hasn’t been the most popular of sub-genres since the first half of the 20th century when the fear of Communism was all the West could think about. Those were the years of Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, and Yevgeny Zamyatin.
However, it seems that dystopias are back in vogue, especially with the young adults, and I think it’s not a moment too soon. Honestly, teen lit needs to be saved from what Barnes and Noble calls “Teen Paranormal Romance”. Seriously, have you been in a Barnes and Noble in the last year or so? There really is a HUGE section named “Teen Paranormal Romance”. Don’t believe me? Well, here’s the picture.
What’s that I hear? Not convinced that the section is all that big? Well, then look below.
I know that I am training to be a librarian and I’m not supposed to make value judgment calls on what people read. I’m also supposed to be thrilled that teenagers are reading at all. Whatever it takes to make the little buggers crack open a book, right? I just can’t imagine that such a small sub-sub-genre like Teen Paranormal Romance could spawn so many titles!
Dystopias are completely different. They actually engage the reader and challenge them to think. I read a dystopia and I find myself wondering if the world could end up like the one in the book. Could things really ever get that bad, and if so, how can that future be prevented? Usually the characters are extremely well-developed, but not at the expense of the plot. Furthermore, writing a dystopian novel requires a lot of imagination on the part of the author. He or she must create a world that has enough qualities that seem familiar to the reader, but also brand new at the same time. Usually there’s a large science fiction element. In some novels, the world is so technologically advanced that space travel and other futuristic devises are employed. In others, the world has regressed because of some sort of man-made or natural disaster.
Today, we don’t only have The Hunger Games, but there’s also Life as We Knew it by Susan Beth Pfeffer, Divergent by Veronica Ross, Uglies by Scott Westerfield, and The Maze Runner by James Dashner - just to name a few. A lot of these novels are written in such a way that both adults and teens can enjoy them. However, some are written primarily for grade school kids. This doesn’t mean that an adult can’t enjoy a book like City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau, just know that it will probably be an extremely quick read. I suggest these are the perfect books to read when you’re feeling a little melancholy or depressed. Once you start reading one, you’ll realize that no matter how bad your life seems, it can always be a whole lot worse! I think Katniss Everdeen would agree.Tweet
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