Dystopian literature is one of the fastest growing trends in teen literature right now. (Vampires? So 2008...) These are fantasy or science fiction stories typically set in the future or in an alternate history that depict a seemingly utopian world that is in fact corrupt and controlling. Brave New World, 1984, and A Clockwork Orange are some classic examples that are still widely enjoyed today, but Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games trilogy has emerged as the most recent successful offering for teens within this genre. Plenty more dystopian novels are appearing on the shelves every day, with stories about post-apocalyptic wastelands, constant surveillance, dwindling natural resources, oppressive dictators, mindless conformity, and me-against-the-world heroes that must face it all head on.
But why the recent surge in this thought-provoking yet gloomy genre for teens? This article in The New Yorker examines the recent boom, and this interesting debate in the NY Times includes some well-known dystopian lit authors like Scott Westerfeld (author of the Uglies series) and Paolo Bacigalupi. that Paolo Bacigalupi (recent winner of the 2011 Printz Award). Does the growing trend coincide with rising political, economic, and environmental turmoil in the world? Is it because technology is becoming too invasive in our lives? Or is it simply because this genre speaks to many teens that are approaching adulthood and beginning to critically examine and question the world around them? Perhaps all of the above and more. In any case, the result is some fascinating and engaging literature for us readers to enjoy. Check these out.
It can be heavy stuff, but don't despair. Just remember that these are cautionary tales of what could be, not necessarily where we are headed...One of the most inspiring things about stories like these is recognizing how people can correct history's mistakes and work together to build a better future.