From The Hunger Games to Shatter Me, there are so many dystopian books out there, and it seems like it’s not ready to stop, yet. What is so attractive about those made-up worlds, sometimes so chilling that they seem right outside of our doors?
Dystopia : “A futuristic, imagined universe in which oppressive societal control and the illusion of a perfect society are maintained through corporate, bureaucratic, technological, moral, or totalitarian control. Dystopias, through an exaggerated worst-case scenario, make a criticism about a current trend, societal norm, or political system.”
The first dystopian story I read in the young adult section was The Hunger Games. That was a few years ago, but, let me tell you, whenever I think about it, I still get chills all over. That, I think, is the strong point of dystopian fiction. The power it has to perfectly describe our society’s flaws, problems, underline them, sure, and make them bigger, so much bigger that it just enters into our imagination. But, what if it’s not? What if the Arena is right outside of our doors? The first thing making me love dystopian stories so much, is exactly, this. How, under the cover of layers and layers of world building, we’re seeing our own world, our problems, unfold in front of our eyes. On a bigger, much scarier scale, sure, but it’s right there. Making us wonder about our society. Making us look up, out of the pages of the book, and find out where these little details are finally, not that made up, at all. Suzanne Collins got the inspiration for her book while watching tv, changing channels, from a documentary on a War, and some kind of reality tv show. It’s while seeing those two very different, yet very real problems, that the idea for The Hunger Games popped up. And, I think, it’s exactly why she wrote those books. This scary story about teens killing each other off, while everyone’s mandatory to watch. Isn’t that, on a much bigger scale, an altered version of reality? Underlining violence, tv reality, cameras, the idea of how entertainment today can be pushed to some extremes?
A battle against conformity.
Earlier on, Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies is one of those books that made me think the most about our society, our pretty society (pun intended!). In this dystopia, completely made-up by the australian writer, everything seems strangely familiar. Teenagers are labeled as “uglies” until, at age 16, they are forced to undergo an operation, in order to become “pretty”. In Tally Youngblood’s battle against conformity, I saw, and still see, our society’s obsession about physical appearance and everything that comes with it.
Obviously, reading is an escape, let’s not forget that. As teenagers, and everyone, see their world become darker, more scary, and their minds are filling with questions about themselves and their future, they can always turn to fiction to escape. Those dystopian novels allow us to think about another reality, one that is much, much heavier than our own. Life’s not that bad after all, is it? Most of all, life is not that bad, and we have the power to change ours, whenever we want. Because, like the characters in those novels, we are strong, stronger than we think we can be.
Dystopia is one of the genres that makes us think the most.
Fitting in (Divergent), making decisions (Free to Fall), falling in love (Delirium), learning to stand and speak up for what you believe in (The Hunger Games, Shatter Me)… when you think about it, isn’t all of this the kind of struggle that teenagers, young adults, go through every single day of their lives? Take a different setting, but yet those same problems,(under different proportions, sure), and you will find out that those issues, aren’t as different as our own. Dystopian fiction makes us understand that we’re not alone. We don’t fit in, so what? There is absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t speak up for ourselves, or why we shouldn’t believe in our love, take ahold of our decisions and embrace them. Even if we don’t really want to imagine ourselves in those settings (I mean, do you really want to live in a world where we can’t love, can’t speak up…. ?), we see parts of ourselves in those characters. In those shy, standing-out people. Because we’re not meant to be part of the crowd, and everyone is special. Everyone can take on the world, maybe not as radically as the main characters do in those books, but at our scale.
Mostly, I think that dystopia is one of the genres that makes us think the most. About our society, about us. Sometimes, it’s hard to see what’s in front of our eyes. What we grew up with. We just need things to be put into perspective, and that’s what dystopian fiction does with perfection. After the big age of this genre, however, contemporary is surely settling in. It’s real, it deals with real issues we can easily recognize. It brings out more and more diversity. It fully steps inside of our reality, today.
Let’s discuss! What do you think about dystopian fiction? Do you read it, or not? Which dystopian book is your favorite? Which one would you recommend? Is there any dystopian fiction that, for you, really stands out?
Do you prefer contemporary novels? Why, or why not? Tell me everything in comments! 🙂