Young Adult Dystopian Fiction

With the success of The Hunger Games Trilogy (get the fancy paperback foil edition) and the upcoming movie adaptation of The Giver (Book 1 of The Giver Quartet), it’s no surprise that The Divergent Trilogy is popular among both book and film audiences.

Two days ago, I read an interesting book called Divergent Thinking: YA Authors on Veronica Roth’s Divergent Trilogy from Smart Pop Books (their other books look awesome). It reminded me of The Hunger Games and Philosophy: A Critique of Pure Treason from Wiley Publishing (part of The Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series, which is not to be confused with the Popular Culture and Philosophy Series).

Anyway, both books analyze why everyone seems to be obsessed with specific Dystopian YA novels (and their film adaptations). Back when I was still doing PR work for Melissa A. Petreshock, another teen was doing a Throwback Thursday series (which rocked), and talked about The Giver and Divergent. Read that post when you’re done here. And here’s another post about the over-saturation of said genre.

Divergent Thinking differs from The Hunger Games and Philosophy in that it is comprised of essays, ranging from the psychology to modern-day equivalents of the Faction System, by other YA authors instead of a philosopher. The first essay of Divergent Thinking, “From Factions to Fire Signs” by Rosemary Clement-Moore, states that the reason “we like books that sort people” (a common theme in dystopian fiction) “comes down … to a paradox:”

My mom hasn’t finished either dystopian trilogy… which is fine. My only stipulation is that she finish reading them before the 4th movie comes out for each series (the fact that the film industry is splitting the last book in 2 for every series since Harry Potter pisses me off, but that’s another topic that I won’t go into here).

I was talking to her about why Lois Lowry should be given a medal for making dystopian a popular genre of Young Adult Fiction because without The Giver, Katniss and Tris’ stories probably wouldn’t have been published (again, read this article).

New York Magazine referred to Lowry as “the godmother to The Hunger Games, Divergent, and the general dystopia mania of the last decade.”

The conversation then veered into my opinion of which trilogy I liked better (The Giver is my favorite of all 3 works, hand down). I said Divergent. I think the Hunger Games books were written better, but I like that the Faction System is based on values and that there is a Choosing Ceremony. There’s still a bunch of corruption and rules in that government as there is in the Capitol and even the Board of Elders, but at least there is the illusion of real choice. In contrast, the Districts are arbitrary. If you’re born in District 12, you’re stuck as a mine-worker. The only way out is by winning the Hunger Games (by murdering 23 other people—yeah, no thanks).

The Giver had both aspects. While the Elders assigned jobs at the Ceremony of Twelve (which is now Ceremony of Sixteen, because Hollywood is obsessed with teenagers), the decisions are based off observations of the students and their extra-curricular activities. It’s not as arbitrary as in Collins’ world.

I’m not saying any of the 3 worlds is better than the other. One has a fight to the death, the other creates mindless drones, and the final one (or first if you go by publication date) has drugs that represses all emotion. I certainly wouldn’t want to live in any of them, if given the choice.

The dystopian genre works for young adults because rebellion is inevitable, and all of the stories have a teenage protagonist fighting (and usually winning, at least in some way) against the control of their oppressive adult governments.

Do you agree or disagree with what I said? Have anything to add? Comment below!

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