Monday, May 10, 2010

Dystopia Week!

A utopia is a perfect world.

Perfect peace.

Perfect environment.

Perfectly happy, content people.

No conflict. No ugly. No discontent.








How boring.



This week we're going to be discussing dystopias. Wikipedia defines dystopia as:
A dystopia (from Ancient Greekδυσ-: bad-, ill- and Ancient Greekτόπος: place, landscape) (alternatively, cacotopia,[1] or anti-utopia) is a vision of an often futuristic society, which has developed into a negative version of Utopia. A dystopia is often characterized by an authoritarian or totalitarian form of government. It often features different kinds of repressive social control systems, a lack or total absence of individual freedoms and expressions and a state of constant warfare or violence.
There are plenty of great books on dystopia, and from all appearances, dystopic literature is on the rise, especially in teen literature. This article from Publishers Weekly indicates that dystopia's popularity is, at least in part, a response to our current world situation. With the THE HUNGER GAMES, THE MAZE RUNNER, THE KNIFE OF NEVER LETTING GO, THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH, and many more, it's easy to see that dystopic literature isn't going away any time soon.

Before we get started, let's share opinions! 

  1. Do you like to read dystopian literature?
  2. What's your favorite dystopic work?
  3. Why do you think dystopian literature is so popular in YA today?

44 comments:

Matthew Rush said...

Personally I love dystopian literature. My favorites are Brave New World and 1984. I hope those count because I have to admit I haven't read much in this "genre" recently. I am planning on correcting that sometime soon - if I can find the time.

Jen said...

I think I'm pretty open in my reading choices, dystopia literature is a lot of fun just as is most of the books I choose when visiting B&N!

Thanks for sharing beth this was fantastic!

Bethany Elizabeth said...

I don't think I really do like dystopian literature. At least, I don't like it when it ends in the same way it begun, like 1984. I loved that book, but I wouldn't read another one like it. This world is depressing, terrifying, and dark enough without adding the fear of what may never come to pass. A lot of people read dystopian literature and actually become afraid that that's what the world will become, and no revolution will follow. Why add darkness to an already dark world?
That said, I obviously don't read a lot of it, and I do (of course) believe that dystopian novels can be well-written.
I'm a fairy and rainbows kinda person, I guess. :) Give me a world that doesn't freakishly remind me of a twisted mirror of my own, and I'll be less afraid after. :D And happier. And that's why I read, for the light in midst of darkness. Not for a glimmering shadow of light that's (more often than not) shut out completely by the end of the novel.

Lenore said...

You know I love dystopian lit! I've been steadily gathering up a bunch of titles to feature during my next dystopian theme month in August. I am also reading ahead a bit so I can fit in more reviews.

There are a lot of books in the genre I love. The classics like 1984 and The Handmaid's Tale. The bestsellers like The Hunger Games and the Uglies series. And recent releases like Inside Out, Ness' Chaos Walking Trilogy and Jasper Fforde's Shades of Grey.

Karen Lange said...

It is not my favorite, but that's not to say that it doesn't have its merits. Have a great week! :)

Slamdunk said...

Thanks for teaching me the new word.

Lydia Kang said...

I am starting to really enjoy dystopian stuff. I loved Hunger Games and I'm only kinda liking the Forest of Hands and Teeth. I want to read some of the older ones, like Handmaid's tale.
Great post!

B.J. Anderson said...

I really love dystopian, and Orwell's 1984 got me started. I think dystopian is so popular because (like you said): a utopian society is so boring. Great post!!

Yat-Yee said...

Dystopian societies can depress me so typically I read books in this genre that offer a balance that tilts more towards hope and not bleakness. Or in the case of The Handmaid's Tale, brilliant writing.

Besides Handmaid's Tale, I really like Hunger Games and Cabinet of Wonders.

lotusgirl said...

I really love dystopian stuff. I learned to love them in high school with stuff like 1984 and Brave New World. Of the new stuff I think I like The Hunger Games series best, but you can't beat something like Fahrenheit 451.

Actually, my new WIP is dystopian. I REALLY love it.

Crystal Cook said...

I really love dystopian literature. I think my faves are The Hunger Games (of course!) and Uglies and The Host (I am not ashamed to admit that, I love it), and my all time favorite The Road.

I actually have tried to write it in the past, and I really love it. But I abandoned it because I wasn't sure what the heck I was doing. maybe I should get back to it. I think you have inspired me :)

Solvang Sherrie said...

I think dystopian books feed into that teen angst of other people controlling your life. I loved The Hunger Games. Others that I've read (3 of the 4 on your list) haven't impressed me as much.

The Hunger Games made it very clear WHO they were fighting against. The others have been very vague and for me, that just makes the book vague. I don't care so much if I don't even know what they're fighting or why.

Crimey said...

Also love dystopian fiction. I have four lined up in my next in line to read pile. I need to read 1984, I'm dying to read it, I've heard great reviews.

I am going to bookmark this post so I can come back to the comments section to gobble up all the suggested reads.

JEM said...

1. Love it when it's done right.
2. My fav, if I haven't shouted it from the rooftops enough yet, is The Hunger Games.
3. I think it's popular because it presents an interesting setting mostly unlike our current living situation in which to explore human nature. It also sets the stakes much higher than they ever could be in a normal setting, which makes the reading that much more thrilling.

Huzzah dystopia week!

JEM said...

Oh, and I'd like to add that I loved The Time Machine and it's treatment of a dystopic utopia. That was awesome!

B. Miller said...

A large part of steampunk is the dystopian setting. I love this genre and want to see more of it, so I guess I'm a fan.

Cool post!

MC Rogerson said...

I enjoy dystopian literature, but I only read it occasionally because it freaks me out too much!

For me, The Road is the daddy of dystopias - hard, sparse, beautiful. I loved The Hunger Games too.

Hard to say exactly why the genre is popular. Perhaps it's because it takes us into dark scenarios without actual risk? It also allows writers and readers to experiment with extreme real-life issues (e.g. oppressive patriarchal society in The Handmaid's Tale, widespread use of drugs in Brave New World).

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I love dystopias - loved them before I even knew that was what they were called (hey, I was a kid!). A lot of classic SF is dytopian, and I don't think Ursula K. LeGuin (who I adore) knows how to write anything else (Joking, Ursula! Please don't be mad).

What IS with the dystopia in YA today, though? I think the "world gone wrong" theme flirts with the ever-optimism of youth, and I know my love affair started in my teens, but I think it has more to do with guideposts in life - go ye not here, here be monsters! A way for YA readers to understand the world, and these days the world is a pretty crazy mixed up place, moving at light speed and difficult to wrap your mind around. So a little assist from literature seems just right. :)

KM said...

Dystopian lit. is one of my favorite genres, and I was in love with it before it got popular. I'm so happy to see it making a comeback. Lois Lowry, Aldous Huxley, and George Orwell roped me in and now Suzanne Collins, James Dashner, and others are keeping me hooked. Brave New World is my favorite dystopian classic, but The Maze Runner is my favorite amongst the newbies. Or maybe The Hunger Games. Hard to choose. :)

Kelly said...

I don't like depressing books, but apparently I do like some dystopian books because I loved some of the books you listed...

MeganRebekah said...

I love dystopians. From The Giver to The Hunger Games, when done right, they are simply amazing!

I'm a big believer that The Hunger Games will be the next big thing in books (and movies), and the dystopian trend is on the rise.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Love, love, love it! I'm not sure I can pick a favorite - probably The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner. Love them!! :-)

Melissa said...

I am a huge fan of the genre. My current favorites are The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, but I love The Forest of Hands and Teeth and The Dead-Tossed Waves as well.

Lindsay (a.k.a Isabella) said...

I love dystopian books. I like The Handmaid's Tale, which I read at school. I also love The Hunger Games, and a lot of the other books mentioned.

Jemi Fraser said...

I love dystopian stories! Hunger Games is fantastic. I think my favourite dystopian story is The Giver. I've read it to many of my classes over the years. Awesome stuff!

Melissa J. Cunningham said...

I'm actually writing a book from this time period. I love it so far! =)

Paul C said...

Yes, I enjoy dystopian literature such as Brave New World and Fahrenheit 451. They both painted frightening pictures of the future sixty years ago which are chillingly accurate in some respects today.

Karen Strong said...

Oooh, dystopia week! I loves me some dystopian fiction. I've always been drawn to havoc and mayhem. For some odd reason.

Carolyn V. said...

I think dystopia is popular now because anything can happen and there is always tension! =)

Kaylie said...

Love it. I like the others already mentioned, like 1984 and Hunger Games. Also The Chyrsalids made a big impression on me when I read it in school. I recently read Life As We Knew It, which is more disaster dystopia than gov't dystopia.
I think it's popular because many teens feel powerless--there's lots of information out there, but what power do they have? Dystopian literature pits the hero against the establishment and lets the reader ask themselves what they would do if it was them against the world. Could they survive? Are they powerful enough to make it? Is their voice important enough to be heard? Are they brave enough to oppose everyone else?

Heather Zundel said...

Totally in love with the genre (you know it!) especially when it is written well. You know my favorite, but there are many a good one out there. I'll give a shout out to The Diary of Pelly D since it hasn't been mentioned yet, but The Giver is absolutely stunning. To this day, I can't get over this book.

Besides fitting into their mentality of the world (the world is out to get them, and they must overcome insurmountable odds, which I don't believe is misplaced), it offers a gritty look into the world. It is something familiar yet foreign, and plus it has a lot of adventure that is built in. It was made for YA in many ways. :)

Christina Farley said...

I didn't think I'd like it but I'm hooked! I LOVED Hunger Games and its sequel. Forest of Hands and Teeth was good too. Life As We Knew It I felt was slow but intriguing.

Bring it on!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

I love dystopian. Margaret Atwood is masterful at it: The Handmaid's Tale, Oryx and Crake, Year of the Flood. And I'm a fan of the Hunger Games, for sure.
I like it not because I think it's bleak, but because I think it opens doors to finding our way out.

Missed Periods said...

After reading through the comments, in addition to watching Dr. Who, apparently I have to read Hunger Games. Where have I been?

Procrastinator Nerd said...

1) Yes I love dystopian literature! Unfortunately I haven't read the classics 1984, The Handmaid's Tale, or Brave New World yet (though there was a stupid AP Lang essay on that once...) but I plan to as soon as the craziness that is AP testing and school in general dies down.

2) Of what I've read though, obviously The Hunger Games would emerge as number one so I'll do away with that and list some other favourites- I loved BATTLE ROYALE by Koushun Takami. It's brutal, horrifying, exhilarating, and features a twisted totalitarian government that manipulates without mercy- basically the embodiment of a dystopia. It's quite similar to The Hunger Games too, though THG is decidedly more toned down and geared towards young adults (teens) such as myself. Another favourite would be UNWIND by Neal Shusterman. That one is a masterpiece concoction that deals not only with a government that strikes resounding similarities with that of a dystopia but also addresses the prevalent issues of today's society- namely, abortion. His take is intriguing and captivating and well worth the read because the author himself takes no sides but still creates a futuristic world that echoes of our own. Plus the storyline is killer. One last one is WORLD WAR Z by Max Brooks. Man, I loved that one. It's not YA but it still delivers a powerful message. Have you read it, Beth? It's amazing. It examines all these alternate possibilities of what could happen if zombies were to truly exist and leaves no detail unaddressed; the book is formatted in such a way that it is a series of compiled interviews with the survivors of a war with zombies. It is really, really something.

3) Why is dystopia so popular in YA? Well as a young adult myself I find myself intrigued by the many possibilities that lay within dystopia literature. The frightening idea that what occurs in the books could very well translate into real life- especially with works like LIFE AS WE KNEW IT (moon crashing? I think it's possible!) or ANTHEM (you never know if some demented government might take over the world and force us all to become one collective being! lol) or THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH (zombies? well, it would be more plausible, I think, if Carrie Ryan had given readers an explanation for the zombies). Moreso, it's so popular because pure and simple, it is escapism. To delve into pages where there is strife and trouble and oppressive societies brings relief to our own moribund lives and tells me that I should be thankful for what I have. Not to mention well, dystopian literature, like YA literature in general, is brimming with possibilities abound. Like aforementioned, you can write about the moon crashing into the earth or an oppressive government or zombie invasions or regression into the middle ages or natural disasters- anything! You can take any concept and forge it to make a dystopia. Sort of. (:




omg! I feel so embarrassed with this ...rambling. Better hide myself as anonymous ;)

The Alliterative Allomorph said...

You know, I think I'm living in one at the moment! :) Funny that it's in Greece too, hey?

MissV said...

Actually, dystopian is a fairly new word for me. I'm sure I've read plenty of books, I've just categorized them as something else in my head.

I think the thing for me would be keeping the new world recognizable in some way, so I can still relate.

Dystopia is kind of a weird word isn't it? Sounds like myopia for dinosaurs or something. tee hee...

Marcia said...

I like The Hunger Games, The Giver, and the Life as We Knew it books, but I'd rather say I like specific books than the genre as a whole because I need something about the book to transcend hopelessness (even if that's just the writing itself). Why dystopian? We've been a fearful society since 911, and maybe projecting into the future to try to imagine what this world might be coming to is a way to cope. Face the fear head on, sort of. See what people are made of when the worst imaginable happens. Also, dystopian is another way to do fantasy, and many YA readers today grew up on HP.

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Kay said...

I've enjoyed your discussion of dystopian literature. I loved it before I knew what it was. I have another book to add. My 8th grade students (especially reluctant readers) have enjoyed Suzanne Weyn's Bar Code Tattoo and Bar Code Rebellion.

Your discussion of why dystopia helped me understand why I like another genre--historical fiction and memoir related to the Holocaust. The Holocaust could certainly be considered a real life dystopia. The people--real and imagined--who survived and even triumphed give hope, too.

Anonymous said...

It's my favorite genre right now. I have been reading a lot of it lately, because I am writing an article on the dystopian genre. My favorites include The Hunger games, Wither, Matched, Delirium, 1984, The Giver, The Time Machine,The Forest of Hands and Teeth, The Maze Runner, and Gone. DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth is a book that is coming out on May 6th. I heard it's really good and I can't wait to read it.

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Champagnezmyl said...

I don't think I really do like dystopian literature. At least, I don't like it when it ends in the same way it begun, like 1984. I loved that book, but I wouldn't read another one like it. This world is depressing, terrifying, and dark enough without adding the fear of what may never come to pass. A lot of people read dystopian literature and actually become afraid that that's what the world will become, and no revolution will follow. Why add darkness to an already dark world? That said, I obviously don't read a lot of it, and I do (of course) believe that dystopian novels can be well-written. I'm a fairy and rainbows kinda person, I guess. :) Give me a world that doesn't freakishly remind me of a twisted mirror of my own, and I'll be less afraid after. :D And happier. And that's why I read, for the light in midst of darkness. Not for a glimmering shadow of light that's (more often than not) shut out completely by the end of the novel.

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