Although dystopian novels have always existed, there has been a sudden popularity surge for dystopia among young adults, with numerous authors producing work specifically targeted for this age and genre.
One of the main elements that appeals to young adults is the sense of defiance against those in control. We find this to be something very familiar living in a world where young people are not considered to be responsible enough to be in charge of themselves, and yet are expected to make decisions on careers and future life. Living through the lives of others in distinctly familiar societies allows us to feel more in power than we are deemed to be.
As well as revealing the corrupt society that the characters live in, it also shows how similar it is to the world we live in today, with its fake celebrities, mock utopia and forgotten meaning of the word ‘privacy’. While the issues may be taken to an extremity, it still makes their world seem incredibly realistic, as though it is likely to happen at some point in the foreseeable future.
In many of the novels that have become world wide successes, there have been very powerful female leads such as Katniss and Tris. They have shown that you don’t always need to be someone extraordinary or particularly special to make a difference to society as it’s known. As well as this, they also show how love isn’t always necessary to protect or help you to survive in a world of death and desire.
Uniquely, these novels show elements of the world that are hard to come to terms with in a way that makes them seem both distant and highly realistic. This includes war, poverty, overpopulation, medical and scientific development and, in most cases, the end of the world as we know it. They are all topics which are vaguely familiar, and yet tend to not affect us directly. Dystopian novels allow us to escape into that different world and live it through the life of another character.
In a world obsessed with gadgetry, these novels often defy the prestige of technology. With the increase of medical and scientific development, overpopulation is constantly an issue, as well as the lack of connection to the world around us. Many dystopian novels are about trying to bring back that connection to nature and recover everything that we are destroying in our attempt to hurry the pace of our world. Novels such as ‘The Hunger Games’ by Suzanne Collins, and ‘Uglies’ by Scott Westerfeld show that there is a natural balance between the two, but that we need to fight to keep it in place.
Dystopian novels are perfect coming of age stories which are all about finding your place in the world. Where the situation may be different to the one we find ourselves in, it still captures the feeling of young adulthood perfectly, whilst showing the many different possibilities of the future.
So, why are young adult dystopian novels so popular?