- Lake Charles, Louisiana, United States
- Hello, and welcome to my blog! I like to write about children's literature, fairy tales, feminism, and pop culture in general. I've recently earned my Ph.D. in children's literature at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. I also review children's and young adult books for Kirkus and teach English at Sowela Technical Community College. Oh, and I like cats! [Banner image artwork by Yuki Midorikawa]
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
A Conversation on Dystopia
The New York Times put together a discussion page on the dystopic trend in contemporary young adult literature: Well, The Dark Side of Young Adult Fiction actually features more of a mini-lecture from seven authors in the genre, although they do loosely respond to one another. (I suspect it's more about placement on the editors' parts than actual response by the individual authors, though.)
What I find interesting isn't so much (or necessarily just)
*Blurb from Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games trilogy
what each person had to say, but the debate itself. The best we can do it seems is acknowledge that this is a topic that is trending today. But even some point out that dark stories have always existed and remained popular, for adults and young adults alike.
My favorite excerpt is probably this one from Andrew Clements:
Perhaps the dystopian stories of today are darker because all of us, writers and readers alike, have become more aware of the many awful things that happen in our world. A study of world history shows that truly awful things have always happened. In our current media-saturated lives, however, every single awful thing that happens anywhere is pressed upon us in full-color, live-action images, both instantaneously and repetitively. In order for a book to seem scary today, it has to be very scary indeed.
I like this because it seems the most reasonable. We're exposed to more darkness, and so we write about it and read about it more. Show a picture of a dead body to a typical 15 year old and the response might be fairly muted. Why, because she's already seen far worse. Depending on your point of view, this can either be a disturbing thing or an empowering thing (knowledge is power, after all), but it's a fact regardless.
I myself am still torn between the first two very opposing viewpoints, however: is it a response to the overwhelming darkness that young readers already find themselves in? or is it a simple form of escapism for comfortable middle-class teenagers? Maybe it's both - in the same sense that hard hip hop lyrics can appeal to inner city kids and suburban kids alike.
Then again, maybe it's the writers who are responding to something, and the readers are simply responding to good writing.