Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Dystopian--The New High School


I read this article, “Fresh Hell” by Laura Miller (LINK)

It brought up an interesting point—that dystopian novels like “The Hunger Games” aren’t about what WILL happen if we don’t stop a certain cycle, they are about “what’s happening, right this minute, in the stormy psyche of the adolescent reader” (Miller 2010).

Okay, how many of you thought about that? Cause I didn’t.

Because, let’s face it. So many critiques about dystopian novels out there are really about trying to figure out what the book is actually saying about the world we live in, what our government will actually become, etc. While that works for ADULT dystopian (You know, 1984, Brave New World), it’s probably a little different for Young Adults (Collins has also maintained that her books aren't commentary on the government). I’ve always wondered how Young Adults could find dystopian appealing (no offence to those of you who find it appealing). Let me explain why I don’t find dystopian appealing:

1.       I want my books to take me to a place I’d like to explore; I never found a dystopian world I wanted to explore (note that this DOESN’T mean I won’t. I have Under the Never Sky on my reading list; maybe that book will change my perspective.)

2.       After reading a ton of Adult dystopian in High School, my tolerance for it is very low.

**these are my personal opinions. Please feel free to explain why you love dystopian or why it doesn’t appeal to you.

Now, interestingly enough, I learned from this article, or rather gathered an opinion on why Young Adults like dystopian. Let me put it in the words of Scott Westereld (Author of the Uglies), “The success of ‘Uglies,’ is partly thanks to high school being a dystopia” (Miller 2010).

Let’s think about this:

High School vs. Dystopian world:

Round 1: Often, it does feel like you’re competing for perfection, mostly physical perfection. There’s always that one girl who everyone wants to be like. There may be a certain hair dye, cut, accessory everyone has, or certain type of clothes.

Round 2: Cliques often form. A sort of “US vs. THEM” mentality. At my school there were the popular kids (they ALWAYS hung out at the benches), the "weird" kids (they ALWAYS hung out near the brick wall, or in the back of the cafeteria and often wore black), the bands kids (they ALWAYS hung out near the flag pole and the rails), and then there was the nutral crowd who mingled with everyone (in dystopian, we’d all probably be the first to die, or the we’d be the heroes. I think it goes either way, lol). 

I think of Equilibrium

Round 3: You have an enemy that exercises power over you. These are teachers, principals, or parents who keep you from doing what you want--like dressing a certain way, wearing a certain type of makeup, and even, sometimes, hanging out with the people you like.

Yep.

I see a trend.

In the end, I like looking at dystopian like this. It definitely makes me see why it would be appealing to Young Adults.

What do you think?

Also, normally I wouldn’t try to dissect meaning like this, but I’m in a Young Adult Literature class, as I have said before, and I felt like this would be a fun exercise.




18 comments:

  1. It's certainly an interesting idea. I haven't read a lot of dystopian. I loved The Hunger Games, though.

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    1. I'm kinda playing with ideas from my YA class. I thought this was an interesting take, too. I never thought about this before. lol.

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  2. I agree; this is an interesting premise. But, I have to admit, what dystopian novels I have read didn't really appeal. It's too much 'us' vs 'them,' I think, with more ending than resolution.

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    1. I feel that, too in a lot of ways. I'm not sure I can really pinpoint what about dystopian that I'm not a fan of.

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  3. Funny, I've read all of the Dystopian novels you've mentioned, and I sort of disagree.

    See, Brave New World was about the pharmecutical revolution. That if we allow people to take whatever drug (particularly Vallium) for what ever issues we have, then we will drug ourselves into a state of complacency.

    1984: If we surrender our rights for security, we will have neither rights nor security.

    Hunger Games: If we continue to consume media, media will begin to consume us (we see this in the way the paparazzi are hunting down people and getting people hurt or killed). We allow media to control us.

    Equilibrium: We are human beings not human doings. If we prioritize everything in life by it's usefulness, then we will eliminate experiences like music and art whose importance cannot be placed on a scale of 1 to 10 when compared to providing for a family. This is a backlash against the corporate mindset, the bankers and brokers of the world.

    But people don't read books for their social commentary.

    Underlying these themes are Damned Good Stories. The point of fiction is to explore some facet of human nature, whether it's the rebellion of a loyal Gramikan Monk, or how the media can (and does! Yikes!) control us. In the end, the point of these stories isn't necessarily to warn us, but to help us think about things in a different light by removing the assumptions of the worlds we know so that we can consider these issues with different (or less) bias.

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    1. I apologize - I shouldn't have summarized dystopian novels as 'what the government will become' that is unfair. I feel like adult novels do explore facets of human nature, so do Young Adult, but what that article suggested (or rather tried to argue) is why YAs like dystopian. It's just an opinion, obviously, but I thought it was very interesting to view YA dystopian as a projection of High School. YAs can relate to the book in reference to experiences (like feelings, body changes, experimentation...) Those things in themselves are still considered facets of human nature.

      Now, do I believe that YAs realize dystopian is a projection of their High School life? No. I think they like books because they can relate to their characters thoughts, feeling, emotions etc. And they also relate to whatever situation the characters experience.

      I hope all of that made sense. haha.


      And yes, the media is very corrupt. :/

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    2. No need to apologize, difference in opinions about literature is what makes English class fun. Not to mention, if we all agreed, then we'd all see the books from the same light, so we learn more from different opinions.

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  4. I usually go for the "escape" factor like you do, rather than dystopian. I liked elements of Hunger Games and a few other dystopians, but it's gotta be the ones where people still have hope and are fighting for something. Some of them can range toward depressing. :( That's not my style.

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    1. Agreed. I don't think dystopian is bad, but from an entertainment and I guess...exploration point of view, I want to be able to explore. Now, if I'm going to go all English Major on something, I'd read dystopian. I think it would be fun to analyze in relation to world politics and human nature.

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  5. You make really good points. High schoolers probably can relate. Makes me realize how lucky I was to go to a small school. I mean in a class with under a 100 students, how many groups can you split into? Everybody knew everybody and had since kindergarten.

    (I'm with you...I want to escape to happy worlds, so I am not a huge fan of dystopian)

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    1. lol. Yeah, my graduating class was only 64 people. Though everyone knew everyone, those groups still formed. haha.

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  6. I don't care for dystopian. I liked Hunger Games because of the story, but I didn't like the two other books in the series. My daughter, however, really likes dystopian novels. And I have always thought she can relate to the feeling of being oppressed (in her own mind). Also, I think kids notice the negative human condition more than adults. We're used to it. Desensitized. They see it with new eyes and ponder it. Just my opinion. :)

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    1. I like what you said, Rachel! We are more desensitized to that feeling. I have only read the first Hunger Games book, and that's because it wasn't my favorite. I didn't feel compelled to read further. And I am okay with that. lol.

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  7. I love the Hunger Games, so I need to read more dystopian. I need to get out of my "fantasy fiction" world! AH.

    I haven't visited your blog in a while. Hope all is well :)

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    1. Hey Jessica! I'm so glad you stopped by. It's been a while since I visited yours (or anyones) blog. *Heads over now*

      I actually never thought of that, to take a break from fantasy fiction, lol. Maybe I do need that.

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  8. I'm with Jessica, dystopian novels are good for the occasional break from my epic or urban fantasy novel. This occasional break is also shared with thrillers, mysteries, literary classics, and paranormal romances.

    I just love to read. If a story is good enough to catch my attention, I'll get to it eventually.

    Great topic. Very interesting comparing them to high school. I could see how teens might identify with characters in those novels.

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    1. You're so right--we all really do just love to read, and it DOES come down to what catches our attention. Thanks! I thought it was interesting. I thought I'd try and use some of my Library Science training to see what I could come up with in reference to a blog post, lol.

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