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Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Optimism of Dystopian YA Fiction

There's a lot of dystopian YA out there these days, along with the paranormal romances.This morning there was a jokey discussion on Twitter about the differences between Jules Verne SF (optimistic) and current YA dystopias. It made me think about this.

I've read some YA dystopian, along with the paras, and I can see why it's not necessarily a bad thing to read/write about a horrible society in the future. My only objection is the building of a world that fails to convince me it could exist and most of them fall into that category.

But that's a topic for another post.

In some ways, dystopias are optimistic because in them, the heroine - and it's almost invariably a heroine (yeesh! Isn't anyone writing for boys any more, except the action thrillers?) - defies the establishment. We don't need to look any further than Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games series, which in my opinion is far and away the best of the genre written in recent years (I'm not counting John Wyndham's The Chrysalids, which was written a long time ago and is a classic). Without spoilers for those who haven't read it (and what's taking you so long?), she fights hard against the establishment and won't let herself be used even by those who are supposed to be on her side.

Mostly, the heroine of the dystopian novel wins and settles down with the cute boy who fought at her side, or with the one she met later, after the original cute boy died heroically.

There is, as  far as I can see in the ones I've read, not usually a last-page suicide, as there is in mainstream YA fiction. Well, it's kind of hard, given how many of them are written in first-person, but still...

So, I'd argue that dystopian YA fiction is generally quite optimistic. There may well be a YA book out there with a "He loved Big Brother" ending, but I haven't read it yet.

What do you guys think? Come on, lurkers, join in!

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