Dystopian fiction for teens

At the Library - By Kristel Fleuren-Hunter

Published on June 1, 2014

Dystopian novels are not a new genre and some of the best-known examples include the classics “1984,” “Brave New World” and “Fahrenheit 451.”

However, in the past few years, the genre has surged in popularity and a number of books aimed at teens have been published and many subsequently turned into movies.

What is dystopian fiction? Dystopian fiction is a genre characterized by a bleak, oppressive setting. Often following a war or apocalyptic event, a dystopian society is dominated by a totalitarian government that seeks to control its citizens. The main characters of these novels often find ways to rise above their circumstances to become empowered, rebelling against authority.

One of the most well-known series is “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins. “The Hunger Games,” and its sequels “Catching Fire” and “Mockingjay” are set in Panem, what was once the United States. Panem is divided into twelve districts and each district must send two young people to compete in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death staged for the enjoyment of the frivolous citizens of the opulent Capital.

Another popular trilogy is the “Divergent” series. “Divergent” and its sequels “Insurgent” and “Allegiant,” are set in futuristic Chicago, which is divided up into five different factions. Each faction represents a different virtue- Abnegation (selflessness), Dauntless (bravery), Erudite (intelligence), Candor (truth) and Amity (peace). Each year, all 16 year olds choose if they remain in their faction or leave their faction (and family) behind to join a different one. The five factions compliment each other in many ways, but what happens when once faction turns on another?

Two different but similar series are “Delirium” by Lauren Oliver and “The Uglies” by Scott Westerfeld. In “Delirium,” love is considered a dangerous disease. At age 18, everyone must undergo a government-mandated surgical procedure to take away their ability to love. In “The Uglies,” everyone is considered ugly until age 16, when they undergo a surgical procedure that makes them beautiful. In both series, the government uses these procedures to controls its citizens - in “Delirium” by taking away people’s emotions, dictating who they marry and what jobs they will hold and in “The Uglies” by creating a society of beautiful but empty and unquestioning people. But what happens when young people discover a world beyond their borders in which people live freely and without these surgical procedures?


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