Young adults flock to dystopian-themed books

  • Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Some of the older works in the field of dystopian literature are “The Sleeper Awakes” by H. G. Wells (1910; originally published from 1898-1899 as the serialized “When the Sleeper Wakes”), “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley (1931), “1984” by George Orwell (1949) and “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury (1953). PHOTO PROVIDED

Three weeks ago I explained our annual program “One Book” and this year’s choice, “Divergent” by Veronica Roth. “Divergent” is a young adult book and belongs to the dystopian fiction genre. If you have teenagers you may have noticed that there is a huge shift in popularity regarding reading material, from vampires, werewolves and zombies to post-apocalyptic doom and gloom. The era of dystopian fiction has arrived.

The first time I heard about this genre, I thought it was one of those New Age kind of things, but there are novels written over a century ago that belong to this special category. To be honest, I had no idea what requirements a novel should have to be labeled dystopian, and for that reason I did a quick search. Here is a brief summation of my findings.

The dystopian society is controlled by a figurehead or a concept that uses propaganda and instigates fear to suppress any individual thoughts and actions. The suppressor(s) use corporate, bureaucratic, technological and philosophical/religious control to maintain power. The dystopian protagonist questions the existing social and political system – there is something terribly wrong with it. He or she feels trapped and is struggling to escape. The hero or heroine helps the audience recognize the negative aspects of the dystopian world through his or her perspective.

Some of the older works are “The Sleeper Awakes” by H. G. Wells (1910; originally published from 1898-1899 as the serialized “When the Sleeper Wakes”), “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley (1931), “1984” by George Orwell (1949) and “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury (1953).

Adults seem to find this new interest in dystopian fiction by young adults somewhat puzzling. They try to understand the workings of teens to come up with an explanation. I think that is very courageous because, in my experience, the workings of teens fluctuate as much as their hormones.

In general there is agreement that this increased interest in dystopian fiction is due to the success of Suzanne Collins’s “Hunger Games” trilogy and James Dashner’s “Maze Runner” trilogy. Comparisons are made between surviving a dystopian society and surviving high school. This phase in life, between childhood and adulthood, marked by raging hormones, physical changes, peer pressure, pressure to perform well in school, and bullying, is daunting for many kids. Identifying themselves with a seemingly ordinary hero or heroine who survives extraordinary circumstances gives young adults the feeling that they, likewise, are able to overcome any adversaries they encounter during their years in high school.

Maybe this is the reason that explains the dystopian trend. Maybe it is as simple as one teenager telling his friends that he read this incredible book and that they should read it, too. Or maybe it’s just due to the very good advertising used to launch this dystopian hype.

Library programs

Basic Astronomy under the Dome (children under 10 must be accompanied by an adult)

Wednesday, Oct. 9

30-minute sessions start at 6 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Join Andy Cohen of Dome Education, and explore the night sky during this exciting portable indoor planetarium program. An October evening sky map is included.

PLAY: Lego Club (ages 4-11)

Saturday, Oct. 12 from 11 a.m.-12 p.m.

We supply the Legos, and you create the masterpiece.

Second Saturday Writing Critique Group (ages 16 and up)

Saturday, Oct. 12 from 3:30-5:30 p.m.

Open to all writers. For more information, call the reference desk at 849-6161 or email MtpReference@ccpl.org.

Monday Book Discussion (adults)

Monday, Oct. 14 from 10:30-11:30 a.m.

“Defending Jacob” by William Landay

One Book Family Movie Series

Tuesdays, Oct. 15, 22 and 29 at 4 p.m.

Get into the spirit of One Book Charleston County and watch a family film representative of a Divergent faction.

CANDOR - Oct. 15: “RV.” Rated PG; 99 minutes.

DAUNTLESS - Oct. 22: “Soul Surfer.” Rated PG; 106 minutes.

ERUDITE - Oct. 29: “Akeelah and the Bee.” Rated PG; 112 minutes.


Mirjam Veldkamp is the young adult specialist for the Mount Pleasant Regional Library Branch (1133 Mathis Ferry Road, 843-849-6161, www.mtplibrary.blogspot.com, www.ccpl.org, like us on Facebook). Remember to email MtpReference@ccpl.org if you wish to receive a PDF copy of the programs being held each month.

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