Whenever I used to hear the word “dystopia”, my first thought was of The Hunger Games. Of course The Hunger Games is not the definition of a dystopia, but the novel combines many of the elements of what I would consider a dystopia. The majority of the people in Panem are living in what we today would consider an absolute nightmare. The living conditions are miserable, they lack basic needs, and lack the will to be independent and free-thinking individuals, and instead are forced to conform to the society, often in fear for their lives. The government that controls them would be the definition of corruption, as they feed off this never-ending fear from the citizens. This exemplifies much of what a dystopia is: a society filled with unfavorable living conditions, governmental corruption, and an overwhelming sense of fear. Though the country of Panem may seem to be a dystopia to its citizens, others, particularly those in power, could think of it as their utopia, indicating one’s idea of a dystopia may differ from person to person.
Combining a dystopia with another genre such as sci-fi does not really change the fundamentals of dystopias in my definition, but rather expands the definition into new territory. For me, a dystopia does not necessarily have to involve science fiction, but often does, and when it does the circumstances of the society simply become more fascinating. People often misidentify one genre as the other, but there is a clear distinction between the two. Sci-fi does not necessarily include the chaos and corruption found in dystopias, but rather includes the scientific advancements that seem impossible and unimaginable in today’s society. Dystopian societies and governments that incorporate these scientific and technological advancements often seem to misuse them in order to maintain their control of the population, as in The Hunger Games.
Young adult literature generally has a target audience of 12-18, and I believe this younger audience generally needs something else to get them interested in reading a novel more than just a corrupt futuristic society. For this reason, the majority of the YA dystopian novels I am familiar with have young protagonists themselves, in order to appeal to this audience. For example, when I first read the Hunger Games, I, only a few years younger at the time, could relate to Katniss and her experience as a young adult. I was intrigued to see how someone my own age would navigate through the corruption and disorder of a dystopia while still facing struggles common in all teenagers.