I’ve noticed a trend in several Dystopias. All the societies are trying to create a perfect environment to live but they all have a similar flaw. The Hunger Games has the games to prevent further rebellion and have a peaceful society. In Matched, couples are paired up and jobs are assigned to create an organized and structured society. These are just a couple of examples, yet in both cases, the needs of the society are given priority over the needs of the individual.
If I were to define a dystopia, I would describe a world very similar to ours. However, one key difference creates an imagined place where everything has been tainted in a negative way due to this one key difference. In The Hunger Games and Matched the clear differences are child sacrifice and arraigned lives respectively. On a deeper level, these imagined places compromised the possibility of a pleasant society when the needs of the individual insignificant when compared to the needs of the society. Thus, my definition of a dystopia is an imagined place where individual needs are held insignificant by society.
But what about combining dystopia with another genre such as Romance. I still think the definition works, but the additional genre gives a different lens for readers to see the dystopia. For example, in Matched the romantic connections throughout the story are constantly in a state of struggle. The cause of the struggle is the societal rules on matches and assignments. There is no room to consider an induvial’s wants, needs, passions, or love. Those become insignificant in a romantic dystopian world. For Sci-Fi, it is very similar. You could have aliens, lightsabers, and powerful female roles (looking at you Leia and Ray) but still be in an unpleasant dystopian world. In Star Wars a totalitarian empire is seeking to control and rule the entire galaxy. For those who do not like that, they become the rebels and become the enemies to society. Although I do not fully consider Star Wars dystopia but you can see the point. When you add another genre to a dystopia you will have the same underlying issue but will see it in a different way.
If you focus on a certain age group, such as young adults, I do not think the world within the novel loses the core issue stated in my definition. A slight tangent to think about after my definition: if a dystopia places the needs of the society over the needs of an individual, how should society and individual needs be related to each other?