YA Dystopian novels don’t teach you how to live in a dystopia.
One thing that aggravates me most about YA dystopian novels is the amount of angst and edginess. It makes sense, however, since the novels are written for a young audience…
After reading a few dystopian novels from this class, I started paying more attention to what these books, and what popular media teaches it’s audience. In this blog, I want to discuss how YA dystopian novels teach teenagers the wrong values. I will be looking The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins to exemplify a typical popular YA dystopian novel.
I am the main character.
YA dystopian novels are reflective of teenage fears regarding our society and our own lives. The fears come with feelings of being misunderstood as a teenager. As we grow and experience new emotions and new problems, we believe that no one else shares the same struggles, so we believe that we are misunderstood. These characteristics of being alone, misunderstood, and different is what forms the main character of most dystopian novels. We feel like we are the protagonist in our own lives.
The truth is, there are no antagonists or protagonists in this world: just people. Though we may be the main characters in our own lives, we shouldn’t always be so focused on our own struggles. Of course, America was designed to be a country that promotes individualism, however we shouldn’t forget that everyone has their own struggles, have similar life experiences, and interact/work together. When we recognize the entire world and realize that you are not only the main character of a single story, but a also a character in 8 billion other stories, we might become more aware of our true purpose and role in this world.
The world is against me.
In The Hunger Games, we see a world filled with violence. In the Arena, you have to fight, to put on a good show, and to kill in order to reap your rewards. If you don’t, you die. The world is against you (because you are misunderstood). The Hunger Games also teaches that your freedom and long term happiness comes from a romantic relationship. Much of the plot revolves around Katniss’s interaction with Peeta.
In my opinion, I believe that the world is not against us. The world works simple whatever way the world works, regardless if it’s in your favor or not. Our government does not intentionally want to make it’s people suffer. Your liberty and long term happiness also does not have to come from a successful romantic relationship. If you take a look down below at the video I posted, it discusses more about happiness, and how your environment will always work against you. The world isn’t necessarily against you, it’s just the way it is. Your happiness does not depend on what you do and do not possess.
The hero is chosen.
In The Hunger Games, Katniss has to volunteer as tribute in order to save her little sister. She doesn’t have much choice but to become the Hero. Peeta is also chosen. In a dystopian novel, the hero is often chosen, or becomes a hero due to a stroke of good or bad luck. What this teaches us is that regular folk can’t do anything unless they are called upon.
In reality, there is no guarantee that someone will ever be called upon to change their social environments. If you continue to play the victim due to your environments, you will only continue to be the victim. A hero doesn’t have to be chosen: a hero only needs to take initiative.
In conclusion, I don’t believe that dystopian novels teach great values for maturing teenagers. There are probably healthier messages that a dystopian novel could convey.
My ideas stemmed from this book Triggers by Marshall Goldsmith. It’s a self-help book that teaches about how much the environment can affect your behavior. In the video below, Marshall explains that happiness doesn’t come from achievement: that’s called a TV commercial. Happiness is a process, not a result. Many of the messages conveyed in dystopian novels go against what Marshall tries to make his audience understand.