All posts tagged appeal

This article discusses a study conducted by Jon Ostenson, an assistant professor at Brigham Young University who teaches courses on young adult literature, and Justin Scholes, a high school language arts teacher. As the title suggests, the goal of the study was to analyze popular young adult dystopian novels written in the 21st century to see what they had in common in hopes of explaining what made these books so popular. Among the books studied are many we’ve discussed in class or had the option to read in our independent readings, such as the Hunger Games, Divergent, Little Brother, Feed, and a few others shown in the tables below.

A screenshot of a table of elements young adult dystopias tend to have

Second part of the table

Ostenson and Scholes then go on to explain how the dystopian fiction genre is great for developing adolescents because of its ability to introduce deeper and more complex societal issues that adolescents are beginning to understand and become interested in. Then specific elements that they believed to be attractive to young adult readers are grouped into 3 categories and discussed.

The first of these categories is “Inhumanity and Isolation.” They found that many of the novels in the study involve protagonists that see some kind of inhumanity in their society and feel isolated from friends and family that don’t share their views. Ostenson and Scholes believe many young adults can relate to this feeling of separation as they develop their own viewpoints on controversial issues.

The transition to adulthood is discussed more in the next category, “Agency and Conscience: The Brink of Adulthood.” In this section, Ostenson and Scholes discuss how in many popular young adult novels, the protagonists realize their roles in society and are able to greatly contribute to reforming their respective societies, a concept that is very empowering for young adults as they begin to experience the responsibilities and power of becoming independent adults. For example, in the Hunger Games, Katniss goes from taking care of her family to becoming the figurehead for a revolution that results in the end of an oppressive government as her influence on the society of Panem increases.

The final category is an interesting one that hasn’t been discussed too often and is titled “Relationships: Platonic and Romantic.” The development of the protagonists discussed in the previous sections are often facilitated by a relationship the protagonist has, either platonic or romantic. The relationships developing young adults form influence their beliefs heavily and vice versa, an idea reflected in many popular young adult novels. For example, Marcus’ decisions in Little Brother are influenced by his friends and his love interest, Ange.

Judging from the presentations I saw this week, this source could be useful for a lot of different research topics since it analyzes what popular young adult dystopian novels seem to have in common, and many presentations I saw this week dealt with these kinds of novels and how they relate to young adults in our society, such as Young Adults: The Key to a Dystopian Hit, Dystopias and Depression: The Implications of Social Taboos in Young Adult Literature, and A Diamond From the Rough: How reading YA dystopia benefits our society.

Works Cited:

Scholes, Justin and Jon Ostenson. “Understanding the Appeal of Dytopian Young Adult Fiction.” The Alan Review, vol. 40, no. 2, 2013, Accessed 13 Mar. 2017.


Fresh Hell is an article from the New Yorker website that explains the appeal of newer YA dystopian novels while focusing the most on the Hunger Games. Its main argument is that these novels attract readers because they understand what teenagers are going through. Or in other words, they are allegories of our young adult lives, fraught with dangers and difficulties.

One of the main theories is that the dystopian worlds described are similar to the world of high school. This is most evident in the Hunger Games where children are thrown in an harsh environment by unfeeling adults and must survive. It also compares a main difference between adult and young adult dystopias which is the ending. The first is pessimistic and the second is more optimistic so it can be suited for a younger audience.

Its organization is effective as it goes from one point to the other while bringing examples first from the Hunger Games then from other books. These include The Knife of Never Letting Go and Little Brother. Each section first outlined a claim about young adults that related to an aspect of a dystopian novel, then it was backed up with references and examples. It had a formal tone but the diction was not ridiculously high so that everyone could understand: teenagers and scholars alike.

This source was especially important to me because it helped me with some of my points regarding the novel I was studying: After by Francine Prose. It helped me delve in deeper to some of the hidden themes the writer used. I also understood how it was an allegory to our daily lives but exaggerated. Instead of mirroring the world high-school, for example, the story was set in an high-school that turned slowly into a dystopia. That was an interesting twist that I had not realized. The negative world incorporated itself into daily life directly, which was very different from other young adult novels.


Miller, Laura. “Fresh Hell.” The New Yorker, The New Yorker, 14 July 2015, Accessed 22 Feb. 2017.