Censorship is the prevention of certain ideas, phrases, or images from reaching the general public. Throughout history, censorship has occurred in the form of banning and challenging books. Although countless authors have warned against the idea of censorship, it is still prevalent today. Moreover, censorship and book challenging is especially common among YA dystopian novels. In my research, I will be discussing the effects of censorship in YA dystopian literature. Why are these books banned, and how does it affect the targeted young adult audience?
Every year the American Library Association publishes a list of the most frequently challenged books of the year and the reasoning for banning them. Within these lists are countless YA dystopian novels. Titles such as The Hunger Games and Feed are frequently on such lists. What is interesting about many of the challenged and banned novels is that their reasoning for being banned is often obscure. For example, The Hunger Games was once challenged for the “religious viewpoint”(Biller). It is interesting to me that parents would choose to challenge a book based off of a said religious viewpoint when there is so much violence that would be easier to challenge.
Another interesting aspect of censorship I wish to uncover is false censorship. My independent novel, Delirium, had some sources claim it was banned or challenged, yet I have not found any conclusive information. Could this be a marketing tactic used by the author to draw attention from young readers? It has been found that banned books are more popular among young readers because they feel that in a sense they are being rebellious by reading content that is deemed explicit. Additionally, Lauren Oliver, the author, has appeared in a YouTube live video about censorship and its effects in the past. A small detail in Delirium also covers the idea that books that promote love are banned from the fictional society.
Finally, I hope to uncover some of the effects censorship has on young adults. The content of ya dystopian literature was written by authors to address topics they felt the youth ought to be able to comprehend. Are parents being overbearing in their quest to put an end to what they deem unsuitable literature? The content is meant to evoke emotions about the current and past political states and promote change in society. By banning and challenging books that contain such important material, what are we teaching the young adults of today’s society?
Biller, Diana and Charlie Jane Anders. “The 12 Weirdest Reasons for Banning Science Fiction and Fantasy Books.” io9, Gizmodo, Sept 2014, http://io9.gizmodo.com/the-12-weirdest-reasons-for- banning-science-fiction-and-1639136022
Dystopias are complex and simple at the same time. There is one main concept: the world is bad, and someone wants to change it. Though they have this transparent side, the hidden intricacy of dystopias is what intrigues me. As I have stated in past blog posts, I want to research the duality that one person’s dystopia can be another person’s utopia based on how you were grown up, or your social standards. For example, in my independent reading, Pandemonium in the Delirium trilogy, most specifically in the first book Delirium by Lauren Oliver, Lena the protagonist thinks that her society is correct, and wants to follow the rules, until Alex comes along. First a background on the series. In this trilogy, love is considered a disease and when you turn 18 you are “cured” and your family, husband, and number of kids is decided for you. You aren’t allowed to show affection towards anyone. So back to Lena, and all of the authorities, their society is considered perfectly correct and is helping people because love is considered a disease. On the other hand, Alex, the “Deliria Free America”, and the people of the wilds believe their society is unfair and should be changed; love can be a good thing.
My question regarding this duality is simple: why is there such a strong duality. I’m not saying that a dystopia evolves from a utopia, but I wonder how people can believe that something is correct based on their social standards or expectations and there are only few who either state their disagreement (usually the protagonist) or try to change the situation to be fair. The oblivion in some characters in the society surprises me. They believe that nothing is wrong, and that life is the way it should be. How can people have such different beliefs? Is it all for a good story? Is this prevalent in our society today and some people aren’t just speaking up? It intrigues me that such an opinion divide is present in so many young adult dystopian novels.
Oliver, Lauren. Delirium: Delirium Trilogy. HarperCollins. 1 Jan 2011.
Oliver, Lauren. Pandemonium: Delirium Trilogy. HarperTeen. 28 Feb 2012.
Every year, the American Library Association publishes a list of banned and challenged books. Banned books are books that have been removed from library shelves because they are deemed unreadable for particular audiences. This is most common in public school libraries, where parents will challenge books that have various content they do not approve of. The book is then reviewed by a board and they decide whether or not to leave it on the shelves. YA dystopian novels are commonly featured on the banned books list. Titles such as Brave New World, The Hunger Games, The Giver and Fahrenheit 451 have all been on the list a number of times.
My independent reading novel, Delirium by Lauren Oliver, was not on the ALA banned book list, although there have been some sources claiming that the book has been on a ‘commonly challenged list’. Within the story itself, however, books and poems that promote the idea of love are banned from society. The government in the fictional society also censors the media and songs to ensure that the idea of love is not promoted in their society. In addition, Oliver participated in a YouTube live video a couple of years ago in which she discusses banned books and censorship. I am interested to learn more about Oliver’s motives for such active warning against censorship. Is it to promote sales for her books by making teens think they are being rebellious by reading explicit content, or is Oliver worried about our current society?
The idea for my research paper is to understand why censorship still plays a role in society when so many authors, such as Lauren Oliver and Ray Bradbury, have warned us from extensive censorship. Additionally, I want to understand what makes YA dystopian novels so dangerous in particular. Is it the idea of rebellion, profanity, the sexual content, or a combination of each of these elements?
Peters, Patricia. “Frequently Challenged Young Adult Books.” American Library Association, August
After having read several dystopian novels, I noticed that in most of them there is a prominent presence of advanced technology. The types of technology and its usage varied slightly from novel to novel, but they mostly seemed to be technology that is similar to what exists now or could be feasible in the near future. Technology is very powerful. It can be used to improve people’s lives and provide safety for a society. Some examples include elevators, cars, medicine, and security cameras. However, if taken too far, which is the case in dystopian novels, it is usually used for surveillance, control, and oppression.
When writing literature, authors often reflect their personal situation or society into their writing. They can criticize or explain any number of topics, including but not limited to government, society, race, technology, and human behavior. In dystopian literature, writers often focus on future societies, explaining the destruction of the current society and government. Are the authors criticizing our scientific improvements and technological advancements? How are dystopian novels portraying the future of our society? Can scientific development be taken too far? These are questions that I am asking myself and I would like to research more about.
In my independent reading book, Delirium, by Lauren Oliver, love has been declared a dangerous disease by the government. A cure has been perfected and everyone has had the procedure by the time they turn eighteen. This medical advancement along with restrictions on the intranet, and the type of music and books allowed allows the government complete control over its citizens.
Other types of everyday technology such, as cameras, toll passes, computer bugs, that exist already, were said to be used in Little Brother to track peoples’ every move, in order to track down the terrorists, but instead it seemed like the whole society was just constantly being monitored. The use of cameras for surveillance was also the case in The Hunger Games. While in the arena, each tribute was being monitored through every move they made.
Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. Scholastic Press, 2008.
Oliver, Lauren. Delirium. Harper, 2011.
The basic idea of a dystopia is a utopia gone awry. Usually, the people of influence within the dystopia manipulate the citizens into believing it is utopia through means of propaganda or media censorship. While the totalitarian government which most dystopias inhabit can appear perfect at first glance, upon further review it is easy to see the flaws in the society.
When another genre is added to a dystopian novel, the underlying warnings or agendas of that novel are not necessarily changed, but instead another facet is added to the ever-complex idea. For example, a sci-fi dystopian gives the reader a terrible glimpse into a future where scientific discoveries aren’t regulated. Often, this advanced technology is used to instill fear, control, and further the power of the government.
Apocalyptic dystopias are slightly different than Sci-Fi dystopias because, while sci-fi dystopias use futuristic technology to ensure compliance, apocalyptic dystopias tend to offer protection more than anything. For example, in Divergent the worst thing that could happen would be to become factionless, and without the aid of the government
Romantic dystopias are interesting though. Because dystopias diminish the individual’s control, instead the government oversees almost all aspects of a citizen’s life. Therefore, love threatens the government’s control because it is unregulated and threatens the absolute power of the government. In dystopian books, such as Matched, the government has gone so far as to determine who their citizens are to love. Therefore, minimizing the threat of individuality by lack free choice. Delirium by Lauren Oliver, goes one step further in that the government tries to prevent love all together. One of my favorite books, Across the Universe by Beth Revis, has a similar approach, but instead of just withholding the feeling of love from their citizens, everyone is completely drugged, devoid of any emotions or individual thoughts. While this works well in preventing conflict and keeping the government intact, it is certainly no way to live.
A dystopian young adult novel has a younger demographic, so the content of the book can’t be quite as graphic as that of a book like the Handmaid’s Tale. However, because the author cannot be explicit, darker plots are often mentioned in passing at and left to the reader’s discretion. For example, in Mockingjay, Finnick Odair admits that he was sold for prostitution by President Snow to the horror of many readers. However, instead of explaining or exploring that story any further, Suzanne Collins is restricted by the young adult demographic and only mentions it once.