When reading books such as The Hunger Games and Little Brother in class, I noticed a common theme of teenage defiance, which got me thinking. What if middle schoolers read Little Brother and saw Marcus as a role model? What if they started poking around the dark web? These kids could get into some non-fictional trouble fast.
From there, I started thinking about authors’ intended messages in young adult dystopian novels and whether or not middle schoolers are really picking up on these deeper meanings. To figure that out it is important to figure out who is reading this book and how it is being read. For example, a college graduate politician is going to read and understand The Hunger Games much differently than a middle schooler at the beach.
I wanted to know how the readers who understood the author’s intended commentary responded. Were they so disgusted by the corrupt government in Little Brother that they started working for NSA to fight the system from within? Or did they get disillusioned with the world and decide to hide away in the woods?
Based on the research, I formed a thesis: Young adult dystopian novels, if presented correctly to their audience, have the potential to inspire teenagers to have a passion for social justice; however, if left to their own devices many will only read the novel at face value.
I will then launch into examples from novels with poignant commentary on society, and the way that it is often misunderstood. My first example is The Hunger Games. While Suzanne Collins intended for the novel to be a criticism of capitalism and consumerism in developed countries, it was published so soon after the Twilight phenomenon that the teenagers were still wrapped up in love triangles, and thus “Team Peeta” and “Team Gale” were born. It seemed that the movie producers and the internet users had grossly over simplified this novel and glossed over the sheer horror of the games. Ironically following the example of the capitol. In my presentation, I will highlight two other examples: Divergent and The Red Queen in which novel’s commentary on society was also derailed.
I go on to argue that most young adult dystopia novels could also be classified as coming of age novels. This means that as protagonist loses their childhood innocence and struggles to come to terms with the unfairness of the world, teenage readers are as well. Because the protagonist often refuses to accept the flaws of the world, they are serving as a role model to the readers. Therefore, even if teenagers are missing the author’s intended message, they are in fact learning to question the world around them and notice the injustice.
To back up this argument, I then cite references I have found throughout my research and explain their arguments. I will also reveal the results of the twitter poll I took last week. Get excited!