Too much darkness can kill yet too much light can blind.
A dystopia is nothing but the embodiment of this very basic fact of life.
When we are young, we think of everything as either black or white. Lying is bad, no matter what. Breaking rules is wrong, no questions asked. Yet as we grow older, we start to recognize that life is, in fact, a huge spectrum of infinite hues of grey. Lying is acceptable if it brings happiness and not all rules are right despite what we might have learnt as kids. And this is what defines us as humans. Excess of everything is bad. A little of both good and bad gives us a reason to choose and leaves room for error. Now, while errors may not be the best always, they are the cause of progress. A ‘perfect’ society where all possibility of error has been eradicated, as demonstrated by dystopias, tends to stagnate. When you take away the license to think or act in any other way than prescribed, that’s when you set yourself up for a better(maybe), but a stagnant future nonetheless – devoid of innovation.
As a result, a lot of dystopias focus on societies where the freedom of some major choices of life have been taken away – specifically those of love and profession. These are the choices that most of us grow up anticipating and preparing for. As a result, romance as a sub-genre of dystopian fiction strengthens my definition and plays a major role in most dystopias, because here, more than anywhere else, the act of even feeling love for someone is an act of defiance.
Dystopias work best when marketed as YA literature because having a young adult as the protagonist makes the most sense. Adults, by the time they get to their age, have learned to conform – having either fooled themselves into complacency or simply accepted life with its flaws. Young adults, on the other hand, are still discovering new ideas and are supposed to be rebellious by nature. As a result, they question every norm with which they have been brought up and start thinking about why they are doing what they are. Also, for young adult readers, a lot of this makes much more sense as they themselves are going through a phase where everything seems subject to scrutiny.