Dystopia’s etymology reveals the one true commonality that all dystopia’s share. The Greek word “dys,” signifying bad or difficult, places all dystopia’s in the context of the human experience. In all of them, there exists human suffering. From this point, any more depth in the definition of dystopia comes from its combination with another genre. Each genre provides a different lens to view human pain, and as a result, reveals different societal problems we experience today. Sci-Fi often examines how the use of technology may be used to oppress large amounts of people. Apocalyptic dystopias take the Sci-Fi twist and go further, in which technology leads to a slippery-slope of human annihilation.
Dramas and Romance maintain criticisms of society, though it allows for human emotion to creep through, namely love and hope. This is visible in The Hunger Games, where signs of positive human emotions not just linger, but play important roles in its plot.
Young Adult Dystopian fiction introduces subtler changes to the standard dystopian novel. It focuses on issues that younger people would likely engage in, such as love, money, and family. YA Dystopian fiction does not solely criticize society, rather it uses that criticism to build an otherwise normal plot. The setting just “happens” to be diseased and dark. The Hunger Games is not a story about a totalitarian government using its power to oppress the masses, or how technology could be used to cause great human suffering. It’s one about love, and how pure human qualities (Katniss) can prevail against greed and fear (Cato).
This thematic change brings entire new meaning to dystopian novels, one unique to YA fiction. The combination of genres appears simply as an addition, though it’s clear through its effects on plot and overall theme that different forms of dystopian literature introduce and expand on very different ideas, and their shared foundation of human suffering has little impact on the development of the novel.