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.
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.
Scholes, Justin and Jon Ostenson. “Understanding the Appeal of Dytopian Young Adult Fiction.” The Alan Review, vol. 40, no. 2, 2013, https://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/ALAN/v40n2/scholes.html. Accessed 13 Mar. 2017.