Based on young adult dystopia readings such as The Hunger Games and Little Brother I’ve found dystopias to be extremely interesting because, while they are clearly written in response to current events, or as a critique of society, it is not obvious what the author intends the work to do. Is the author just complaining about the state of the world? Or maybe the author hopes to inspire the young readers to take a proactive stance on recreating a better society. Sometimes, I wonder if these books even have an effect on young adults. Do the middle schoolers pick up on the critique of capitalism in The Hunger Games, or do they simply fangirl about team Peeta and team Gale? When watching The 100 are they really comparing the different types of government or are they engrossed in the drama of the show?
Sure, one could argue that teen girls aren’t thoughtful enough to appreciate the dystopian novels to their full extent or learn all the potential lessons offered. However, I would counter by saying that as these young adults are exposed to corrupt societies and governments through reading dystopian novels, seeds of doubt are being planted and young adults are actually being taught to question everything. Which is good and bad. Marcus, the protagonist in Little Brother, Tris in Divergent, and Katniss in The Hunger Games are just a few examples of teens in dystopian novels questioning and over throwing authority figures. What I wonder is whether we are raising the next generation to be inquisitive and informed, or if we are instilling within them problems with authority.
My chosen independent reading novel, The Glass Sword, follows Mare Barrow after she causes a disturbance in the social class structure of reds versus silvers in the first novel The Red Queen. She is similar to Katniss in that she does not intend to cause a revolution. However, she becomes a symbol to a movement much larger than herself. While it is difficult to relate the fantasy novel to the world that we live in today, when reading the novel you automatically feel the injustice of dividing the world by the blood running in people’s veins.
Some questions I have for this novel are what point, if any, is the author (Victoria Aveyard) trying to make? Is she trying to talk about the intrinsic racism in society by making a parallel between the treatment of the reds and people of color? Or is she is warning us of genetic engineering by presenting the reader with a genetically superior race (silvers) possessing powers we can’t imagine? Also, I wonder if fantasy dystopias are as effective as other genres just because they are so hard to see the parallels to today’s society.
So far, I have struggled to find previous research on the effectiveness of fantasy dystopia novels, therefore, I decided to shift my central question to be: what are the effects of young adult dystopia novels. I plan on researching specific dystopia novels that have been important throughout history as well as trying to find information and interviews from the authors explaining their work. Through these means, I hope to uncover the intention and effect of young adult dystopia novels.