YA Dystopia

All posts tagged YA Dystopia


I once heard about adderall and other get-smart drugs on some news paper and it instantly caught my attention. The idea of a pill used to help you get better grades was both scary and tempting. It always made me wonder what would happen if a society began to depend on these drugs or make them mainstream. Young adults would flock towards them for sure since that would mean less time studying, higher grades and more time to party. My fifteen year old self wanted to write a story about it but the project was put off due to workload . At that time, I had not yet heard of the movie “Limitless” but when I did and eventually watched it, I thought that it too optimistic about the future of the main character with the drug. There is not a specific ‘event’ for this (unless if you count Aubrey Huff’s confession about using it to win for the Giants) but a series of investigations in schools that helped put this into the light. From the article, I realized that not only was it not as effective, but highly addictive and lethal, resulting in physical and mental health issues. You can also easily get large amounts of it too by obtaining it from a third-party, thus creating an underground ‘drug operation’ off of it.

Since more and more students are using it to enhance their studies (with mixed results for now), the question became: what would happen if it became effective? What if there were several kinds? What if the government promoted pills that each enhanced a specific property such as memory, flexibility, strength etc… Or to sum it all up: what if there was a dystopia who would thrive on it?

First of all, it is not for everyone, some thrive on it, some get immediate side-effects, some do not find it helpful at all. Therefore, for the lucky ones who could resist its side effects and rise up enough so that they could afford the expense while living an opulent lifestyle. It would almost be a game, a dangerous one too where you had to watch your intake, understand quickly how your body adapted to the pills. What about the rest who ‘fall out’ then? I was thinking, while reading many of the stories of those who got hooked upon adderall, that they would eventually reach a ‘peak’ and then spiral down into poverty, depression or worse, needing the pills more for physical and mental maintenance and for boosting their performance. Those who are prone to the lure of the pill (or pills I should say) would be the young, as competition is vital for survival or for a good job.

An interesting aspect about this dystopia is the involvement of the government. At first glance, it seems almost laid back, with a eery hand-off attitude because the pills are stealing the whole show. People fall in and out of grace everyday and those pesky rebellious teens are too caught up trying to top each other in sports and academics. However, it does have a few problems to regulate. The first one would be economics. This is where my idea of this dystopia gets slightly blurred ( I was never really good in economics), because if there are too many people getting accepted then fired, making the jobs unstable. How would it ensure stability? Especially if this is also threatening its own ranks? They have gotten to where they are because of their capacity to cope with the pill but that does not mean they do not depend on it. This is why I think it should be run by technocrats, people who deal and manufacture these pills so that the side effects are not too drastic for some, like a selective process.

A second problem would be how to deal with the unwanted, drugged population that is now wasting the dystopia’s precious resources? A good way would be to get rid of them or perhaps make all of these people useful for test trials (although their bodies might be riddled with drugs). This process will be secretive since one would barely notice the disappearance of a tramp or a miserable family. Also, due to poverty and the rest of the population fighting for smaller jobs, crime rates will be high so the police would be more worried in dealing with drug lords and underground organizations than the real issue. However, it is important to note that the results of the pills should not be too drastic, so that after you go over your peak performance, you can still deal with smaller, more lowly jobs until you become completely worthless.

There are still many problems and illogical ideas in this conjecture and I personally feel that the most tragic part of this dystopia is that it will eventually fail, crumble within itself but instead of reaping a new society, it might give way to the total destruction of its inhabitants.



Why adderall might be the most dangerous drug on earth

Stimulant drug Adderall attracts student misuse at Norwich



Scott Westerfeld, well-known author of Leviathan and The Uglies, published an interesting article through his publisher’s website that could be applied to a multitude of research topics concentrated on young adult dystopian literature. Cleverly coining the category as “dyslit”, Westerfeld attempts to explain the adolescent’s draw to the dark themes of a dystopia by defining the genre itself and analyzing several key components in such literature.


The term “counter-utopia” is referred to in the start of the article to define Westerfeld’s version of dystopia being used in his argument. His use of the “classical” type of a dystopia where “a twisted version of perfection is imposed on a populace” is easily applicable to the YA dystopian genre we are using in our research papers. Using such a credible source as a reference for a pre-existing genre of dystopia could help establish ethos for an argument.

Similar to one of my peers’ presentations, Westerfeld draws a connection between “dyslit” and the importance/impact of escapism. By focusing on the function of the wilderness for characters who previously lived in an oppressive society, he illustrates the woods as a refuge and a place of transformation. The escape from previous misery contributes to the change you see in the protagonist that ultimately shares the newfound knowledge with those he/she left behind in their previous life. The decision must then be made: share the perceived utopia with those stuck in the oppressed society or live happily having escaped. This could easily be connected to the concept of escapism that was present in some people’s arguments this week.

This article employs a laid-back style that somehow adds to the credibility. It seems as if you are having a friendly conversation with the well-educated Scott Westerfeld rather than being lectured from an all-knowing source. His conclusion perfectly aligns with his purpose by ending on a thoughtful message of rebirth coming from all the death in a dystopia. Just as the typical YA dystopian novel does, Westerfeld fills his conclusion with a note of utopian hope that both inspires and awes the reader. His article, outside of providing invaluable evidence towards most arguments on the topic of “dyslit”, is a genuine good read.

Work Cited:

Westerfield, Scott. “Teenage Wastelands: How Dystopian YA Became Publishing’s Next Big Thing.” TOR.com, Macmillan, 15 April. 2011, http://www.tor.com/2011/04/15/teenage-wastelands-how-dystopian-ya-became-publishings-next-big-thing/

I will be presenting my research for the conference presentation on Friday, titled “Corporations, the Media, and Propaganda: A Modern Day Dystopia?” I will be discussing the influence and power of corporations, the media, and propaganda in today’s world and how they reflect a modern day dystopia. I will use my independent reading novel Champion by Marie Lu (as well as the other books in her series) and The Hunger Games to provide examples and support to my claims.

This presentation is one that you won’t want to miss, because I will be discussing real problems that are going on in our world. These are the sorts of problems that you read about in dystopias, but that most people do not realize are actually happening in real life! For example, did you know that in the past, big fossil fuel companies paid the US Chamber of Commerce to block energy reforms?! Big corporations and the government have become so heavily intertwined that we often don’t realize it!

In my presentation, I will continue to discuss how big corporations have gained so much power in our world, and how they control many aspects of our society. These points will be exemplified by the fictional corporations in Champion and The Hunger Games and how they had a lot of power. I will show the reflection of power in the real world by presenting what I have found about big corporations today.

For my other point I will be discussing the media and propaganda, how they go hand-in-hand, and how they hold great influence over our society as well. Once again this will be exemplified by the media and propaganda in Champion and The Hunger Games. Then I will discuss how the media has taken over our own lives with propaganda that we don’t always recognize.

We need to be fully aware of what is going on in our world, and how we have tip-toed into becoming a dystopia. My presentation touches on this issue, and therefore it is one you will not want to miss!


A definite pattern of interest in dystopian literature can be seen over the evolution of novels throughout the years of humanity. Typically, popularity of such literature peaks following a tragic event in our history such as World War II, the Civil War, or 9/11. This theme raises questions about what exactly society gains from reading dystopia and how the younger generations might be affected by reading such themes of horror in their own literature.


A common concern that people share is the potential negative consequences of our youth being exposed to themes of disaster and oppression in dystopian literature. This thought process stems from the known stereotypes of a dystopia being a hopeless “hell-scape” with no hope of redemption. Although this may be the conclusion in adult dystopian novels, this is not the case in majority of the young adult dystopias. Instead of ending the book on a note of depression, showing no escape from the deplorable actions of humanity, authors in YA typically end their story with a touch of utopian hope. By leaving room for social change, the author prompts an active thought process in the reader that they too can make a difference in our modern society before it reaches the point of dystopia. The dystopian themes generate a response from the reader that could ultimately lead to change for the better in society.


The characters in a novel can also influence the reader for the better. Most YA dystopias share a common theme of the search for an identity. They follow along with a young protagonist that displays the all-important “coming of age” trope. Take Delilah Bard, a no-nonsense thief from A Darker Shade of Magic by Victoria Schwab. Although she begins the book a little rough around the edges, when paired with a stable friend she ultimately displays loyalty, perseverance, and strength – all outstanding characteristics. As readers are exposed to positive role models that, like everyone else, are just trying to find their way in the world, they absorb some of these characteristics into themselves. Reading through the eyes of a strong, independent character can ultimately improve your own self and maybe even introduce you to qualities you did not know you could possess.

Overall, YA dystopian novels are popular following times of hardship for a reason: we look to them to better ourselves. Reading such literature can open your eyes to new ideas, help you discover qualities in yourself that you did not know existed, and prompt change in society before disaster strikes. Dystopian novels may follow along with certain stereotypes, but there is no doubting the effect they can have on a population.

Works Cited:

Schwab, V.E. A Darker Shade of Magic. TOR, 2015.

For my conference presentation on Monday, March 13th, I will be presenting the highlights of my research paper How an Author’s Perception of Perfection Influences His/Her Dystopian Society. I believe that “perfect” is a term that is relative to an author’s own unique life. I will use contextual examples from our readings thus far to point out where I see each author’s values showcased in their writing. I will argue that what a given author perceives as a “perfect society” will ultimately determine the type of dystopia that he or she creates. Consequently, I will bring up the fact that a lot of what authors prioritize in shaping a dystopian flaw is developed from their backgrounds, the way they were raised, and their beliefs. Additionally, I will give an overview of the key discoveries I have made, simply because there has not been much prior research done on the topic.

My presentation will begin with an outline of my thesis and my overarching thoughts. I will then give a brief summary of the origin of dystopias and the idea of “perfection.” I will then segue into literary examples that I use in my paper, such as Shatter Me, The Hunger Games, and Little Brother. In my presentation, I will analyze the societal flaws that I see present in the novels and I will consider how those relate to the authors’ backgrounds and upbringings. I also utilize two different samples of forums where people of varying ages have shared what they believe a perfect society to look like. One shares responses from a college-level English class while the other presents opinions from the older adult population, which helps me to contrast the varying values that different ages possess. With the ideas presented in the forums, I will extrapolate what I believe their dystopias would look like based on what they value when creating their utopias.

I hope that the synopsis of my research is intriguing to you, and that my usage of both concrete evidence and inferred material is interesting to you. In order to see where my research thus far has brought me, you will have to listen to my conference presentation and read my paper. I encourage you to reach out to me about any questions or suggestions you may have regarding my research-especially considering that much of it is being developed based on my own ideas.

Works Cited:

Dystopian literature has been around for many years now and continues to develop. Dystopian novels are being transformed into million dollar movies such as The Hunger Games, Maze Runner, Insurgent, etc. Since I have been in this English 1102 class I have been more interested in dystopian novels and films. There are message about the real world in these novels and movies that make them really interesting to me. When I was younger, I did not what a dystopian novel was. I found it compelling that every dystopian novel has similarities to today’s society. Characteristics are displayed in our own society but in a more extravagant way.

Young adult dystopian novels and movies are often written in a teenager’s perspective. When I am watching or reading something in the dystopian genre, I put myself in the character’s shoes to see if I can picture the country the way it is described in the novel. It helps me understand the movies better. Dystopian literature contains topics such as war, death, oppression and politics. I am starting to like dystopian literature more and more every time I read a book or watch a film. I find dystopian literature interesting because today’s politicians can control a country the way they want like in the novels or movies. I look as dystopia as being some kind of warning message to the audience.

When you read the definition of dystopia, it sounds horrible. It sounds like a topic I would never enjoy reading. Now that I know more about dystopian literature, it actually is one of the top genres on my list. A huge reason why I am starting to like this genre more and more is because of the comparisons of the issues in the books and current issues we have today in the world. I find novels and movies that relate to real life issues to be the best in my opinion. Even though I may not be familiar with every issue that has occurred in the real world, dystopian literature has made me more interested in find out more about issues in the world. The most covered subject in dystopian literature is the government.

The Knife of Never Letting Go, an independent reading I had to complete. This book is about a young boy named Todd who is the only boy in a town of men. Everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts, so there is basically never a time where it is silent. It is a town where there is no privacy. As Todd escapes Prentisstown, he finds a girl who joins him. Todd was told that all women was killed by a virus. The main theme of this story is distrust of authority as Todd discovers the truth of Prentisstown.

Image result for the knife of never letting goImage result for the knife of never letting go

When beginning this exploration into possible research topics, I looked at recurring themes and ideas in YA dystopian fiction. Rebellion, privacy, individuality, fear/torture, and power are all themes commonly observed in YA dystopias. Another aspect shared by many of the most popular YA dystopian novels/movies is a strong female protagonist. That got me thinking about what roles female characters fulfill in genres outside of YA. The first piece of research I did was of the highest grossing films of 2016 (because I knew it would provide a good general idea of the most popular stories being shared in the world today, and also because I knew the odds were high that I had seen them and could therefore judge the roles of their female characters). The only ones that had strong female characters (the definition of a “strong female character” is coming soon – sit tight) were Rogue One:A Star Wars Story and Zootopia (the former coming in 10th, the latter coming in 3rd: Source). Zooptopia is most certainly aimed at a young audience, and Rogue One, while aimed at a more overarching audience, is also marketed to people that fall into the “Young Adult” category as well. This made me think – how does the intended audience of a work affect the extent to which strong female characters are showcased?

I think the definition of a strong female character goes beyond “any girl appearing in a movie that passes the Bechdel Test”. To me, they need to have their own goals and achieve those goals on their own accord.


Examining films marketed to children, I started with Disney, because of the $11.1 billion made by the film industry in 2016, $7 billion of it was made by Disney alone. The defining characteristic of Disney is the Disney Princess. It seems to me that if the defining characteristic of the most important film studio in children’s media is strong female characters, I may have a lead to go on towards answering my question.

This question also seems fitting because it allows me to look at the genre of dystopian YA through its most relatable aspect – its characters. These characters will be comparable to characters outside of dystopian works as well, which will drastically open up my choices of literature to look at, as well as make the dystopian works even more distinct.

The world operates on order. Who makes the rules? Who decides consequences derived from said rules? Who holds the power? It seems that the conflicts inside many young adult dystopias follow along the same principles: a domineering authority consuming the few scraps left in some desolate landscape. My independent reading book, A Darker Shade of Magic, is no exception to this theme. Victoria Schwab’s masterpiece features overblown palaces filled with so-called royalty, an impressive array of magic wielding villains, and a dark stone that could destroy all realities.


Instead of adhering to the standard overbearing government in need of a rebellion plot, Schwab created a universe with omnipotent magic that, depending on the realm, could be used to claim power. What interests me are the correlations that can be made between the illusion of control and those that accept the magic’s existence in their world. Take “White London”, a realm where magic has absorbed all form of color and life from the city. The only form of leadership comes from a bloodthirsty throne that is open to be conquered by anyone who is willing to prove themselves superior through a battle to the death with whoever currently holds the title. The common people who lack magical talent believe they have no control over this process so they simply accept it as the natural order of things. By strategically demonstrating their power to the magicless, the top magicians gain authority that can then be used to control the populations. Instead of igniting rebellion, the commoners fight amongst themselves for crumbs of leftover magic. This enables the victors of the throne to maintain control by keeping the individuals separate, paranoid of one another, and fearful of their overlords.

The impossible artifact that conveniently crosses paths with the main character, Kell, represents a disruption in the order of the realms. The user of the stone has access to dark and unbelievable magic that can actually breaks existing laws by creating things out of nothing. Although the stone creates a sense of control, wielding its power comes at great cost to the user. This illusion makes the stone all the more dangerous in the hands of an eager but inexperienced human. I see this plot thread as a warning to the readers in the typical dystopian fashion. To me, Schwab is drawing a connection between those who can control themselves when given responsibility, and those who become drunk with power. It is easy to be influenced by the power you wield and only you can control what you become as a result.


Works Cited:

Schwab, Victoria. A Darker Shade of Magic. Tor, 2015.