The idea of a dystopia is an intriguing one – a world that was supposed to be perfect, but has somehow turned out horribly wrong. Why do so many horrible realities start out with such good intentions? I guess the saying, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”, has more than a grain of truth to it. We all live in an imperfect world, it cannot be argued otherwise. However, the difference between our imperfect world and a nightmarish dystopia is a simple one: the efforts of good people. Our own world is continually pulled into times of grief, wars with bloodshed, and the loss of innocent lives, but in the midst of all the bad, there are always the efforts of good people. Leaders striving to make a change for the better in the lives of their followers; soldiers fighting for the freedom and safety of their countrymen and women; ordinary, everyday people who believe that life is more than personal gain. In a dystopia, every aspect of society has rotted away into some kind of dehumanizing suppression. There is no “good” so to speak. I believe this is why there is so much attraction to the dystopian genre of YA fiction.
Dystopias have just enough resemblance to our own, broken world that we can relate to the characters, but hold the fascination of a reality that has never truly existed. The Millennial Generation as well as Generation Z have grown up with the ability to reside part-time in different realities than the one real life claims. Unlimited access to internet means unlimited access to the worlds of thousands of tv shows and movies; video games create a virtual reality that gamers love to get lost in for hours. The youth of today have grown up with the expectation of a radically different tomorrow, and considering that many of the popular YA dystopias take place in the future, is it really any surprise that the genre holds a particular interest to us “young folk”?
Within the genre of YA dystopias, there are many combinations with other genres (ex: romance, sci-fi, apocalypse). When a dystopia is given an extra layer, other than the typical, radicalized government control, the story is able to appeal to different audiences. Personally, I enjoy dystopias with a sci-fi theme, but shout out to all my TWD fans, you all probably lean more toward the apocalypse themed dystopia. Combining genres gives writers opportunities to appeal to different audiences, as well as the ability for deeper social commentary.