All posts tagged YA

I saw this research paper as the perfect opportunity to communicate an issue that I think has been plaguing society. Since the rise of modern technology there has been a lack of importance placed on literature. The presence of a generation that remains more updated than ever, through social media, puts pressure on authors (and artists, etc.) to produce content more quickly. I hypothesize that this pressure results in authors falling back on “cheap” ways to get readers, instead of focusing on the “moral” aspect of the story.

Even though teens today have plenty of other things to influence and educate them, such as twitter, video games, and various new channels, YA literature remains one of the most useful tools for challenging the mind of the youth. Quickly produced and ill-thought out books might still achieve the goal of entertaining the reader, however these novels should be fully utilized by leaving the reader with questions or conclusions about life and society. This is especially true for dystopian novels, as they are the most effective in jump-starting a reader into action, often through fear.

However, this is not the fault of the ever-blamed millennials. Studies show that millennials are the most motivated generation, they have a higher “sense of purpose” than other generations, and are the largest advocates for social change. So why is there a gap between the desires of this young generation and the content produced for them? This is one of many questions my paper aims to answer.

My inspiration for this paper came out of researching some of my favorite novels, such as Brave New World, Lord of the Flies, and The Hunger Games, which are so morbid and abstract that I wondered how where the authors got their inspiration. I did some digging, and uncovered that almost every dystopian novel author came up with their idea because of a social injustice they wished to change.

My independent reading book, Uglies fits between the modern YA dystopia mold, and the “meaningful” dystopias. Uglies features a 16 year old girl as the main character with several love interests. The novel (arguably) is a part of a trilogy, is written in simple language, and was considered for a movie. These are components of a basic, money-making dystopia. However, it certainly left me wondering about the importance I place on my appearance. The author, Scott Westerfeld, explained “that his point in writing the book was not to make a big commentary on the issues with beauty, but to make people aware of the culture of retouching that is developing in the world and to be aware of our own ideas about beauty and our need to think for ourselves”.

Uglies should be a model to YA authors around the world. Dystopian novels can play into cliches, and get readers, while still having meaning.

Authors and Society: stop measuring the success of a novel by how much money the movie adaption made, and instead by the number of lives it impacted.

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.

How do you define dystopia (or other dystopia term: utopia, anti-utopia)? How does combining dystopia with another genre (sci-fi, romance, apocalypse) affect your definition? How does combining dystopia with Young Adult literature (YA) change the genre? You may use examples from class books or your own research book and to take our class discussion in an original or more in-depth direction.


There are two basic words I would use to characterize a dystopia: futuristic and bad. This is just a surface-level definition, but to me, dystopias take place in a future worse than our present times, and almost all feature an oppressive/tyrannical government. It is linguistically the opposite of a utopia, which the Cambridge Companion to Utopian Literature defines as an, “imaginary paradisiacal places, it has also been used to refer to a particular kind of narrative, which became known as utopian literature” (Claeys 4). But, while the setting of the books mostly follow the guidelines I have illustrated above, dystopias often have the theme of revolution and hope in overcoming seemingly impossible odds. In the Hunger Games movie, we hear President Snow remark that, “Hope. It’s the only thing stronger than fear.” Similarly, this is very strongly the main theme in my other favorite dystopian series, as a character remarks, “I will put my trust in hope once more, and perhaps this time, it will be enough” (Kagawa 335).

However, The Immortal Rules might be categorized in the post-apocalyptic genre along with dystopian. While these don’t have to be mutually exclusive (see: The Hunger Games), not all books that take place after an apocalypse are necessarily dystopian. The Immortal Rules takes place after a devastating plague eradicates much of humanity and, after mutating, turns the rest of its victims into mad, rabid vampires. Meanwhile, the rest of humanity mostly lives in cities ruled by non-rabid vampires who require tithes of blood in exchange for the scarce food left in the world, and they will take your blood even if you are on death’s door. They rule with an iron fist. The Lunar Chronicles is a sci-fi series that takes place in a less ravaged future, but it is on the brink of dystopia as a plague has arisen in the population. When these books deviate more from the dystopia genre (i.e. The Lunar Chronicles) it may lose some of those themes of oppression and hope to overcome.

Young adult is a genre full of tropes. Examples include the best friend group against the world, insta-love, The Chosen One, the speshul snowflake, the Mary Sue, and, of course, the much reviled and yet omnipresent love triangle. Of course, not every book has all of these (and a rare few have none!), but a YA book will have at least one. If an author chooses to write a YA dystopia, he or she faces an uphill battle in the fight to be recognized as a genuine, profound author, because many view YA literature as a trope-filled, unnecessarily light genre only able to be consumed by airheaded teens (maybe a bit dramatic, but as a YA lover, I’m frustrated). Making the protagonist a teenager also oftentimes requires the author to put their characters on a journey of self-discovery as they come of age.


(After finding so many funny YA dystopia memes, I do believe I will post one with all of my blogs)


Works Cited

Claeys, Gregory. The Cambridge Companion to Utopian Literature. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010. Print.

The Hunger Games. Directed by Gary Ross, performances by Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, and Woody Harrelson, Lionsgate, 2012.

Kagawa, Julie. The Eternity Cure. Ontario: Harlequin Teen, 2013. Print.