Tuesday, September 7, 2010

It's the end of the world as we know it...

I am obsessed with utopian/dystopian fiction - and if it's post apocolyptic, all the better.

I can't explain it...books like that scare the pants off me, and I like it.

My husband has learned to deal with the strange dreams and the inevitable elbows, knees and mindless chatter that follows any particularly scary book.  It's just another one of the quirks that makes me so special "special".

I made a list the other day of all of the books I've read in the last year or so that fit into this very specific niche genre...

I am clearly obsessed.

But recently, my obsession has made me question the world at large.

There is a new phenomenon emerging from modern writers - one where teen characters are placed in worlds on the brink of destruction; worlds where the teenage protagonists are placed in situations where, against the odds (often at the mercy of malevolent, authoritarian governments) they must fight to save their lives, and the lives of the people they love.  In the last few books I've read, this has been through blood sport - usually resulting in more than one gory, graphic death.  These books are violent, gruesome and utterly frightening - even more so when you remember, most characters are under 16 and the intended audiences are teenagers (and let's face it, pre-teens - that damn Twilight Saga was clearly not meant for an 11 year olds eyes...and a little too much like crack to boot.)

All that being said, the books I have read from this emerging genre are amazing.  They have complex plots, characters and language.  They make the reader question things in the book's world, but also their own, and I can honestly say for the most part, you have no idea what is going to happen next because just when you think you've read the most horrific thing you have ever read in your entire life, you read the next chapter and the author has found a new way to mind fuck you. It's all a little insane.

While reading these books, I keep thinking to myself:  I'm not sure which is scarier - that a 12 year old is going to read this book or that some adult created this elaborate, crazy-ass world and thought, "Geeze!  I know who should read this!  A 12 year old!"

Which leads me to the question of why?

Why are books about the end of society as we know it becoming so popular?  Why can teens relate to a girl who takes her sister's place in a state mandated game where 26 kids between the ages of 12 and 17 fight to the death à la Thunder Dome? (The Hunger Games, Catching Fire & Mocking Jay by Suzanne Collins) Or a 16 year old boy who is part of some elaborate state funded program to weed out the smartest of the smart in a maze filled with crazy robo-octopus-cat things that kill everything in their path and are kept out of the middle of the maze (where the 60 mice boys live) by 200' high walls made of concrete that open and close every day...until some girl who gets dropped on them marks the end of both the maze and the beginning of a whole new kind of hell. (The Maze Runner by James Dashner.)

Seriously - what the fuck is this world coming to?!

As a teacher, I am genuinely worried for the future of the human race.

As a reader, all I can say is...

It's the end of the world as we know it...and I feel fine.


  1. I took a utopia/dystopia English Course during my Bachelor degree and it was an interesting course. It is amazing how long these genre has existed. What gets me with teen fiction is the depth of the content. As a teen I remember reading the "babysitters club" which was a light fun read. Or for a scarier read you would turn to the "goosebumps" series. These genres have been replaced with the "twilight" type books as well as the other ones you mentioned above. They are much darker and a heavier read. I often read "teen" books and wonder who the hell would let their teen read this!

    If you want some older dystopia/utopia type titles let me know - I have an entire binder full lol.
    Melissa Farmer

  2. Thanks, Melissa!

    I loved our utopian/dystopian course too - it was SO much fun and quite the mental work out.

    It really is shocking how heavy these books are, how dark...especially because of the "scary stuff" we used to read.

    The world is a really, really scary place...books for teens just seems like a really weird place to make the world even scarier...

    Thanks for your input! :D