Dystopian Fiction has been a highly discussed topic for awhile now among both YA and adult readers. Today I’m going to discuss why I think Dystopian Fiction in YA is going down the shitter. This discussion post is pretty casual so my writing won’t be as formal as usual!
Dystopian Fiction in YA
Usually when someone thinks of a dystopian fiction, they think of YA. Which is understandable because to be frank, YA took the genre and basically made it their own. YA Dystopian fiction was never that horrible in the past, blockbusters like ‘The Hunger Games‘ were original and a fresh, which is how they came to be so huge for readers. Authors saw how much attention these texts received and decided to hop on the train as well, and soon enough dystopian fiction was being pumped out left and right. This is when popular series like ‘The Maze Runner‘ and ‘Divergent‘ started rising (which at the time I found to be pretty confusing because they all seemed kinda the same to me but I’ll get to that later). YA readers were eating this shit up, and authors loved it. Dystopian fiction in YA featured action, bloodshed, the supernatural, and sexy-horny teenagers; the perfect brew for an addicting read. It made sense why the genre got so huge; but because of this, it got so overused and milked, the blasphemy I’ve been seeing released these days in the genre are just snippets of old hits put together in different combinations. I think readers started realizing this too because soon the craze died out, and the books that published afterwards got considerably less attention.
At the time when the genre was skyrocketing and that was everything anyone would ever read, I was still conflicted. I saw the same tropes over and over, ones that I really didn’t like. Yes, they made for a good plot and it appealed to the masses but when I took a closer look how the fuck did authors get away with it? Here are some common tropes in YA dystopian fiction I find more than slightly skeptical and infuriating:
I saw author Jenna Moreci discuss this in a video and I could not agree more. I have no issues with teen heroes. I have no issues with teen protagonists. I just think if an author is going to make a teenager save a society from a corrupt government, make it even just a smidge believable. Do authors really expect me to believe this adolescent, amygdala dependent kid is going overthrow the government that’s been in control for a considerable amount of time, when she can’t even choose which overly-sexy-definitely-not-a-teenager idiot to date?
Why is it that I find “teens” in dystopian fiction always seem to act like they’re in their mid twenty’s—probably because that’s what they should be. If the character needs to be a bit older to make it’s actions seem believable, so be it! I get that authors want to appeal to young adults by having their characters be in the same age, but no matter how fictional the book may be, a teenager’s brain development stays true. Unless it is stated that something alters that, I find it hard to believe a teen and his or her ragtag group of problematic kids can dismantle a leadership that’s probably been in power longer than any of their lifetimes.
Where the Fuck Are Your Parents?
Why is it that whenever there are adults in YA dystopias they are either assholes, dopey, dead, or dying? Of course salvation is up to the teens because all the adults are all over the freaking place! I understand why this would be present, so that the teens can rise up which appeals to young adults; but holy shit just give me one properly mature, innately good person that isn’t well on their way to a very dramatic, early death.
This trope also makes me question how adults so stupid got into power. Brute force, yes, but to have a solid, powerfully built government no matter how corrupt takes brains I just don’t see present.
Shallow Horny Teenagers
Insta-love. If that doesn’t explain more than enough about how I feel, I’m not sure what does. We’ve all seen it in dystopian YA, I know we have. Yes, we get it he’s hot and super strong or whatever but why does love need to be the first feeling authors come up with? Why can’t the chic just have a super sexy best friend, or helpful muscle-heavy teammate? Once again, I get it. Teens like romance I like romance, but this insta-love shit is driving me fucking insane. I’ve discussed this before and I will discuss it again, we like a slow… sizzling burn, not a random make-out session in the first fourth of the book. Sure the kids can be horny but who cares? Torture them. It is so much more satisfying that way.
Talking about “hot and super strong”, why does he have to always be hot and super strong? I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with being sexy but, the “perfect male” thing is getting so old. One dystopian love interest that made me want to smash my head against a wall a little bit less was Warner from the ‘Shatter Me‘ series—nonetheless I really loath the series as a whole but I’ll discuss about that more in the future.
I’m an Erudite I Swear
When I read YA dystopian fiction I find it very easy to realize that the way society is organized or how it may be run in the said book—is absolute bullshit. One good example is the faction trope. How is society so easily split into these certain categories? And how is that helpful to literally anyone? How are people expected to have only one of the qualities they can be sorted into? Why separate society in this way, what’s the point? It’s never clearly explained why factions are created, and whenever it is I can easily come up with a much better—much safer—solution. I’m baffled, it isn’t believable.
Why Am I Depressed
Dystopian fiction is dark, no doubt. But does it always have to be? Books in this genre tend to be so murky and sad from beginning to finish I end up thanking the heavens when I reach the end so I can continue enjoying my life. I know what some people might say “But Byunziiiiiie thats why the romance is there!” No. I refuse to have romance be the only source of happiness for both the protagonist and reader of the book. I’m completely against that type of suffering. I want lighthearted moments because those make the sorrowful ones so much more impactful. If it’s downhearted all the time I end up detaching from the characters emotionally and the whole thing is so much less compelling. Give me a bubbly dinner where all the characters talk about happy memories, or a party where they all get rip roaring drunk and dance to their heart’s desires. That way, when darkness comes I can compare the situation and the character’s feelings to how it could’ve been.
It Was a War…Or Something
Usually in dystopias, a corrupt government rises up after some big incredibly harmful event. They learn from their mistakes because of it, but attempt to resolve the issue in the worst possible way. I never came across that as a particularly annoying problem; however, it was how authors came up with these “incredibly harmful events”. Long story short—why is it always a fucking war? Not only this, but why is the war never as relevant as it should be? If this “war” is the reason behind the whole shitshow society is now, at least put some effort into making it 1. believable and 2. well-developed. “Ah yes, it was this war…now lets skip till when the two characters make-out and strip please.” I want the war explained: what were the sides fighting over? Why? Who won? Who lost? Did anyone win or did everyone suffer? What were it’s effects on the climate? Mindsets? Technology? A healthy summary is perfectly satisfactory but if all I get is “because of the war” then I’m going to kill a bitch.
The Evil Overlord
Ah yes, the evil overlord. Whenever there is a villian it’s always this all-powerful individual with a highly trained but strangely incompetent military and/or police force that always fails at catching a small group of emotionally unstable teenagers. This classic character almost never has good character development making them bland and uninteresting at most. Yes, we get it they’re evil—and?
Can’t Decide Whether the Romance or Government Is More Problematic
The chick that the author swears is completely ordinary but every alpha male bad-boy in a seventeen-mile radius will fall in love with her because “there’s just something about her…” Now she finds herself stuck in a horribly unfortunate, emotionally draining, love triangle. Not only will it be obvious who she gets with in the end, but this stupid romantic inconvenience will take up a majority of the book as a big waste of my time and patience.
There’s plenty more tropes I can’t stand, but these are the most commonly found ones in the large abundance of YA dystopian fiction I’ve read.
Yes I’m going to briefly discuss this because they always say it’s science; but why is it that whenever I look at the “science” they’re talking about—it doesn’t make any fucking sense? First of all, this bugs me plenty more than others because I am absolutely trash for STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics)—it’s my passion. So naturally when I read and the author starts typing out the biological, geographical, or environmental reasons behind things I get curious.
I’m almost always disappointed.
The issue isn’t that some authors are making shit up that can’t exist—though that does happen—it’s that they take certain theories, phenomenons, physical and/or biological actions or traits and exaggerate them horribly. I’ve seen it over and over; things that should be small, but for some reason are humongous and conveniently help move the plot forward or help world build and etc. An example of this I found pretty prominent is the pond succession bullshit in the ‘Divergent’ series. I thought I was the only one who realized how absolutely bull that was until I found this video on YouTube explaining it awhile back. It’s good to know I’m not the only one recognizing these problems.
To cut to the chase, it’s good to want to explain the STEM behind things in a world. But if it is done, do it correctly, and do it well. Or gremlins like me will hunt you down and cackle maniacally while dragging you towards a very slow and unnecessarily dramatic death involving a match, a stake, and a very long incomprehensible chant.
YA Dystopias Now vs What They Could Be
First of all, if it’s not already clear enough: variety. I’ve seen the same shit being pumped out for much too long and it would be amazing for something fresh and unique to appear on shelves!
More importantly, there are so many challenges the world faces today such as terrorism, sexism, racism, financial crisis, climate crisis, population crisis, religious conflicts, political tensions, addictive technological crutches—the list never ends. Dystopian fiction was meant to be a way of expressing what the world and society could be if we let any of these problems get out of hand and corrupt us. It opens up people’s eyes to real world problems through compelling and powerful fiction. Extraordinary books like ‘The Giver’, ‘Fahrenheit 451’, ‘1984’, and my absolute favorite book in the whole world ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ are all stories that question society; and convey the consequences of our actions through what harm could happen in the future if we don’t change. Stories like these aren’t necessarily YA because they’re important for both adults and youth to read and understand, they’re neutral. Whereas, YA is targeted to—obviously—young adults; those readers usually only stick to reading YA so it’s crucial to incorporate these lessons in that category too. These days, I rarely see any deeper meaning behind recent dystopian fiction in YA; particularly bad because that audience should learn just as much as adult audiences do through reading when it comes to the real world.
Maybe it’s just me but I want to learn from a dystopian fiction when I read it. I want to finish and come out of it better, more intelligent than I was before. Is that so much to ask? YA dystopian fiction has turned more towards the entertainment side of the spectrum rather than the informational one. There are ways to write where the reader is both intrigued and learning at the same time, I promise there is. Cut the crap and enlighten readers. Hell yeah there can still be amazing action, sick supernatural powers, sexy romance, and humor; but spread awareness of the world’s challenges using tools and devices (symbolism is a classic one) as well.
That’s my short rant! I hope I’m not completely alone on this, it’s been bugging me for awhile and I felt I needed to write about it.
This is a discussion post, so what do you guys think about dystopian fiction when it comes to YA? Tell me your thoughts! I’d love to read them.