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Twisted Versions of Perfection

Dystopian societies take rule-making to the extreme.

Dystopian novels are combination horror stories and cautionary tales, set against twisted versions of perfect societies. Dystopian heroes are discontented—they don’t fit in, and often lack the self-awareness to realize why.

Teens (like the little ol’ seventh-grade version of me) who aren’t yet ready for the heavy-hitting social commentary in the classics of the genre may find those same themes and messages, presented in the context of a YA book, much more palatable.

In YA dystopian societies, civilization is usually managed by absent adult authority figures. For teenagers who fear they’ve inherited a chaotic world, yet feel stifled by the rules, these fictional societies resonate. Dystopian societies take rule-making to the extreme. Extreme control. Extreme censorship. Extreme surveillance. No dissenting ideas. In these societies, parents and children are often subjected to the same controls and restrictions.

The classics of adult dystopia tends to be more apocalyptic, more dire. YA dystopia can be apocalyptic and scary—but it can also feel a lot like high school, where everyone feels pressure to conform. To escape the fear, alienation, and danger, protagonists band together with others like themselves.

YA dystopian fiction opens a pathway to explore and appreciate the genre—and appreciating makes it easier for teens to fully absorb the classics when they’re assigned to read them at school, or choose to read them for pleasure.

Next up: I’ll compare Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and Matched by Allie Condie


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