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Friday, March 11, 2011

YA Cafe: Adventures in Dystopia

Welcome Back to YA Cafe, where book lovers can gather and chat about teen literature.  I'm your barista, along with Ghenet from All About Them Words.

Each Friday we pick from a menu of topics and share our thoughts on our respective blogs.  We've also got plans brewing for interviews, events and even some exciting giveaways, so stay tuned!  Join the discussion by responding in the comments, on your own blogs or on twitter using the hash tag #yacafe.


 Today's Special:  Why do we love dystopian Teen Literature?

I'm probably going to get in trouble for saying this but I don't watch the news.  I don't read the newspaper and the only type of online news that I follow is stuff that pertains to writing and literature.  Because that's what I like to read: books.  In an ideal world, I would live somewhere where I could get my news and current events from novels rather than periodicals, television or the internet.  This is why I love dystopian teen literature.

Gabi's Top Five Countdown: Why Dystopian YA is So Much Better than Watching the News

5)  It talks about real issues in a non-boring way.  Let's face it, political issues and current events can be a bit dry sometimes, but dystopian literature takes those same ideas and talks about them in a way that makes me not want to fall asleep.  I'd much rather read The Hunger Games than an editorial rant on why reality television's all that is evil in our society.  And M.T. Anderson's Feed is almost scary in how well it predicts that technology is taking over our culture.  I love dystopian YA because it gets teens (and adults!) to think about important issues without boring everyone to tears.

4)  There can be violence but in reality, no one gets hurt.  I'll admit it, I like a good fight scene when I read dystopian literature.  Still, there is something comforting in knowing that when I put the book down, no humans or animals were actually harmed in the making of that story.  It shocks me how we can watch violence on the news, then change the channel or shrug it off, like it's scenes from some action movie.  It's not.  People are getting hurt for real.  Maybe I'm crazy, but the news should not be "entertainment."  This is one of the reasons why The Hunger Games really spoke to me.  It's a great commentary about how we allow grim realities of war and violence become "entertainment" on the news.

3)  There's love.  I love that almost every dystopian YA book boils down to the notion: "The world sucks.  Let's make out."  There are all these terrible things going on in these dystopian worlds and yet these teen protagonists are still real teens.  The world might be falling apart, but they still care whether the person they're crushing on likes them back.  Even in books where there isn't a strong romantic thread, there's still some deep and caring relationship that propels the story and gives the protagonist hope.  Which brings me to reason #2.

2)  There's hope.  No matter how bad things get in dystopia, the characters always manage to find hope.  Protagonists in dystopian novels are probably the most optimistic people in the universe because even though their world is unthinkably awful, they still hope things will get better.

1)  You know when you're being lied to.  Dystopian YA literature doesn't pretend it's telling us real facts.  It's perfectly clear the moment you pick up The Hunger Games or Matched that the place you're reading about isn't actually real.  These days, reports and footage get chopped up and edited so that they tell the "right story" and give the news the right spin.  It's hard to know who to trust.

I'm not saying every single news channel or newspaper is out to distort and manipulate our minds, but I do think that we all need to have a healthy dose of skepticism about what we believe at face value.  With dystopian literature, we know from the get-go that it's not real; there's no pretense of reality.  And I find that rather refreshing.

Want to hear more about dystopian teen literature?  Fellow barista, Ghenet shares her thoughts on her blog: All About Them Words.  Check it out, then tell us what you love about dystopian YA!

4 comments:

M Pax said...

I just got The Windup Girl, altho it's not YA. Can't wait to read it.

Aleeza said...

great post, ghenet! easy to see now why dystopian kicks butt :D

Ghenet said...

Reading dystopian YA is definitely better than watching the news. I especially like your point 2 about hope. :)

Cat said...

Awesome post! Thanks for sharing the link!

I definitely agree- reading Dystopian YA is better than watching the news! :)

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