Teens’ Top Ten is a â€œteen choiceâ€ list, where teens nominate and choose their favorite books of the previous year! Nominators are members of teen book groups in fifteen school and public libraries around the country. Nominations are posted on Support Teen Literature Day during National Library Week, and teens across the country vote on their favorite titles each year. Each day during the month of May, The Hub will feature a post about Teens’ Top Ten. Be sure to check in daily as we visit past winners and current nominees!
Teen’s Top Ten 2011 nominee Matched by Ally Condie provides a lot of thought provoking ideas I’ll probably still be pondering years from now. The mystery of Condie’s novel is two-fold. I have to wait for its sequel, Crossed and then the third and final volume to truly understand the world she has created. I was able to enjoy Matched as it sparked a great many comparisons to books and film. Now, all cobbled together, my slightly bizarre view of the future is both cautiously optimistic and fearful.
So what’s your take on things, with all the dystopian books to choose from: is pessimism the wave of the future or does it just make for great fiction?
The future will be :
- all pink clouds and golden light that hide a civilization’s dark underbelly;
- a miserable world trying to squash the last shreds of humanity within us;
- a place where we have the time to be as creative and inventive as possible for the benefit of mankind.
Secretly I hope it’s the fourth choice
- wonderful because everyone gets a unicorn.
Check out fellow blogger Maria Kramer’s post The Future Sucks – A Visitor’s Guide to Dystopia and learn her breakdown of three major worlds found in Dystopian fiction; ShinyHappyLand, The Cure and The Gauntlet. Alas, Kramer’s post-apocalyptic vision has no room for unicorns. Despite its many varieties, Dystopia has some unifying threads including a societal throwing back of the curtain to reveal a new truth. Other similarities include an overwhelming darkness, misuse of science and technology, and warped political boundaries. Dystopia is a world of extremes.
But let’s be realistic, perfect sounds boring anyway. One of my favorite futuristic novels that blends both positive and negative is GemX by Nicky Singer. In a world of genetically engineered people, Maxo Strang, is the newest model available and should have the maximum perfect possible. But he’s falling apart. I love the great conundrum presented in the novel about beauty and flaws. Can asymmetry be attractive? Singer defines the world of the Polis by creating a new vocabulary that disguises some of the similarities between Polis and our modern world. Gen-pap, his father, lives in a world far removed from dreggies, the working class segregated from the opulence of the Polis merely by being ill or abnormal. Maxo spies a girl on the vid screen and is totally captivated. Later you discover he even has an affinity for her feet. It should be creepy but with the world slightly askew anyway I find this attraction to be so sweet.
If you believe that Dystopians have more fun then try the Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness– an excellent series about the outcomes of biological warfare on a colonized planet in the future. Book one, The Knife of Never Letting Go was a 2011 Odyessy Award Honor Audiobook and also a 2011 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults title on the What If booklist. Citizens can hear each others thoughts, even those of animals. Ness gives us a lot to think about; where are the women, who are the aliens, whose truth is really true? There is an ongoing battle between the different colonies and a simultaneous war with the New World’s indigenous peoples, the Spackel. Despite constant loss and hardship, Todd and Viola find strength in each other, a love that would have been much less visible against a backdrop of utopia. Stretched across three novels, Chaos Walking continues its adventure in Book 2 The Ask and the Answer and Book 3 Monsters of Men.
Maybe that’s the epiphany. To appreciate the insurmountable positivity behind human adaptability there has to be a foil. Not a character who contrasts another person’s differences, but a darkness within the story to make the light elements more visible. Sam from Tolkien’s The Two Towers put it best when talking to Frodo.
“It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo; the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end… because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was, when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines, it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you, that meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going… because they were holding on to something.”
Laura C. Perenic is reading Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, 2011 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults.
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