If you’re reading this, then you’re probably not surprised at the continued popularity of dystopian literature or the many subgenres within it. Why are readers drawn to a dark post-apocalyptic future or the natural disasters with climate-fiction (cli-fi)? The appeal of these plots attracts a readership that spans generations. Others are quick to judge those of us over the age of 18 that love dystopian literature and cli-fi but overlook the joy and positive elements to these plots: the hope in dystopian. The dystopian genre is more than The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner and as grateful as I am to movies turning kids onto reading books they have also generalized this vast genre and created a stereotype of both this genre’s plots and their readers.
Yes, these books are overly dramatic at times and incredibly unrealistic most of the time, but beyond the angst and youthful revolution mentality, one underlying message reoccurs – hope. Hope that stems from working together; hope that comes from faith in humanity; and hope that even in the midst of corrupt adults, deathly plagues, and the aftermath of natural disasters – we are stronger than the challenges and we, as a people, WILL survive. A story telling how we not only process and overcome negative events in life but still manage to find joy has been around long before the genre was named and long before we met Katniss.
Being drawn to dark plots, death, and those ‘scary’ elements that many adults do not think are age appropriate is not a new fascination for young readers. Children have grown up with Grimm’s Fairy Tales and Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales in which children not only kill parents, but adult characters often kill or torture children. Eighteen years ago parents also worried that Harry Potter was too dark for children. Yet with each of these masterpieces and their continued popularity decades and centuries later, children not only read about negative facts of life, but they also see how other children overcome these challenges. They learn that one can survive something tragic and sometimes life doesn’t have that Disney ending.