Ah… to be young again and long for a good piece of dystopian literature.
What the heck is dystopian literature, you ask? Excellent question, grasshopper.
In a nutshell, it’s a potent literary vehicle for criticizing existing social conditions and political systems. As opposed to utopian literature which portrays an ideal world, dystopian literature depicts the flaws and failures of an imagined and generally exaggerated society. Fun stuff!
Books like Brave New World, Farenheit 451, V for Vendetta, and most lately The Hunger Games trilogy, fit squarely into that category.
We grownups who fill our days worrying about paying bills, not getting downsized or outsourced and, of course, that small task of raising children, frequently prefer to reach for a nice happy light piece of beach reading to help us unwind, but apparently the bright shiny youth of today have fallen head over heels for the dystopian trilogy called The Hunger Game by Suzanne Collins.
The last book, Mockingjay, in this trilogy about kids being forced to fight to the death on TV, came out last week to hordes of waiting teens and adults alike. It instantly shot to the top of the best sellers list. For those of you more into Jackie Collins than Suzanne Collins, the book’s description goes something like this —
Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But now that she’s made it out of the bloody arena alive, she’s still not safe. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. Who do they think should pay for the unrest? Katniss. And what’s worse, President Snow has made it clear that no one else is safe either. Not Katniss’s family, not her friends, not the people of District 12!
I completely understand why those pesky, rebellious teens like a genre dedicated to examining how we adults have seriously screwed up the world that they’re scheduled to inherit one day soon. But as for me, I think as summer turns to fall, I’ll turn in my beach reading and pick up a copy of Jonathan Franzen’s novel “Freedom” so I can engross myself in the lives of a typical dysfunctional American family.
That’s dystopian enough for me.