Once upon time when writers wrote about the world going wrong and trying to make a go of it in the aftermath the novels usually found its way on the college reading list. Ruined landscapes, fragmented governments, odd creatures mucking about, abundance of shortages and the like just wasn’t fit for kiddos. Think about the titles: Brave New World, 1984, Time Machine, Fahrenheit 451, A Clockwork Orange. Right. Yes. Some of them do end up on high school lists, but not when they first came out. There is a reason for that.
Lately, the shelves are full of dystopian novels and those shelves are usually in the YA section. There is a reason for that too.
Back in the once upon a time, the world wasn’t that scary, even with the Cold War, we still had a pretty good idea of feeling on top of the world, so we could poke a bit around the edges of the “what ifs.” Then the world did get scary. AIDS, a couple of wars in a few out-of-the-way places, recession, terrorists, weather disasters, recalls–dystopian became popular among YA because the future is not looking so bright anymore. I’m just saying.
In fact, the adults are now reading the YA list (even though some don’t admit it): The Giver, Hunger Games, Maze Runner, Divergent are some names that pop to the surface.
Is Dystopian bad for teens? I don’t think so. I didn’t get ruined from reading Brave New World in college, although 1984 and Clockwork Orange had me thinking hard at times.
What do you think? Is there a difference between YA dystopian fiction and adult dystopian? Or is a bad world after the fact good reading for both adults and teens?