Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Girl Who Was On Trend

The granddaddy of dystopias.
Dystopias have been around since We in 1921. From Brave New World (1932) to Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (1968) (This was the inspiration for Blade Runner fyi) to The Handmaid's Tale (1985) to Parable of the Sower (1993) to Battle Royale (2003) and all the dystopian books between them and after the trend has hung around in adult literature. It's been around for the young adult reader for a long time too. I remember when I was in grade 8, we read The Giver, that was back in 2000, 7 years after it was published. It was the first dystopian book I ever picked up, first I'd personally ever heard of; in my experience it's also the first of its type directed to the younger target audience. It's a trend that has grown steadily every decade since it first appeared. The editors over at Wikipedia list 38 dystopian novels between 2000 and 2010 and even though we're only in 2013, there have already been at least 26 published (those are just the 26 the Wiki-editors have caught!) in the 10s, and we're only going to see that number increase (much to my pleasure and the pleasure of other genre fans!).

My 1st & one of my favourites.
The 00s saw the extreme growth of the genre in the YA field, but in my opinion the explosion in the popularity of the genre can be directly attributed to the popularity of one specific series: Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games which debuted in 2008 and was followed by Catching Fire in 2009 and Mockingjay in 2010. In the months leading up to the release of Mockingjay I was in midst of a stint working in a grade 7 class so I was right in the middle of all the hype about this book release. Until that point I hadn't even heard of the series, but all of the kids I was working with were DEVOURING it, and some of these kids self professed to hate reading, but they were into these books; that alone made me pick up a copy in their school library and read the summary. The minute I read the cover I was nostalgic for The Giver, that was my introduction to the genre, and the book nerd in me was thrilled that Katniss and company were doing the same for this new generation. 

The trendsetter.
TVTropes cites that one of the key tropes of the dystopian novel is that it ratchets the issues up to eleven well Collins's series took the entire genre and troped the trope. Arguably the only series to take the trope even further was Battle Royale which only began to garner mainstream, widespread recognition after the release of The Hunger Games film because everyone was going comparison crazy. There were a few YA dystopian series in the early 00s, but since Katniss and her bow appeared on the scene the amount of them has increased kind of exponentially; that series really has become the trend setter for that genre.

Another of my favourites & super on trend
I'm personally thrilled by that because I really am a fan of the genre and so far I've really only met one dystopia that I didn't like. James Patterson's Witch & Wizard (2009) trilogy. The concept was fine, but the writing was really bad. The characters were extremely poorly developed, especially the main characters. There were so many gaps and holes and just a general lack of information. The only reason I read the 3rd book is because I hate starting a series and not seeing it through. In my opinion he was simply trying to cash in on the trend. It definitely didn't surprise me to find out that he's one of the writers who only writes outlines and then has people ghost write for him. There are two series that stand out for me as following in Katniss's footsteps as leading the pack in this trend. There's Marie Lu's Legend series, whose first book was one of my favourites of 2012 and whose sequels (and prequel!) are among my most anticipated reads. Then there's Veronica Roth's Divergent series the first two books of which, Divergent and Insurgent, were published in 2011 and 2012 respectively. The movie adaptations for this series are already in the works! The fan base for this series is INSANE. This is one of my personal favourite series' I love it, the characters are amazing, especially Four, I adore Four. The society she has created is, in my experience unique among dystopias. 

Games of a different variety.
There are so many other stand alone books and dystopian series out there now though:

The fact that this is only a selection of the offerings currently available, and doesn't even discuss the stuff in the publishing pipeline excites me beyond measure! I am excited to read all of these and to see what is still to come! It's a good time to be a dystopian fan! And now I will go back to patiently waiting for the Catching Fire movie and the next Veronica Roth novel!

-- Ren

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