Why are Dystopian novels so popular?
I recently finished reading Veronica Roth's Divergent trilogy. It's a young-adult dystopian series where society is divided into five factions representing values that teenagers must choose to dedicate their lives to.
It was engaging, interesting. And entertaining. I read it after re-reading The Hunger Games trilogy for the third time because, like many other readers, I can't get enough of dystopian universes. Why are we drawn to these grim, dismal worlds?
Reading dystopian fiction is not a new phenomenon. They've been around since 1909 when Jack London, most famous for his book White Fang, published the first dystopian novel, The Iron Heel.
When I think back to books that impacted me in middle and high school like A Wrinkle in Time, The Giver, A Brave New World, and The Handmaid's Tale, I realize that many of them take place in darker versions of our own world. There is something comforting about putting down one of these books and realizing that our very troubled world isn't all that bad, despite its potential to devolve.
I love that many of these recent dystopian novels have strong female lead characters. Characters leave their normal existence, their actions change their world, and we get to experience that vicariously through them. It is exciting.
These books force us to ask the important questions. What does it mean to be human? What is love? Are there values worth dying for? What is the role of the individual in broader society? What is the role of government in our lives? What kind of world are we leaving for our children?
Most dystopian novels carry the underlying message that the individual matters and can make a difference. This message is gratifying to readers, because it is so easy to become apathetic about the world around us and to feel powerless in our ability to make change.
We learn from these books that hope for a better tomorrow relies on the individual's ability to be brave and make hard choices in order to conquer a dismal, oppressive future.
If you are a bookworm who likes to discuss literature, please join Clarenville's Afterthoughts Book Club. Our first meeting is Feb. 22, and our book is Divergent by Veronica Roth. You can find us on Facebook.
Jayme Gough-Cushing hails from Texas. Follow her adventures as she adjusts to life in Newfoundland on her blogspot nowwhatjaymeblogspot.com
Her column returns in two weeks.