Friday, 25 May 2012

Is There a ‘Dystopian Bandwagon’? by Guest Author Caroline Green

This week we welcome back guest author Caroline Green. In January, Caroline wrote about her edgy YA novel Dark Ride. She returns just as her new dystopian thriller, Cracks hits the shelves.

I’ve come across the expression a fair bit lately. The suggestion is that Young Adult authors are knocking out books set in a grim future because they think Hunger Games-style fame and fortune will surely follow.

I’m noticing more than I might otherwise because my own YA dystopian thriller, Cracks, is launched this week. Cracks is set in a near future where a fear of terrorist attack has led to surveillance at every turn. Holograms that encourage citizens to distrust their neighbours appear on street corners and tiny insect-like drones capture CCTV footage of a cowed, frightened populace. Climate change has brought widespread floods and antibiotic resistance means that everyday bacteria can quickly become deadly.

Yup, it’s grim, alright... 

But am I trying to jump on a bandwagon?

Fame and fortune might be nice, but there’s really only one reason why I chose to write a book like this. And that’s because I love dystopian fiction as a reader.

Like many people I’d read Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World at school but when I came across The Hunger Games about three years back, I was instantly hooked. I couldn’t wait for the next one. I then devoured a range of other dystopian novels (see below for my favourites) in quick succession.

There are many reasons why they appeal to me, purely on a story-telling level. Although my own main character is a boy, many in this genre have strong female protagonists (sorry Bella Swann, but Katniss Everdeen would kick your ass). They have proper baddies. And they have evocative and atmospheric settings. I might not want to go on holiday to a polluted wasteland that has been ravaged by war, but that’s the kind of setting that fires my imagination and make me turn the pages as fast as I can. Who wants to read a book about somewhere pretty where the sun always shines and everything’s lovely? Not me. Or at least, not that often.

I don’t think it is at all surprising that young people have embraced this genre with such passion. The teenage years are a period of intense change, where it can feel as though the sole aim of adults is to prevent you doing the things you really want to do. Authority in general has a far more oppressive feel now than when you are that accepting and malleable creature of younger years.

What’s more, young people probably have very real worries about what the future holds for the planet. They’re bombarded with messages about the environmental consequences created by previous generations, including my own. Those messages sounds an awful lot like, ‘Here’s a big mess. You deal with it now.’

Any of these reasons may be responsible for the popularity of books like The Hunger Games. Or it may just be that teens, like the rest of us, just want to be told a good story.

My favourite YA dystopian novels 
(with a bit of cheating so I can include trilogies)

The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
The Uglies trilogy by Scott Westerfield
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness 
Unwind by Neil Schusterman
Shipbreaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

My favourite adult dystopian novels

The Road by Cormac McCarthy
The Unit by Ninni Nolmqvist
Never Let me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury


  1. I agree that the YA genre lends itself to dystopian tales because growing up is a process of separation, loss of innocence about the world, and recognising that the adults often don't have clearer sense of what life is about.

  2. A great YA dystopian book I read as a kid was Futuretrack 5 by Robert Westall. Great book..

  3. I've never heard of that one, Chris. Must go and look it up...