OPINION: Young Adult Dystopian novels are depressing and banal


Amelia Howell

The plots of YA dystopian novels are often very repetitive.

The dystopian genre has been around for over a century. It brings about stories set in the worst imaginable worlds that comment on societal issues, but due to their repetitiveness and abundance, Young Adult dystopian novels have separated themselves from the overarching genre.

Most YA dystopian novels follow a very similar plot and share a theme of the oppressed teen protagonist saving their world from destruction. These books are meant to appeal to teens, so the choice of character’s age makes sense.

According to an article by Devin Ryan, a writing center consultant at Western Michigan University, teens tend to gravitate toward YA dystopian novels because they feel their lives can relate to them. Surveillance, oppression and captivity are common motifs the protagonists have to oblige. Teens feel that their parental and educational “oppression” is in line with these tropes, so they relate to the characters more, Ryan said.

Despite the appeal to teens, most YA dystopian novels are too repetitive and depressing to offer the same satisfaction that other genres of fiction can.

They storylines of these novels resemble each other closely, creating a repetition that soon gets obnoxious. This can be witnessed even in the most popular YA series “Hunger Games” and “Divergent.” Both have a world divided by sections (districts and factions) and feature a selfless heroine (Katniss and Tris) who risks her life to save others. While these tropes can be inspiring for readers, at a certain point they become blasé.

Fiction and the engagement with a fictional world should bring joy and dissociation from reality, but oftentimes with YA dystopian novels, the plotline can be too bleak to do this. The Reading Agency, a UK charity that develops and delivers programs to encourage people to read more, reported that in a survey of 1,500 readers, 76 percent of them said that reading improves their emotional state and their life. Reading is supposed to make people feel good, but the motifs of YA dystopian novels directly contradicts that.

However, YA dystopia should not degrade the entire genre. Adult dystopian novels are complex and offer a real insight to the society. For example, George Orwell’s classic “1984” provides a commentary on the state of the world after World War II. This novel is dynamic and follows a unique plotline. Even being of the same genre and theme, “1984” and others like it are just more complex and unique, so they can’t compare to the common and overdone plot of YA dystopia.

When written correctly, dystopian novels offer extremely interesting and complex commentary on society and its flaws. Unfortunately, most YA dystopian novels are not written in a dynamic way and just offer repetitive stories among the sea of courageous but boring heroes and heroines.