distopian stories the hunger games YA lit

A New Hunger Games and the Unique Horror of YA Dystopian Stories

Each other Tuesday in Storied, Okay. B. Hoyle explores the ways our cultural narratives act on us individually and in society as an entire.


This spring, writer Suzanne Collins announced the Might 2020 launch of a new Hunger Games novel, an untitled prequel set 64 years earlier than the events of her wildly profitable Hunger Games trilogy. Comprising The Hunger Games, Catching Hearth, and Mockingjay, the unique trilogy follows the exploits of Katniss Everdeen, a teenage woman who “volunteers as tribute” to take her sister’s place in the notorious Hunger Games. A gladiator-esque struggle to the dying, the Hunger Games are supposed to hold the citizens of Panem—Collins’s vision of a future America—subservient to the Capitol, an oppressive and opulent fascist regime. The twist of the story, nevertheless, and what makes these books young grownup, is that these gladiator games are fought between youngsters.

It is The Hunger Games that, in a comparatively brief span, both popularized and fatigued YA dystopia. Like most dystopian stories, The Hunger Games is full of horror and with dire warnings, however as a narrative meant for youngsters and teenagers, it has the potential to forged its darkness towards a larger contrast than grownup tales of the similar sort. Whereas a trademark theme of younger adult literature is hope, when Suzanne Collins introduced Katniss Everdeen to the world, she injected the YA market with the grim and hopeless foretelling that marks the dystopian genre—and she appears poised to do it again.

When The Hunger Games first turned well-liked, dystopia was extra commonly relegated to adult audiences—basic stories like 1984, Brave New World, or newer ones like The Handmaid’s Tale or The Street. Adults seem higher suited to handle dystopian literature, which is grimdark, a type of science fiction set in a future the place every little thing is dangerous (dystopia is the reverse of utopia). Science fiction falls beneath the broad umbrella of speculative fiction, however science fiction is uniquely speculative, grounded as it’s in the current. It isn’t fantasy, which transplants our human struggles into “other” realms. Science fiction tries to foretell the future of our personal world, wanting forward—a hypothesis, an “if/then.” Although science fiction writers still transplant human struggles into a realm that does not exist, they achieve this with the audacity of believing that someday what they’re writing might, probably, come true—a minimum of in some type. Perhaps writers of the sub-genre of dystopian literature are the most guilty of this specific hubris, and as a result of dystopian settings are by definition dangerous, authors of such stories have to tug from the current to imagine what might go flawed in the future.

What we see from YA dystopian authors will tell us much about what these authors perceive to be the biggest challenges dealing with young individuals as we move into the future—distant and not-so-distant. It can tell us about the authors’ fears (private and fears for others), their challenges, their anger, and their view of society. It is going to additionally reveal how these authors perceive us to have gotten the place we’re, as a result of dystopian futures are sometimes just stand-ins or exaggerations for our current cultural moments. Some dystopian tales even present solutions, if the authors consider they’ve them. Dystopian futures are full of issues—by definition, they should be—and authors of these tales want their readers see what has gone flawed of their worlds and to look around in their very own world to attract parallels. For example, a dystopian story set in a world the place individuals have resorted to cannibalism because climate change has decimated all our pure assets carries a not-so-veiled warning for the reader to take heed about the impending risks of climate change. Dystopian stories of the past—YA or in any other case—informed us what the authors feared then. Dystopian stories of the current and future will likewise uncover present anxieties and carry an analogous predictive power.

Subverting readers’ expectations is all the time a great way to get them to pay attention, and dystopian authors want you to concentrate.

And we are living in a cultural second ripe for dystopian worry. It’s truly exceptional the YA market hasn’t already turned back into the dystopian winds, with grownup exhibits like The Handmaid’s Tale and The Man in the Excessive Citadel (both variations of novels) racking up viewership and awards. Not to point out our vehemently divided political local weather and the very real and different human rights abuses we appear poised to tolerate. These are extreme occasions throughout which individuals adhere to excessive positions. Not all the nervousness is overblown, or unfounded. So why hasn’t YA dystopian literature returned before now, especially when it is taking over ample area on our television and movie screens, and in real life?

I feel the answer is an easy matter of capitalism. Following the success of The Hunger Games trilogy, the world of younger grownup dystopian literature exploded with copycat books pouring out of publishing homes like ants out of a lifeless log. Everybody was looking forward to a slice of the development, and before lengthy the market was so saturated with YA dystopian literature that the largest publishers stopped buying it. Many speculated that YA dystopian lit was lifeless. Half a decade ago, I personally was making an attempt to interest an agent in my first YA dystopian novel. She learn it, stated she beloved it and was inquisitive about it, however she wasn’t capable of sign me or acquire it as the market was “too saturated,” and she had no confidence that she would have the ability to promote it. I could not fault her. Publishing, as all the time, remains a enterprise, regardless of how ideological those involved may be.

However the business of publishing could be cracked broad open with an announcement like Suzanne Collins’s current one, opening it as much as a brand new era of dystopian writers who can deliver recent views to what’s occurring in our current age. Not all of them will probably be nice “takes” or worthy of critical evaluation, but all of them shall be windows into the minds of writers who are involved about the future of our youth, our nation, and our world.

Though The Hunger Games came alongside and dominated best-selling lists in the late aughts, it was not the first dystopian tale successfully informed for youngsters. Most notably, Lois Lowry’s The Giver comes to mind. In fewer than 44,000 words, The Giver manages to be full of both horror and hope, one thing few dystopian stories stability properly. It isn’t a flashy narrative of youthful rebel towards a fascist regime, but a thoughtful one where a young boy should tackle himself the reminiscences of a society that desires to preserve “sameness” at all prices. In the process, that boy (Jonas), learns about love and ache, and must flee with an toddler boy named Gabriel to save lots of the baby from dying at the arms of those who rule and enforce the sameness. The Giver is extensively learn and acclaimed, and different YA dystopian stories, similar to Ender’s Recreation (Orson Scott Card) have achieved success far past what most books will ever attain, however it is The Hunger Games that really shifted the public’s consciousness of dystopia into the YA area.

What we achieve from this shift to youthful characters is bigger than just a broadening of the market. Good dystopian literature springs out of an writer’s earnest want to make sense of what is occurring in the world, thus grappling with what meaning for our future. Dystopian stories are typically grand-scale tales, whereas nonetheless focusing on the individual’s place and duty in society. In shaping hypothetical futures the place every part seems dangerous, dystopian authors paint footage of a world saturated in sin. Whether they choose to acknowledge this terminology or not, this is how they establish the base premises and conflicts of these varieties of tales. A world the place youngsters are pitted towards one another to struggle to the demise is a world saturated in sin. A world where one infant is chosen to stay over another as a result of it weighs slightly extra is a world saturated in sin. Sin, the results of sin, the decisions we make as a result of of sin, the decay of sin—these type the base realities of dystopia, and once you place the horrors of dystopia on the shoulders of youngsters, those horrors develop into that much clearer.

Subverting readers’ expectations is all the time a great way to get them to concentrate, and dystopian authors want you to concentrate. Juxtaposing the innocence and hopefulness of youth towards the horror of dystopia is a shock to the system. We might abdomen gladiatorial combat between adults, but youngsters killing youngsters is an excessive amount of to bear. Child Gabriel shouldn’t need to die for being totally different from the different infants. Such things are usually not meant to happen to youngsters.

YA dystopia ought to present to us sins that, as a good friend as soon as advised me, “we can all rage at together,” however I worry we reside in a time the place we will not agree on these issues. We’re retaining youngsters in internment camps on our own soil and bickering over whether or not toothbrushes and soap are needed for his or her well-being, and it does cause me to wonder if or not we’ve got misplaced our moral compass completely. A society that permits such remedy of youngsters is in need of excess of some dystopian tales of warning about the place we might find yourself in the future—we are in want of repentance, of the Gospel of Christ—however I know the dystopian stories we tell are still essential. People who can be rooted on this cultural moment, now that Suzanne Collins has made them profitable again, will mirror the ugliness of this age. They’ll place youngsters in unimaginable situations and ask us to think about them. And in those stories, we’ll see that the sins towards the “least of these” that seem so ludicrous, aren’t so ludicrous in any respect. They have been earlier than us all along.