The popularity of dystopian novels has grown astronomically over the last couple of years, and you can’t help but wonder why when you consider the subject matter. Why would anyone want to read about flawed societies or government oppression? Don’t we get enough of that in real life?
Some people worry about the effect these stories are having on the Young Adult crowd, and I won’t deny there are a lot of negatives in dystopian stories—deceit, oppression, violence. But there’s also an incredibly powerful and positive story element they have in common: self-sacrifice. More often than not, one person is the key to saving humanity (usually from itself). One person chooses to do the right thing even if it means losing his or her life.
We all want to believe there’s a hero lurking inside of us and that, if it came down to it, we would be able to do the right thing, the hard thing. One person can make a difference. It’s the possibility offered in the middle of dark circumstances that’s so attractive in dystopian stories. Those flawed societies look a lot like the one we live in, and we want to believe that as individuals and a society we can change.
There’s something about dystopian that makes us take a closer look at ourselves and the world around us. So yeah, it’s going to be a little dark and uncomfortable at times, but self-examination is a good place for change to start, and maybe that’s why dystopian is so popular. We know the world isn’t perfect, and we’re looking for the hero inside of us who will step up and make a difference.
©2012 Kim Vandel