Why is Teen Dystopian Literature on the Rise?

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For decades, teenagers have enjoyed stories of darkness and dystopia — from social critiques like “The Lord of the Flies” to dystopian nightmares like “A Clockwork Orange.” But in the last year or two, the market for dystopian and apocalyptic young adult fiction has exploded with more books and darker stories than ever, and the year ahead promises the most books in this genre to date.What's behind this teen dystopian trend, and why is there so much demand for it?

Patrik Henry Bass, senior editor at Essence Magazine, has some insights, as well as a reading list that he likes to call the “Ultimate Teen Dystopian Canon.”

Patrik’s Ultimate Teen Dystopian Canon:

  • "The Hunger Games," by Suzanne Collins: Heroine Katniss Everdeen lives in one of twelve numbered districts dominated by a decadent, exploitative central city called the Capitol. Every year, two children from each district are drafted by lottery to compete in a televised gladiatorial contest, the Hunger Games, which are held in a huge outdoor arena. The winner is the last child left alive.
  • "The Knife of Never Letting Go" (Book 1, "Chaos Walking" series), bu Patrick Ness: The Internet appears metaphorically, in the form of a virus that causes people’s thoughts to be broadcast into the minds of all those around them
  • "Uglies," "Pretties," "Specials" and "Extras," by Scott Westerfeld: All sixteen-year-olds undergo surgery to conform to a universal standard of prettiness determined by evolutionary biology.
  • “The House of Stairs,” by William Sleator: The story of five teenagers imprisoned in a seemingly infinite M. C. Escher-style network of staircases that ultimately turns out to be a gigantic Skinner box designed to condition their behavior.
  • "Little Brother," Cory Doctorow
  • "The Other Side of the Island," Allegra Goodman

Patrik’s Dystopian Classics:

  • "Brave New World" by Aldous Huxley
  • "1984" by George Orwell
  • "Lord of the Flies" by William Golding
  • "A Clockwork Orange" by Anthony Burgess
  • "Handmaid’s Tale" by Margaret Atwood