Dystopian literature (especially in the YA world) is so hot right now. I always have friends asking for dystopian book suggestions because apparently I’m an expert in every genre. But as of today, as of right now, I won’t do it. I refuse to read dystopian novels anymore.
For those of you who don’t know what “dystopian literature” entails, read The Hunger Games. If you’re brave, try tackling Atlas Shrugged. Dystopian fiction imagines an utterly horrible future headed for irreversible doom. Dystopian literature doesn’t leave you happily ever after but more like happy for now — until the monsters/zombies/government officials show up again.
Movies like The Hunger Games trilogy and Mad Max do well at the box office. Dystopian books and the multitude of multibook series fly from bookshelves like half-priced UGGs. I have a theory that people read dystopian literature as a form of escapism to comfort themselves into believing, “Well, at least things aren’t that bad” — which is where I disagree.
We might not be sacrificing children in blood battles yet, but The Hunger Games are here, now. Frankly, I’m waiting for some girl with a bow and arrow to show up.
With the recent attacks on Paris and worldwide, with the shootings here at home, I can’t face a fictional future that is even worse. At my husband’s request, I’ve cut down my world news watching to a half hour a day. I’ve been reading Christmas chick lit. My favorite genre is horror, but last week, I read a book about a knitting club. A knitting club.
All books are a form of escape; I believe this incontrovertibly. Opening a book on a wintry afternoon can be like a short vacation away from work and laundry and Christmas shopping. We are free (for now) to choose what kind of escape we’d like. The government hasn’t banned erotica or science fiction because we’re not living in Fahrenheit 451 — yet. Do I seem paranoid? Maybe I’ve read too many dystopian books.
I don’t cast disdain upon a whole genre, just as we should not spew rage and hate toward an entire religion. People who gobble up dystopian literature are looking for their own kind of escape. Perhaps they really do like to see a future worse than the one we see every night on the news. Perhaps that brings comfort.
For me, I’m giving up on Ayn Rand and Suzanne Collins. It’s no fault of theirs. It’s more so the fault of this world pressing in, making their prophetic judgments too real, too frightening. I’ll stick to romance, quirky lit and comedy, because I need to escape on occasion to places where people aren’t dying on the streets of Paris, California, Syria….
We can’t turn our backs completely on the events of this world, no matter how horrible. We can acknowledge we’re in a bad place, and Katniss isn’t coming. Then, if you’re like me, you can find a safe haven behind a book jacket. If you must read dystopian, do it because it’s your right, but this girl — this girl is finished with hopeless fictional futures. In exchange, I’d like to find some hope here, right now, because the world needs it.