As I was perusing the new book cart on Friday, I noticed a theme running through a lot of the teen books. Some part in the back of my mind had already seen this, but it was the presence of four distinct works on this small cart that really brought home the prevalence of dystopia and post-apocalyptic societies in novels. One of my favorite recent teen novels, Life As We Knew It revolves around an environmental catastrophe and the moral and social decisions that arise as a result. Many, many more have come out over the past two years, perhaps drawing on growing concerns over the dangers society faces over consumerism, environmental degradation, technology, biological warfare, and the role of the government in our lives.
These works draw on older traditions, such as The Giver , 1984 , Alas, Babylon , Fahrenheit 451 These books reflect their societies’ concerns over nuclear holocausts, totalitarianism, social Darwinism, and the future of academia. Looking back at what precipitated these dark views of the future made me reflect on what aspects of society worry us today.
I had planned on taking home at least a couple of the new teen novels about dystopian communities, but all of them were given to customers who expressed an interest in novels like these. Even some of the older books were checked out from my pile of prospective reads. I thought I’d share some of those I did get to read, as well as the titles of some I’m hoping to read.
Since all the new books were snatched up right away, I will have to wait to review them. But I did get three older books in the genre. All deal with post-apocalyptic worlds, two with dystopian societies, and one with a world still in chaos.
The first was “Hole in the Sky” The premise was very interesting, as was the setting. The world has been devastated by a flu virus, the majority of people died. A few hid away from the virus and a few survived. Those who did contract the virus and didn’t die were left changed in different ways. Set around the Grand Canyon, the scenery is a crucial part of the story and plot, weaving contemporary concern with the environment and the damming of the Colorado with Hopi beliefs about the sacred world. While it held a lot of promise, it didn’t really flesh out the characters or fully engage the possibilities.
The second was “The Secret Under my Skin.” This book wasn’t what I expected–it was more. The premise is that the world underwent an environmental cataclysm because of the technology and greed of many people, who had to be destroyed so that anyone would survive. Thus this is a world where technology must be controlled rigidly and people must be protected from the degraded environment. I assumed this would be a book warning about the way society is headed, and it is in part, but it is a hopeful book about humanity’s ability to survive. Well written, and well plotted, this book brings together many topics that concern today’s youth.
The third book has been very popular over the past couple of years, so much so that I had to swipe this copy right when it came in, and almost ended up giving it out to a customer before I could check it out. The City of Ember is on the Middle School reading list, though it really could be read by quite young children. This book certainly lived up to its hype. At first I thought it was a lot like The Giver, but slowly it unfolded as a unique and complicated book. Ember is a planned city where everything is falling apart, but where no one has any idea or hope about what to do to fix it. Two tweens full of hope and optimism set out to discover what they can about their city and come up with surprising and intriguing information about what their city is. There are two other books in the series with another on the way.
To find out more about the dystopian teen and tween novels out there, check out my goodreads!