Thursday, March 10, 2011

One more dystopia? Really??

It has SO been done and done and done and done.  And yet, it seems to go on and on and on and on...

Did you ever force yourself to finish a relentlessly bleak action-ish book that had no particularly interesting or dynamic or richly developed characters and no humor to speak of either and no particularly interesting thematic elements, holding on all the while for some sort of redemptive payoff at the end?  Not a shallow 100% twist-of-fate/everybody winds up OK in the end/"and she woke up, and it was all just a dream" sort of ending, but merely a smidge of added depth & dimension on the part of any primary character, or an ironic or truly surprising twist in the plot, or some sense that the writer - especially when he or she is writing for young adults - was attempting to offer up more than a (yes, suspenseful, but also quite violent) soon-to-be-a-major-motion-picture-on-paper?

Well I held on, wishing for something more, I did.  And quite recently too.  More than once.

And I'm getting sick of wishing.

In fact, for this "review", I hesitate to name the book title or author, because I want to act with compassion toward the writer, who's probably just trying to make a living like anybody else.  Yet failing to warn people about this book might also constitute a breach of compassion toward would-be readers.  So I'm torn.

For today, instead of a strict review, I'm going to lament - briefly - the abominable overload of dystopian fiction for young adults that the marketplace can't seem to stop pushing.  Is it not indeed enough that many movies nowadays are simply chase-fests or compilations of violent scenes?  Must we feed this same soulless drivel to our children via their books, upping the ante of violence and bleakness and moral vacuity with each passing year?  Really?

Fresh on the heels of The Hunger Games trilogy, this recent read to which I'm alluding is just more of the same dystopic action, but with less depth.  And I did read and enjoy The Hunger Games, but it was on the leading edge of this trend and offered more in terms of character development and thematic resonances.  Now we're just seeing novel after novel playing out progressively darker visions of the future with progressively thinner character development, and I ask, "Why?" And, "Should writers and publishers for young adults hold to a higher standard, offering quality novels with at least a smidge of depth and perhaps some occasional cause for hope amid the horror?"

MFB with this issue, and I hope to begin a conversation, so please write back!
L

What'll I do?
Write to the ALA/YALSA/Prinz committee with a link to this review and request a response, while urging them to consider additional criteria for nominations and/or recommended reads in the future.

p.s. Maybe one day I'll publish the name of the book.  But right now, I'm too disgusted with writers and publishers who are apparently happy to make their living by wallowing in and - to some degree - glorifying the worst of human nature, studiously ignoring how their actions reinforce passivity and fatalism while simultaneously playing to the most shallowly thrill-seeking impulses of our youth.

5 comments:

Jenica704 said...

I must tell you, Laurie, that this is one of the best posts I've read in a while. It's smart, hilarious, and touches on things I've been thinking for a while now. I'm very intrigued to find out what book you're referring to in this post. Thanks for posting!

llevinso said...

Well dystopian literature is one of my favorite genres but it has to be done correctly. The whole point is the author is supposed to be making a valid criticsm of some aspect of today's society. If that's missing than the point is basically...yeah...

Laurie said...

Gee, thanks, Jenica: I want to keep wrestling with these issues and am eager to see what others think. To that: llevinso, I appreciate your comment and will use your filter to reconsider the novel(s) alluded to above. I suppose that I expect all stories to be engaging and rich, regardless of whether or not they address a social issue. Perhaps I should reconsider that premise with regard to dystopic literature? Is it typical for readers of the genre to focus solely on the implied socio-political critique and not the other aspects typically considered critical to novels?

llevinso said...

Well it does have to be a good story as well obviously, otherwise who cares? But the whole idea is that the author is making a comment on our society. Like look at 1984 with "Big Brother" and Fahrenheit 451 and the banning of books. Now, I didn't really like Fahrenheit 451 as a book, I didn't think it was executed too well. But the concept and ideas it presented were facsinating.

Laurie said...

Righto. The books I'm considering above do make broad social commentary (global warming and the growing economic chasm between the rich and everyone else will lead to hard times for most humans, for instance) but don't seem to be using the dystopic elements so much for social critique as to exploit those elements for settings and plot points. Again, everybody's gotta make a living, so if readers will buy these books I suppose writers should be free to write them. Soometimes I just wish we could all hold authors who write for young people to perhaps higher standards for content than we currently seem to...

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...