Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Dystopian Teens...Are There Any Other Kind?

Dystopian stories seem to hit a special chord with teens.  At that age, it feels like you can’t make any real difference in the world, against rules that aren’t always fair.  the difference between adult dystopian novels and teen dystopian novels, however, is the ending.  In Brave New World or 1984, there is a bleak outlook, and the establishment always wins.  In YA or Teen novels, however, there tends to be a ray of hope.

Such is the case in The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins.  This book is one of a trend of new YA and teen books with a strong female main character.  Like the girl in Graceling, Katniss has no interest in settling down and having a family.  On the contrary, she dreads the idea of having a child that would be a victim of the Hunger Games.  Her father died years ago, and as main provider and protector for the family, she had to grow up fast to take care of her younger sister Prim.  And when Prim is selected for the Games, she goes in her place.

Like many other books, this story shows what people will do when forced into terrible situations.  While some of the other children in the games train for this, and see it as a point of pride to go, many others are just as scared and unprepared as Katniss and her fellow tribute Peeta.  Alliances are forged, and broken, as the tributes are eliminated.

What this book also has, though, is a very interesting view on how the media changes the perceptions of the people watching it.  Katness and Peeta’s guides through all of this choose their dress, coach them on their interactions with each other, and do everything they can to get the audience to like them, and send them little bits of help along the way.  It’s a fairly interesting little look into the world of spin doctors, image consultants, and public perception.

In an interview with Publisher’s Weekly, Collins revealed that her idea for the world came from a late night channel surfing.  She was flipping between war coverage and a reality show:  “I was tired, and the lines began to blur in this very unsettling way.”  This book certainly shows how the media and creative editing can change perceptions of a live televised event, and perhaps shows the readers to look closer at what they’re being shown.

Highs:  The interaction between the main characters and the supporting cast; strong female characters

Lows:  long internal monologues could be tedious for some

Verdict:  Very much worth the read, and great setup for the rest of the series

Further Reading:  Catching Fire, Battle Royale

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