Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Guest Blogger: Rachel of Parajunkee's View

Today I welcome Rachel from Parajunkee's View! Put down your bags, pull up a chair and tell me a story!

A Junkee's Take on Dystopian

I just wanted to give a big thank you to Amy for having me on her blog today. She might have put her reputation in question by letting me take over. Joking, nothing outlandish today, we are going to be discussing one of my favorite genres – one that I've just recently come back to: Dystopian.

Do me a favor. Walk up to, let's say a co-worker, and say “I just read this great dystopian book yesterday!” Watch the expression on their face. The one that usually greeted me was: “Huh?” After this happened with family members, co-workers and even other book bloggers, I tried to think back on when I first heard that term, coined in reference to a book or movie. Had my teacher called BRAVE NEW WORLD and 1984 a dystopian in my Advanced English Lit class in high school? I'm pretty sure she did, the term has been around since the 1800s, but for me it was just there. The opposite of utopian. But, really, outside of the literary word, it is greatly unknown, even though most people have read a dystopian book in their lifetime or at least watched a movie in the genre. Books like FAHRENHEIGT 451, which is usually on most English reading lists, see you've read a dystopian. Didn't have the pleasure? Read or even watched the movie A CLOCKWORK ORANGE? Dystopian. Still haven't caught you? Ok, how about a movie: IDIOCRACY? Dystopian. They don't have to be serious.

In the 80s and 90s there was very little produced in the dystopian genre, a few notables like THE HANDMAID'S TALE (1985) by Margaret Atwood and THE GIVER (1993) by Lois Lowry came out, but the genre sat as a one great book a decade type of genre. Yet, with the transition into a new century and a shift in peoples reading tastes – the genre exploded. The amount of good books in the genre quadrupled and then by the end of the first decade came THE HUNGER GAMES and everything exploded further. There had already been some greats releases like UGLIES (2005) by Scott Westerfeld and GONE (2008) by Michael Grant but when the giant of the dystopian world, THE HUNGER GAMES released, the series did for dystopian what TWILIGHT did for YA paranormal romance. It breathed new life into the genre. Now there is so many great dystopians being released or have already been released. If I thought the first decade of the 21st Century had a lot of dystopian releases, the 10s are just getting started and have almost caught up! With some phenomenal works also, mostly centered in young adult universes. People can't get enough of this genre and if you haven't had the pleasure, what are you waiting for?

Granted, these works of fiction aren't exactly the lightest fare. If you are reader that likes to read about rainbows, romance and just happy fares, I might not recommend dystopian. It is a dark road. They are stories about oppression and the darker side of the world and government. Most dystopians are based on the fact that our government has gone terribly wrong or an outside force, such as an alien race has oppressed the human race. This new government might be disguised as utopian – working for the good of the people, but on closer inspection there are nefarious forces at work. But, while dark and sometimes quite tragic, they have this central character that usually makes other literary characters pale in comparison. These characters have to be strong, in general they are pitted against the forces that oppress them. Whether forced upon them, or by choice these characters have an uphill battle, they have to change things or they will perish, be crushed or watch their friends and family crumble. Dystopian is a focus on human nature. The dark side and the triumphant side. It speaks to us on a base level, tells us that we can make a difference. Gives us hope and in a world that may seem like it could slide into a dystopian landscape at any moment...we need a little bit of this hope. This is why I love dystopians. I want to make a difference and not because I fell in love with someone, or became some paranormal creature, but because of my actions and the gifts that I was given as a human being.

Feel up to a dystopian challenge? Give the genre a try, you might fall in love. I recommend starting with the crème de la crème as a starter. Put THE HUNGER GAMES trilogy at the top of your list. You'll fall in love with Katniss and her struggles. A girl that sacrifices herself for her younger sister in a quelling of the children, to fight in an arena for the entertainment of a nation and the reminder of the governments power. Children are pitted against each other in a fight to the death, called The Hunger Games. The last one standing goes free after killing everyone around them. Soon to be a very MAJOR motion picture, THG is the epitome of the great young adult dystopians that have come out in the last few years. Once you've devoured that series, lighter more psychological dystopians might call to you, novels like WITHER by Lauren DeStephano and DELIRIUM by Lauren Oliver are not to be missed. Craving more action? Don't pass up DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth and ENCLAVE by Ann Aguirre. These novels don't just live within the dystopian genre – they define it. You should be suitably hooked after reading those...when you're done, stop on by parajunkee.com or tweet me @parajunkee and let me know what you thought. I'm always up for discussing a good book, especially those mentioned above.

Thank you so much for stopping by today, Rachel! I hope everyone enjoyed sharing your love of the Distopian genre! I think I just might have to give it another try!


  1. I've never really heard the term Dystopian before I started reading paranormal again. After reading Divergent and a few others in this genre, its interesting to see how each one has their take on the world they created. There is something awry in each, but somehow masked by other more miniscule problems. It is fascinating and addicting to get into as you see such a variation throughout.

  2. Hey Rachel, yeah I became a bit of a Dytopian junkie this year, because the world building is so amazing in it. That's what always made it awesome for me, world building. I hope that the ones we get to see in series like Delirium and Dustlands prove to be just as wicked awesome as The Hunger Games.

  3. Awesome post! I adore dystopian literature! I admit that while I was in high school, I loved dystopian novels, but had no idea that there was an official term for them! Some of my favorites are V for Vendetta (film/graphic novel), The Hunger Games (obviously, :-), The Giver, and 1984. I've just started on Delirium, and It's awesome! It's very intriguing to read novels that are so off centered, but parallel our world and our struggles!

    <3 Britta


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