Despair and hope

I have been meaning to read Atwood’s Oryx and Crake for some time, and it did not disappoint. The narrative moves between the post-apocalyptic wasteland of  ‘Snowman’ and flashbacks that unfold his life to date in a doomed world of genetic mutation and disastrous over-population. The hideous creations of this world send shivers down the spine: rats crossed with snakes, wolves disguised as friendly dogs and, most gruesome of all, chickens bred without heads or limbs that are simply bodies with a mouth for food. Freakish but compelling.

I do enjoy a good dystopia, along with the teenage reading population it would seem. The success of The Hunger Games film has recently put a spotlight on this subject and there has been a number of articles about the popularity of this genre among young adults. A number of suggestions are put forward by the critics as to why this genre is so appealing to teens:  the strong female heroines; the bleak vision of environmental disaster projecting the deepest fears of this generation; the cathartic release of teens being able to take control in the wake of adult failure. My favourite critique is from Michael Rosen who believes that “even the most fearful, heartless and hopeless dystopias contain the seeds of another view, expressed by the word “unless”. The ‘unless’ leads us to consider how we can stop our society degenerating into the terrible visions that we can all imagine coming true if let we them. And that, hopefully, is what is strikes a chord with teens too. They understand that they are being challenged to play their part in ensuring that these visions are never realised, just as the teen heroes are the catalyst for change in these stories.

My pick of teen dystopias to try:

  • Blood Red Road  by Moira Young
  • The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
  • How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
  • The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

And a longer list can be found on Bart’s Bookshelf


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