For some time now, I have taken an interest in « young adult » or « teenage » literature (we don’t know what to call it). Working in a bookstore helps me see what kind of literature is offered to young readers. Judging from the bookshelves, it appears that these works have their limits. First of all, the novel is the quintessential literary genre and seems to be the only one used for young adult literature. Moreover, those novels are nearly exclusively romantic novels, thrillers and dystopias. A lack of diversity which impoverishes this literature, which already has trouble gaining some recognition…
One of the best-known examples of this young adult literature is still the dystopian fiction. We all know The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, Divergent, U4 (the only French production that manages to compete in an industry dominated by the English language) and Phobos or Ellana, as well as Survive, and so on; books that have known great success in bookstores as well as at the box-office. Born with the emblematic Brave New World by Aldous Huxley in the 20th century, the dystopian fiction genre came back in full force in young adult literature with The Hunger Games in 2008, and it has since then known an ever-growing success. Dystopia is a literary genre depicting the adventures of an adolescent hero or heroine, leading a group of teenagers – as adult characters can be rare in this genre, or at least antagonistic – and taking on a fantastical or science fiction world, against adults impeding their freedom. The main characters must rely on their bravery to defend themselves and survive in this almost apocalyptic world, where violence, death, and repressive totalitarian systems are ubiquitous, and the notions of good and evil are highly present. Encouraged by their achievements in bookshops and other sales outlets, more and more film and television adaptations of these books are created, mostly in three parts, adding to the success of the genre.
So many narrative elements and structures are repeatedly used in differents works. Regarding the dystopias that were recently published in the young adult literature section, we could question the relevance of this upcoming season, considering the new releases and the interviews I carried on with people from the book industry. Are authors lacking inspiration or has “copy/paste” literature become fashionable? Young readers feed off this literature but isn’t there too much redundancy to it? The booksellers I interviewed are very straightforward: young adult literature cuts down to only two genres – dystopia and romance. When can we expect some renewal?
Find the French version of this article here : Dystopies de trop ?
Written by Claire Lebreton