Misery Loves Company: The New Yorker on the popularity of YA dystopias (Hunger Games!)

This week’s  New Yorker has a wonderful article analyzing the popularity of dystopian novels for younger readers (though acknowledging that many of the most fervent readers of the Hunger Games are adults). Among the reasons the author, Laura Miller, gives for this trend is the possibility  that high school is a dystopian world much like Panem (no wonder those of us who weren’t  “Careers” felt like we were fighting for survival every day of four years of misery!).

She also covers several other dystopias that have enjoyed past or current vogue, though notable by its absence is City of Ember which, though not as complex nor capable of bearing up to deep reading as HG, has many of the characteristics of “juvenile” dystopian fiction, including hope, a feature Miller specifically notes as a difference between “adult” dystopias and those written for a young audience. This leads to the question: Is popularity of the YA dystopias, particularly with adult readers, because of this very fact? Do we really crave in our dystopias some hope? Is that why we’d rather struggle with Katniss through Panem than with poor Winston through Oceania? Is this the explanation for the popularity of  the movie genre best described as “hopeful apocalyptic fable” (i.e. most of humanity gets wiped out, and those who are left move toward a better future, hopefully with some pretty awesome special effects en route)?

In any case, it’s a very interesting article with some nice HG art and plenty of thought-fodder. Enjoy!


  1. Sandra Miesel says

    A young reader who really absorbed THE GIVER might become more sensitive to real-world conditioning techniques. It’s an excellent book as is its sequel, GATHERING BLUE.

    But the article might have at least mentioned Andre Norton’s STARMAN’S SON/ DAYBREAK 2250, a post apocalyptic YA novel from 60 years ago that was one of the very first genre sf books to sell 1M copies. It’s currently available from Baen Books as DARKNESS AND DAWN, edited by yours truly.
    Andre was often ahead of her time.

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