Dystopian Novels

The Start of the Series

After completing Michael Grant’s Gone series, I began wondering why I’m drawn to dystopian novels over vampire stories or other types of science- fictional fantasy. I happily read Divergent and Insurgent during the summer of 2012 and will most likely buy a copy of the third book, releasing in August.

Since it is sitting in the library at my middle school, there are definite things I didn’t like about Grant’s series .

Too much graphic violence

When a kid got ate by mutated worms, I thought Grant had gone too far. It wasn’t a pretty mental image. In the latest book, a little girl lights other kids on fire while laughing gleefully. If there’s a more disturbing picture anywhere, I don’t want to know about it.

Sex =Love

Caine and Diana treat each other with criticism and cynicism. Eventually, they have sex and – BAM – they’re suddenly in love with each other. It’s slightly better with Sam and Astrid because their relationship was based on friendship and mutual respect before the physical side was added. Still, it gives emotionally and sexually charged young people the impression that love is sex or vice versa.

Too many characters

True, Grant had a huge world to run and his story needed bodies to sacrifice to the evil inside the FAYZ. I have too many middle school students who can’t keep track of more than six or seven characters, so these books frustrated them.

If he would have focused less on the intricacies of how things ran, he could have spared us the enormous list of characters. However, the thing I liked about the series is that I could imagine this place and it was believable because he hadn’t overlooked any administrative details.

Of course, I read the entire series. Obviously, I must have liked a few things about it.

  • I liked that he started right at the point of the inciting event and gave us the necessary backstory of the characters gradually.
  • I loved the protagonist, Sam, but I felt like Grant made him less heroic as the series progressed. Sam lacked confidence, which is fine at the beginning of the series, but the fact that he had a similar view of himself after a year of defeating all sorts of mutated creatures annoyed me.
  • I certainly didn’t want him to become cocky. Caine took the cake in that category. Most of the kids believed in him and relied on him, but he didn’t believe in himself. Of course, the way Grant let Gaia beat up on Sam while he acted helpless reinforced that self-image.

Defeating the big boss should have been a group effort. Instead, Little Petey saves the day. It makes logical sense that since he created the FAYZ, he would need to destroy it, but it was anti-climactic. Everything Sam suffered inside that makeshift world seemed pointless at the end.

Dystopian novels entertain me because the author’s use uninhibited creativity to present scenarios that suspend disbelief. We can imagine a huge underground shelter for a select few before the end of the world comes at the hands of man (City of Ember). Or that war might cause our world to become a desert of conflict, guided by the law of “only the strong survive” (Blood Red Road).

Scientists and government officials desire to manipulate us. If they created an enormous lab test in Chicago, it might look exactly like Divergent. If the government decided to segregate the population even more, it could look like The Hunger Games.

Shouldn’t seeing all that could go wrong with society be depressing? What is the draw? If you like dystopian fiction, I’d love to hear from you.

2 thoughts on “Dystopian Novels

    1. I have had similar reactions from students. Do you think this is more of a high school series? The characters are only 14 to 15 (or they’d be outside the FAYZ), but some of the content seems beyond middle school mentality.
      Thanks for commenting.

What do you think? Add to the discussion here.