If we were back in 2005 and you were an author trying to submit dystopian novels to publishers, you probably would not get much response. The thought of gambling on young adult novels written about depressed societies just didn’t sound like a good one. Fast forward to present day—dystopian literature is flourishing. The success of books like The Hunger Games and Revealing Eden (Save the Pearls Part One) are perfect examples of this trend.
The recent boom in dystopian literature is perfectly demonstrated in Collins’s trilogy, as well as a multitude of other series that are being churned out, based on complex, intricately developed worlds and societies that require a commitment of the reader. Those who read books for young adults will rarely read just one—research indicates that they will line up to be the first to own each installment and flock to the box office when the books are made to films.
Dystopian novels have actually been around for decades. Typically geared to the Tween and Young Adult audiences, this genre was made memorable for many students by 1984 and Brave New World, both of which are considered twentieth century dystopian classics. While these were often assigned reading, no one predicted that this genre would gain such popularity.
Many blame it on the recession and state of affairs in many countries, while others simply attribute the boom of dystopian literature to its provision of an escape, where the reader goes to a place where the protagonist is much worse off than they could ever dream of being. Post apocalyptic societies reduced to subsistence farming or surrounded by toxic wastelands, fighting zombies hungry for human brains have somehow become the perfect reading escape to the Young Adult market.
Some publishers attribute the success of dystopia to the same elements that make young adult novels popular in general—a relatable protagonist, regardless of the setting or plot. Knowing that a character who lives in utter chaos, struggling to survive on a daily basis, shares some of the same issues as the reader, gives the reader comfort and a new perspective on their own circumstances.
A reason why this genre is flourishing among books for young adults is that these worlds are fresh to young readers. They’re thrilled by harrowing circumstances; and these scenarios don’t have to be unprecedented. Just look at the revival of the zombie movie in recent years… these moviegoers may or may not have ever seen classics like Evil Dead or Night of the Living Dead—regardless, they were thrilled by Zombieland, 28 Days Later and the Dawn of the Dead remake.