…or if it is, it’s also dark and troubling. Much like the present, really, only different. Only worse.
Such is the primary lesson of today’s exploding subgenre of dystopian young adult fiction. I hesitate to make too many assertions about which books started this undeniable trend, or which books are included, because there’s a certain squishiness to how the term itself is used these days. It’s sometimes used to describe books I’d class as post-apocalyptic (Meg Rosoff’s How I Live Now, Janni Simner’s Bones of Faerie and—just out—Faerie Winter). Others have observed that it’s become more or less the YA field’s code word for “science fiction,” not so different from how “paranormal” is regularly used to mean any contemporary fantasy with a romance. This is a valid point; YA does seem to avoid the term science fiction. (Though I wonder how that will morph as YA SF books with less of a focus on dystopian elements become more common. And I believe they will. Beth Revis’ Across the Universe being a prime example; for all that there are hallmarks of dystopia there—the controlled society, the loss of individualism—it is primarily a generation ship story.) At any rate, argument over the term’s use or not, there are a steadily growing number of YA books that are indisputably dystopian in nature, with the wild success of The Hunger Games having kicked the trend into high gear.