What a year!
Oh my, this has been an unusual school year! My year may have been different than yours. Here we held in-person classes for the entire year with all kinds of Covid precautions. Library tables divided by plexiglass, temperature checks every morning, hand sanitizer everywhere, and of course 8 to 10 hours with a mask or face covering. There were some days when it felt like a dystopian reality.
How do we define the dystopian novel?
The first time I ever tried to off-the-cuff define the term dystopian to a reader, it was a little rough. It went a little like this: “Well, usually a disaster has happened, and following the disaster, people set up what they consider a utopia that will prevent the same disaster from happening again.” I realize this is probably a flawed definition and certainly not the dictionary definition of a dystopia. MasterClass lays out five characteristics of dystopian fiction. Additionally, many sources agree that there are four types of controls: corporate, bureaucratic, technological, and philosophical/religious. However, when The Guardian asked my favorite author (yes, I have a favorite) Margaret Atwood, over a year ago about our current crisis, she declared that the Covid-19 lockdown is not a dystopia.
In Polygon, Bashirat Oladele explains why the YA dystopia craze finally burned out.
“The dystopian fad may have faded in part because young readers and viewers are ready for some positivity, and for less fantastical, simplified problems and solutions.”
As the dystopian genre fades in YA, those who love the genre are likely to be searching for things to read. You might ask readers about their favorite characteristics of the dystopian novel. For instance, is it a type of control, the environment, technology, survival, or loss of individualism? For me, it is survival, and that is the type of fiction I will seek out. However, some students may want something positive, uplifting, or comforting, which is sometimes harder to find.
What are your recommendations for uplifting YA fiction? Here are a few lists I found.
- “22 YA Novels to Help Students Process the Pandemic (or Forget It for a Bit)” from Edutopia by Terri Grief
- “The Ultimate YA Summer Reading List” from Brightly by Laura Lambert
For more about the comparison of the 2020-2021 pandemic to the dystopian concept, see these articles.
- “Living in a Dystopian Novel: Penn State Professors Compare Coronavirus to Various Dystopian Media” from The Daily Collegian
- “Are We Living in a Dystopia?” from The Conversation
- “Are We Living in a Covid-19 dystopia?” from the University of Birmingham
- “Will the Coronavirus Create a More Progressive Society or a More Dystopian One?” from the New Yorker
Author: Hannah Byrd Little
Hello, I am the Library Director at The Webb School of Bell Buckle. I use my past experience in college and university libraries to help my current students in school libraries transition into college, career, and life. I am currently the lead Senior Class Adviser for the Capstone Project. I also served at the state level with the Tennessee Association of School Librarians executive board from 2009-2013 and was the TASL president in 2012. I am certified as a Library Information Specialist for PreK-12th grade, have a BS in Communications with a concentration in Advertising and Public Relations, a BS in Liberal Studies with a concentration in Education and Information Systems and a Masters in Library and Information Science.