What comes after the YA dystopian novel?

What a year!

dystopian style pandemic protocols

Armbands for each day of the week

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.

dystopian style pandemic protocols

Genre Shift

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’s next?

What are your recommendations for uplifting YA fiction? Here are a few lists I found.

For more about the comparison of the 2020-2021 pandemic to the dystopian concept, see these articles.


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.

Categories: Blog Topics, Collection Development, Student Engagement/ Teaching Models

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