Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Real-Life Dystopia

What do The Hunger Games, The Giver, Feed (the M.T. Anderson techie version), FEED (the Mira Grant zombie version), Never Let Me Go, and my novel, Synesthesis  ALL have in  common?

Well, other than all of them being AMAZING dystopian novels (see how I fit my own novel in there :-P) they all revolve around main characters who are fighting for something. Whether it's love, knowledge, freedom, life, self-expression, understanding, or a combination of these, dystopian novels-and many of the top novels of today and of the past-center around fighting the good fight. What attracts us to novels like these? Our knowledge and experience from our own battles.

I'm pretty sure most of you were never thrown into a government controlled arena and asked to kill all of your opponents (The Hunger Games). I'm also reasonably sure that none of you have ever been placed in a post-nuclear-fallout society and been brainwashed to prevent future warfare and rebellion (Synesthesis). But we all have had our own struggles with life, love, and identity. Many of us have even directly or indirectly battled with illness, abuse, addiction, or poverty. So when these things come up in novels, taking the form of fantastical dystopian events, we find ourselves fighting with the characters. And you know what, we want them to win. We love the underdog, particularly in fantasy and dystopia, because we have been the underdogs in our own upside-down worlds. (That's why it's so gut wrenching when they kill off the sweetest characters. Did you ever notice that in dystopian novels, someone ALWAYS has to die?)

Just the other day, Kiki Hamilton mentioned the concept of micro-tension on her blog. The idea of micro-tension is that we keep reading a book because of the internal conflicts and struggles of the characters. It makes sense, doesn't it? Because we've either felt what they're going through and want them to win out, or we've felt what they're going through, had no bloody idea what was going on, and now want to see how they handle it. (I mean, come on people, how many Harry Potter books-not dystopian, I know-did you go through internally SCREAMING at Ron and Hermione for not just putting their stubborness aside and snogging already?! ...yeah, that's what I thought.) Because we know, or we hope, that if we were in that situation and that perfect person came along, that we would do the same thing. Or, maybe we have been in that situation and did it right or utterly wrong.

I'm going to make a(nother) shameless connection to my novel right now. Are you ready?
In my novel the four most central characters are all fighting in different ways.
Peter is willing to risk his life and sanity and go through continuous abuse to create change.
Brigid, Peter's mother, wants the same changes and has full faith in her son, but is also afraid of what will happen to him if he goes too far and gets himself killed by martyring himself for the cause.
Jade is an outsider coming in to the community who is fighting for change, but, in her words, "was once firey, young, and ravenous, but has become stunted by the knowledge of the pangs that hunger brings."
Alexis would give anything, just as Peter would, for change, but has been raised in the community too long to make the outside connections that Peter and Jade can make-something she wants more than anything in the world.

I share these characters with you, because I feel you can all relate to at least one of them. It is through these characters such as these that we see ourselves, and through them that we can take the look in the mirror  we need without being knocked over the head with it.

The Open Vein mentioned on his blog yesterday that some authors believe that YA fiction is a lower class genre. But when I think of what YA fiction has taught me and all of the ways that I just mentioned that people can relate to and learn from it, I can't imagine why anyone could ever think YA is just a bunch of rubbish to placate kids and teens who can't read "real" novels.

It also makes me think of how many underdogs there out there in the world and how important it is to help them. It's important not just to be grateful for what you have, but to be willing to give back. You can be a real-world hero and help someone out of their dystopia. Books are models of life after all, and it's important to remember that though there is only one, (okay, 3 if you count the whole series), Hunger Games, there are millions of people who feel like they've just been thrown into an arena where everyone is out to get them. Keep this in mind as you go along your day.

Thanks fellow bloggers and bloggees.

Peace and love!
<3 Gina Blechman


  1. I'm the only person in the world unimpressed with the Hunger Games :/ sad kitty face.

  2. I was disappointed with the ending of The Hunger Games. But then again, I haven't read the rest of the series, so I'm not about to judge.

  3. Hi Gina! I loved HUNGER GAMES too except I haven't read Mockingjay yet. Everybody seems to hate the ending.... so I keep putting it off.

    You make a good point in learning through the experiences of the characters. I think that's a hallmark of any well-written book (dystopian or otherwise) is if the reader is affected and cares about the character's journey.

  4. Great post Gina. I think I'm going to have to start reading dystopian now!

  5. OK< I also haven't read Hunger Games. Have to start reading now.

  6. oohh don't get me started... lower class of novels indeed... grumble.

    thanks for the post Gina,


  7. this is what draws me to dystopia. thanks for the great post.