The novels we've been reviewing for Dystopian Week have been remarkably varied—from the cruel arena of "The Hunger Games" to the outer-space isolation of "Across the Universe," no two of these dark visions of the future are alike. But what makes all of these authors decide to enter this dangerous genre? We asked Lauren DeStefano, whose book "Wither"—depicting a world in which men live only until age 25 and women until 20, thanks to a failed genetic experiment—just came out in March. Here's her take:
The dystopian trend is definitely taking the YA market by storm, but it's hardly a new thing. Before "The Hunger Games" and "Matched," there was "1984," "Handmaid's Tale" and even the song "In the Year 2525." Every generation has a macabre notion that wars, government prohibition, natural disasters or mankind itself could be the downfall of society and the world as a whole.
Most dystopian, classic and contemporary, paints a future world that puts a twist on present society—a future world that could plausibly happen. It's not that the characters in a dystopian society have magical powers or can read minds or routinely walk their pet dragons. It's that they're living in a shell of Earth that would be vaguely recognizable to us.
"Dystopian," by definition, promises a darker story. What's really new and exciting for the genre is that younger readers are taking an interest in it. We're lucky enough to live in a world and time period where we're free to express ourselves—to hug our friends, to say "I love you" or paint our nails 10 different colors, to walk left instead of right. But when we take a young character who should be at the prime of his or her life, and we subtract these simple freedoms, we create a world that is as dark and horrifying as it is fascinating.
Have you read "Wither" yet? Why do you think dystopian literature is so compelling?