Why I Read... Dystopian Fiction

Thursday, October 27, 2011

I remember my first exposure to The Hunger Games. I was sitting at the kitchen table with my two brand new roommates that I didn't know very well yet, and one of them started reading out loud from the first chapter. After finishing it, she retreated to her room and read steadily until morning, after which she promptly collapsed into an exhausted heap and slept through the day.

Accordingly, the next weekend I decided to finish the book that Krista had been so absorbed in the weekend before. And I did exactly the same thing. It was the first time that I had ever pulled an all-nighter to finish a book. After that, I patiently waited for each new book of the trilogy to come out, and pounced on them as soon as possible (always timing my pouncing with the weekend, of course, so I would have no interruptions).

Honestly, The Hunger Games wasn't my first exposure to dystopian fic. I loved The Giver (the first time I read it, at least... the subsequent three times it was assigned for class didn't quite thrill me as much). I was fascinated and horrified by Fahrenheit 451 and 1984. So it really isn't a surprise that with the new trend of dystopian fiction in YA, I was one of the masses to be sucked in.

Why I Read Dystopian Fiction

* A mirror into our own society. I think dystopian fiction gives readers a chance to look at attributes of daily life and ethical dilemmas that, taken to excess, could lead to disastrous consequences. It gives us the chance to evaluate structures and systems that we have in place, and things that we should maybe change.
* Emotionally charged. Because these dystopias take situations that, on first glance, look appealing (No war? Yes please!), I find that my emotional reactions to them are very strong. I love being able to relate to a book, and even 
* Thrilling. These tend to be page turners. And while in general I prefer a character-driven story, every once in a while the excitement and intensity of a good dystopian is just what I need. 
* Love triangles. I'm totally kidding, as far as that being the reason why I read dystopian books. But it does seem to be an unwritten requirement for most of them. 


* 1984 by George Orwell. To me, this is the mother of all dystopian books -- the first book I ever read where the government had absolute, terrifying control. 
* Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. The most terrifying of any dystopian literature to a book lover -- a land where books are illegal and burned by firemen? Where people sleep with headphones in their ears... oh wait, that already happens (the headphone thing, not the books. Obvs). 

* The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins. I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge this series. The world Suzanne Collins created is terrifying but engaging, and the politics of control with hunger is hideously fascinating. 
* Delirium by Lauren Oliver. I unabashedly adored this book, set in a future where love has been eradicated by a neural procedure at the age of 18. 

For more recommendations, visit...

The Story Siren. Kristi reads a wide variety of YA books, but I've found that the dystopian lit that she reads is usually right up my alley. 


  1. Great post! I love dystopian but wasn't made aware of it until after THG.

  2. Okay, I'm amazed that you didn't stay up all night reading until The Hunger Games. I don't do it anymore, but growing up I did it all the time. The Princess Bride and Harry Potter come immediately to mind. I did it with The Help, too. Hunger Games I just read through class and work, haha.

    I LOVE dystopian literature. I go back to 1984 on a semi-regular basis. I think it's your point about mirroring society that draws me—really, we aren't that different from the worlds we read. This can happen to us. (You know the scene in Harry Potter 5 when Harry goes with Arthur Weasley to the Ministry of Magic for his hearing? In the movie they walk in and there is this massive picture of Fudge watching everyone; it was the most powerful reference to dystopian literature in film I've ever experienced. So well done.)

    Though I have to say, I think the reason Hunger Games did so well was the present-tense narration. You are right there with Katniss through the entire experience, and you don't know if she'll make it. She isn't telling you a story that's already happened, you are IN the story. It was a brilliant technique on Suzanne Collins's part.

    (Sorry for the longest comment ever.)

  3. I love Dytopian fiction as well. You summed the genre perfectly.

  4. I started The Hunger Games while I was on vacation, and I read it on trains all over France instead of paying to the countryside. That's how absorbing it was for me. Great post!

  5. I could never get tired of dystopian, at least not at this point in my life. I love something about every one I have read, and they all seem to be a little bit different.

    I gobble them up, I won't lie. I don't care of there is an abundance of them out there. I read YA and adult dystopian alike, and I can't get enough.

    I **HIGHLY** recommend PURE by Julianna Baggott. It comes out in February 2012, but it is on Netgalley (it was put up two days ago) for those of us who use it! It is TOTALLY worth the request.

    Also, I need to get on Delirium! My library doesn't have it. I've asked them to buy it because if I want to read it, chances are other people do too. Hopefully they'll get it soon. :)

    Love Love Love this, as always!


  6. Dystopian isn't usually my thing--it's always a little too depressing for me. After all, it's hard to have a happily ever after in a world that completely sucks. I totally agree with you about 1984 being the mother of all dystopians--it's the one that always come to mind for me whenever I try to think of non-YA ones. Great post!

  7. Pretty sure I just went and put all of these on hold at the library :) I love dystopian fiction!

  8. @Miss Remmers - Yeah, I think THG did a lot for the genre!

    @Allison - Don't apologize, I love long comments! That is a good point about the Cornelius Fudge picture. I really need to reread 1984. And I agree that the present tense did a lot for THG - it made everything so intense!

    @Jami - Thanks!

    @SM Reine - Oh man, it must have absorbed you if it grabbed your attention over France!

    @Asheley - Oh shoot! You need Delirium! I will personally write your library an email, haha. And I requested Pure! I haven't read it yet but it sounds so interesting!

    @Karen - It definitely can be depressing! They are all pretty dark, except for maybe Beauty Queens. :)

    @KC Dumas - Yay! Let me know how you like them!

  9. I do love me some Dystopian. AND I'm pretty proud of the fact that I was a fan LONG before The Hunger Games was released. :)

    The Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld is another Dystopian series I highly recommend.

    And you talked a bit about my favorite thing about Dystopian. I think the best Dystopians are the ones that take something REAL and magnify it to the extreme so we can examine what we find important. Gives you a different perspective on things.

  10. I have read the first book in the Uglies series. I need to finish! And way to be a trendsetter with liking dystopian early on. :)


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