Created By: GarfmanJanuary 30, 2013 Last Edited By: GarfmanMarch 18, 2013

My First Dystopian Novel

A genre of Young Adult fiction where teenage protaganists fight against their oppresive society

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Trope
As people come of age, we expect their understanding of morality to become more complex, moving from Black And White Morality to Grey And Grey Morality (or shades thereof). To achieve this end, many works of fiction aimed at YoungAdults thrust their Audience Surrogate into morally iffy situations.

What better place to find morally iffy situations than a horrific Dystopia? Our hero fights to better their society, all while trying not to become monsters themselves.

In fact, dystopias are especially apt for young adult fiction because they're often about characters reaching the post-conventional stage of morality, where they start thinking on their own, question what they think they know in the face of empirical evidence, and make their own value judgments, rather than relying on the "common wisdom" and "what everyone else does."

The situation where a
  • previously submissive and obedient Dystopia citizen
  • discovers the cracks in the system
    • sometimes they were hidden by design,
    • other times only simple privilege blindness allowed the character to overlook them),
  • discovers that the system is fallible and flawed
  • grows disappointed with it,
  • rebels and
  • stumbles around while seeking to make their first genuine choices....
The parallels with the "I have just discovered that my parents suck" part of one's personal development are amazingly obvious. Also, the probabilities of
  • succeeding against The Man and becoming free and independent
  • failing and accepting one's true place in society
    • and benefit from it immensely, at least by the standards of that society

are about distributed in the same proportions as the probabilities of similar events in a teenager's transition to adulthood.

These are often Coming Of Age Stories.

Examples:

  • In City Of Ember, Doon and Lina find out the dark secret of the titular city.
  • In The Giver, Jonas fights against the Sameness.
  • In The Hunger Games, Katniss and Peeta fight against the oppressive Capital.
  • In the Shadow Children series, where the population is strictly limited to two children per family, third children fight against the government that wants to kill them.
  • The Tripods is set on a future Earth that has been subjugated by the Masters - an alien species with different environmental needs, who suppress advanced technology and enslave the population by installing Mind Control hardware in all humans above a certain age, while most of the colony lives in domed cities. Naturally, the revolution relies on those who are able to escape before installation.
  • In Unwind. Connor, Risa, and Lev are on the run from a society that sacrifices unwanted teenagers for their organs.
  • The Left Behind series has a spin-off simply titled The Kids. It deals with a group of Christian teenagers dealing with the Tribulation and the Antichrist.


Community Feedback Replies: 39
  • January 30, 2013
    Duncan
    A short story, but The Lottery.
  • January 30, 2013
    MetaFour
    Is "Young Adult Literature + Dystopia" really tropeworthy? Does the comibination bring anything to the table that isn't found in one of its parent tropes?
  • January 30, 2013
    AmyGdala
  • January 30, 2013
    Garfman
    It feels like coming of age dystopia (which does work as a name) shows up frequently enough to be a separate genre.
  • January 30, 2013
    MokonaZero
    Battle Royale gives us Shogo, who fights against the Crapsack World.

  • January 30, 2013
    cobradane
    The supernaturalist, perfectly fits this description
  • January 30, 2013
    MorganWick
    Never read any of these except The Giver, but I get the sense these novels tend to be more about their protagonists than about the dystopia itself like the great dystopian novels (though I'd argue that's not the case with The Giver, possibly an Unbuilt Trope).
  • January 30, 2013
    IsaacSapphire
  • January 30, 2013
    AP
    • The Chronicles Of Narnia contain elements of this. Narnia had the tendency to fall into dystopia whenever Aslan or the main characters were not around to rule it.
  • January 30, 2013
    IsaacSapphire
    Given that Dystopian fiction is not the sort of thing that you'd necessarily think of as appropriate for kids, and given that it seems to be fairly common in YA, it seems tropeworthy to me. YA tends to develop its own spin on the tropes it takes in too, so there may be some unique elements to YA Distopian fiction that grouping them all together may allow us to identify.
  • January 31, 2013
    Tuomas
    The Trope Maker is possibly The Tripods.
  • January 31, 2013
    troacctid

    Is this meant to be a trope or an index? Cuz if it's a trope then the examples are gonna need context.
  • January 31, 2013
    Garfman
    I think it may be more of an index. It seems to be a genre within the Young Adult umbrella.
  • January 31, 2013
    Amaryllis
  • February 1, 2013
    Xtifr
    I think it's a little narrow for an index, and would probably work better as a trope. Fortunately, it should be easy to get context for all the examples so far, since we have pages on them. But for now...

  • February 1, 2013
    JoeG
  • February 3, 2013
    Garfman
    I was wondering about things like Lord Of The Flies and Animorphs. They're not a futuristic dystopia, but they fit the idea of introducing kids to morally grey concepts. Which makes more sense for this as a trope (or index)?
  • February 4, 2013
    troacctid
    Animorphs and Lord of the Flies are not Dystopias. Futuristic or otherwise.

    And if it's an index and not a trope, then it should be alphabetized.
  • February 5, 2013
    Irrisia

    The world is still suffering from the after effects of nuclear war, the ruling council is basically a front for a theocratic dictatorship that burns heretics and mutants alive, and the main character and all her friends have psychic powers.
  • February 6, 2013
    Arivne
    Tabletop Games
    • R. Talsorian Games' Cybergeneration. A weaponized nanovirus called the "Carbon Plague" alters the DNA of children and teenagers and gives them nanotech-based powers. This causes them to be feared by the cyberpunk society they live in, and so they fight against the corruption and decay of that society.
  • February 6, 2013
    Garfman
    Should there be descriptions of the oppressive society these teens are fighting against, or does it work as an index?
  • February 6, 2013
    troacctid
    I think it's probably better with descriptions.
  • February 6, 2013
    IsaacSapphire
    The Lottery isn't YA, it's School Study Media, as are Brave New World and 1984. They do tend to all be read around the same time by the same kids though, so I'm not sure if they should be included.

    And I have never heard anyone categorize Narnia as a distopia before and I've read a fair amount of scholarly work on Lewis.
  • February 11, 2013
    Garfman
    YTTKW Bump. What do I need to do to make this work?
  • February 11, 2013
    troacctid
    I'd give up the index idea and make it a trope about dystopian settings in Young Adult Literature (or I guess non-literature media is probably okay too). See how it looks and if it gets some hats.
  • February 11, 2013
    Garfman
    Could someone fill in the other works? I'm personally unfamiliar with them.
  • February 12, 2013
    DracMonster
  • February 12, 2013
    MaxWest
    The Left Behind series has a spin-off simply titled ''The Kids''. It deals with a group of Christian teenagers dealing with the Tribulation and the Antichrist.
  • February 12, 2013
    Garfman
    Drac Monster, I think that title catches the concept well, but you're right, it is a bit long...
  • February 25, 2013
    Garfman
    I want to bump this one more time. Is there anything that I should do with it?
  • February 26, 2013
    Arivne
    Namespaced (where possible) and italicized the work names in the OP description.

    The Tripods is currently a Zero Context Example and needs to be expanded.
  • February 26, 2013
    robinjohnson
  • February 26, 2013
    Noaqiyeum
    It's been a while since I read the series, but The Tripods is set on a future Earth that has been subjugated by the Masters - an alien species with different environmental needs, who suppress advanced technology and enslave the population by installing Mind Control hardware in all humans above a certain age, while most of the colony lives in domed cities. Naturally, the revolution relies on those who are able to escape before installation.

    (Also, I really like Coming Of Age And Bringing The Revolution, despite how long it is.)
  • February 26, 2013
    SeptimusHeap
    How does this name work in terms of No New Stock Phrases?
  • February 26, 2013
    TheHandle
    It's not really a sentence or even a dialogue line. Also, works titled "my first X" are fairly common when it comes to young people, and they tend to be very kid-friendly with lots of bright colors and smiles everywhere, to appeal to the parents: this provides a very amusing contrast with Dystopia, which is not a parent-friendly concept at all.

    In fact, Dystopias are especially apt for fiction because they're often about characters reaching the post-conventional stage of morality, where they start thinking on their own, question what they think they know in the face of empirical evidence, and make their own value judgments, rather than relying on the "common wisdom" and "what everyone else does"

    The situation where a
    • previously submissive and obedient Dystopia citizen
    • discovers the cracks in the system
      • sometimes they were hidden by design,
      • other times only simple privilege blindness allowed the character to overlook them),
    • discovers that the system is fallible and flawed
    • grows disappointed with it,
    • rebels and
    • stumbles around while seeking to make their first genuine choices....
    The parallels with the "I have just discovered that my parents suck" part of one's personal development are amazingly obvious. Also, the probabilities of
    • succeeding against The Man and becoming free and independent
    • failing and accepting one's true place in society
      • and benefit from it immensely, at least by the standards of that society

    are about distributed in the same proportions as the probabilities of similar events in a teenager's transition to adulthood.

    And yes, School Study Media are often read by people at a certain stage in their lives. If there isn't a trope there, there's probably at least a sociological phenomenon that would be interesting to study, especially in terms of kids Comically Missing The Point, completely failing to notice stuff that was snuck past the radar, or even failing to recognize stuff that's right in front of them because they lack the previous assumptions, knowledge, and experience necessary for understanding them. As an adult grad student, I can definitely say that I view such works in a very different light than I used to as a kid. Satire is especially notable in that sense, as it relies a lot on context to be funny.
  • February 28, 2013
    Garfman
    Oh, geez, THANK YOU The Handle. This is exactly what I was getting at. Do you want to write it up?
  • March 12, 2013
    Garfman
    How do I add The Handle's stuff to make this launchable?
  • March 15, 2013
    Garfman
    Alright, I just grabbed a big chunk of it wholesale. How well does it fit?
  • March 18, 2013
    Garfman
    It's been too long since someone else replied, so I'm launching it tomorrow night unless someone objects.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable