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
- 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.