Saturday, March 31, 2012

Dystopian and Post-Apocalyptic For The Win!

There has been an insane amount of buzz this week about Hunger Games now that the movie is out. Can I please say that I read Hunger Games in November of 2009 so I read it a long time ago. Before talk of a movie, thank you very much. (I have seen the movie twice already and loved it both times, by the way!)
Kellee has been talking about the difference between the genres of dystopian and post-apocalyptic over at our teacher blog. There have been all sorts of guest posts about this genre and today bloggers can share their own views and link up. Since I haven't had a chance to share my own thoughts yet, I thought I would share it here and then link up myself! (Is it weird to link up to my own blog...oh well!)
The genre of dystopian seems to have taken over in books and in movies. I'm not sure it has truly taken over but it has become more and more prevalent in both formats. I love reading The Giver by Lois Lowry with students and talking to them about Jonah and the world he lives in. I love asking them about what they think about his world and sharing how horrible their world is. Most of the time, when students read that book, it is their first foray into the world of dystopian. The students I have read it with don't seem to be outraged at how Jonah is controlled and how people are controlled. I find myself having to be outraged and asking them if they would like that and coaxing them into realizing his world is not all it's cracked up to be.

I think these kind of worlds that authors create that have some semblance of the world we live in fall into the genre of dystopian. For kids it's sometimes tricky to see what differences there are from our world to the world in the book because so much overlaps. Once they do realize what is different though, I think this genre has the ability to let readers see how close we might be to changing laws and making decisions that could ultimately lead us to these dystopic worlds. They seem farfetched but at the same time plausible. It freaks me out sometimes when a dystopic book makes me look closely at the world we are currently living in and how things are far from perfect.
Before spring break I was talking about slang with a student of mine and told him about the book A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. I haven't heard people talk about this book recently but it's a book I read in my British Literature class in high school and it has stuck with me since then. This book is a classic case of dystopia in my mind. It's such a perfect example of someone somewhere thinking an idea might actually work out great and then seeing the repercussions of this grand thought. I read it my senior year in high school and it is a super graphic book so I would recommend it to mature teens or adults. It is amazing what Anthony Burgess does with words and how he causes the reader to really assess the world we live in and the decisions we make.
I think I saw Oprah interview Cormac McCarthy and discuss The Road....but I don't remember them really talking about what the book was about. So, of course, the book lover that I am, who wants to read books others people are talking about, apparently, even Oprah, read the book. This book is so haunting and so incredibly sad and scary and spooky and gloomy. It's really depressing. It's definitely hardcore post-apocalyptic if you ask me. Something has happened to the world, we have no idea what. There's a guy and a boy walking. They just walk and walk and try to make it to where they are walking to even though we have no idea where they are going and they really have no idea where they are going. And they encounter lots of sad and scary things along the way. If it wasn't bad enough, the ending doesn't really redeem the whole book even. By the end, I felt like I read the whole book just to feel maybe a teeny tiny hint of hope but you really get no answers. This book is what I would consider textbook post-apocalyptic because it's after the almost-end of the world and there is really little hope of survival, but the human spirit will not give up! I'm glad it's not really a happy ending and I'm glad it is all gloom and doom because that's the essence of the genre after all. It kind of has to be that way. It's not the type of book I enjoy reading at all. McCarthy did an amazing job of writing this book. If I were him, I think I would need therapy after throwing myself into trying to write the world his character's live in. It really made me stop and think about what I can do to be more green in hopes of not seeing the world come to this in my lifetime...or any soon-to-be lifetimes even. You don't want our world to come to this, it sucks.

In our world, I do seem to notice more and more that people take things for granted. Especially, people who have jobs and access to toys and gadgets. Have you noticed the #firstworldproblems hashtag on Twitter? It's a joke but it's also pretty depressing. People will complain about something - usually a problem with their technology not working - and then add the hashtag. At least they realize that the problem they are having is a luxury to some people around the world, but at the same time, it's sad that there is such discrepancy in the lives that people are living around the world.

I'm glad the genres of dystopian and post-apocalyptic books seem to be expanding. I hope it makes readers - especially young adult readers - stop and look at the world they live in and live more consciously. I hope they think about the actions they are taking: the things they buy, the places they go, the thing they eat, how they treat others. Maybe they'll start to realize they need to pay attention to voting and who is making decisions in government for them. If anything, these books show us that one person can make a difference. Lots of people supporting that one person hoping to make a difference can truly make a difference. Our world isn't perfect but there are some great things worth standing up for.

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