Last night, I finished a Brazilian Netflix show called 3%. It hasn’t been advertised much at all, and I haven’t heard a single person talking about it. I found it after scrolling aimlessly through the sci-fi section a few times. It didn’t look like anything amazing, but I read the word ‘dystopian’ and something inside of me cheered a little. Dystopian – I hadn’t read or watched anything from that genre for a while. And it got me wondering…where did YA dystopian fiction go?
There was a time (during the era of The Hunger Games hype) when YA dystopian was about all that I would read. After The Hunger Games, I must have devoured Delirium by Lauren Oliver, Legend by Marie Lu, The Maze Runner by James Dashner, Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi, and Divergent by Veronica Roth, in rapid succession. Let’s be honest, I think a lot of us probably read YA dystopians to death, but is that just a figure of speech anymore?
I’ve seen few YA dystopian series really being pushed and publicised in the last couple of years, and only usually then because of their corresponding film franchises, which have not followed the Hunger Games train as well, I think, as anyone would have liked. Perhaps that’s it; perhaps The Hunger Games was too good a franchise to beat? Maybe the constant comparisons to the sacred trilogy, found on every new dystopian series’ front cover, simply highlighted the view that no new series had come along to join that sacred space.
I think there might be more to it, though. I had read and loved the dystopian genre so much, and for so long, that I needed a break. And I think that might have been the case for a lot more people. And perhaps it’s just me, but I’m certainly beginning to see the new trend in the many YA fantasy series that grace the shelves of the teen fiction shelves in bookshops. I’ve never given much thought to the idea that one day, this might fade into the background, like the dystopians we devoured, but there’s reason to believe that it could follow suit. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
When I started watching 3%, what would probably have been a pretty mediocre TV show had I watched it a couple of years ago, as the dystopian hype was dying down, I ended up finding that I appreciated it so much more having had a break from the genre. It was absolutely riddled with the common themes and even tropes of the genre, in many cliched ways. But I didn’t care, because I appreciated those themes in a way that could only come from having taken a break from them. I found enjoyment in the style of the story, and the structure of the plot. It felt refreshing again, not tiring, as it was beginning to feel a few years ago.
That’s not to say that YA dystopian novels have not been released in the past year, and it’s certainly not to say that there is no longer a market for them. There is definitely still a significant audience for these books. But it is clear that their rapid publication has grown a lot less rapid.
I would love to know your views on this. Have you noticed a lack of dystopian fiction on our bookshops’ YA shelves? Do you have any different thoughts on why? Let me know in the comments!