says Ewan Morrison
What marks these dystopias out from previous ones is that, almost without exception, the bad guys are not the corporations but the state and those well-meaning liberal leftists who want to make the world a better place. Books such as The Giver, Divergent and the Hunger Games trilogy are, whether intentionally or not, substantial attacks on many of the foundational projects and aims of the left: big government, the welfare state, progress, social planning and equality. They support one of the key ideologies that the left has been battling against for a century: the idea that human nature, rather than nurture, determines how we act and live. These books propose a laissez-faire existence, with heroic individuals who are guided by the innate forces of human nature against evil social planners.
Of course, there is not some secret underground bunker filled with a Bilderberg-group-type-fraternity of neoliberals & neocons dictating what Young Adult authors write and neither is there a conspiracy among right-wing media moguls to implant reactionary messages through the mass media into the minds of the young and impressionable. This is one of those zeitgeist moments where the subconscious of a culture emerges into visibility. We might be giving ourselves right-wing messages because, whether or not we realise it, we have come to accept them as incontestable. This generation of YA dystopian novels is really our neoliberal society dreaming its last nightmares about the threat from communism, socialism and the planned society. We’ve simplified it to make it a story we can tell to children and in so doing we’ve calmed the child inside us.
Another report from Bogona on the ris of realism and the fall of dystopia:
I’ve been coming [to Bologna] for 12 to 15 years, and I’ve never had as many European publishers asking for middle-grade,” said Steven Chudney of the Chudney Agency. In terms of realistic YA fiction, one of Chudney’s major titles is Everything That Makes You by Moriah McStay, which HarperCollins will publish in 2015; German rights to the project have sold.
“There will be room again in the market for realistic YA, especially with the Fault in Our Stars and If It Stay movies coming out later this year,” said agent Brenda Bowen of Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. She added that she’s “pleased” with the picture book market, too. “We’re selling foreign rights, and people are still looking for them.”
Alexander Slater, foreign rights agent at Trident Media Group, also felt that “contemporary realism” is having a moment, with “international publishers moving away from fantasy, science fiction, and paranormal.” On the middle-grade side, Trident represents R.J. Palacio, and Slater said that the Wonder phenomenon continues to grow (rights have sold in 40 territories). Thus, he said there had been “definite interest” in the author’s follow-up book, 365 Days of Wonder: Mr. Brown’s Book of Precepts, which is due out from Random House in late August.
And David Fickling has been there with his own special agenda:
British publisher David Fickling, whose company went independent last year, was back in Bologna after a three-year absence, with a backpack filled with books. “I’ve got five fantastic novels I’m shopping,” he said. He wants to publish for all age ranges, and one category he’s excited about publishing is nonfiction: “I want to bring the effort that people put into picture books into nonfiction,” he said.
Research into children’s reading preferences has found that they prefer fantasy, magic and dystopia to realistic novels set in a contemporary everyday world.
The report, by Renaissance Learning, surveyed 426,067 children, and will be published in full in February.
Early findings from the biggest annual survey of UK children’s reading habits were released today, showing a marked preference for dragons, magic and dystopia over novels set in the real world. According to the What Kids Are Reading report, the most-loved books of last year were JK Rowling’s tales of a magical schoolboy, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which came in joint first place in the list, together with Suzanne Collins’s Catching Fire, the second book in the dystopian Hunger Games trilogy.
Joint fourth place went to Christopher Paolini’s tale of dragons and battles, Inheritance, and Rowling’s Chamber of Secrets, with three more Harry Potter titles in joint sixth place, alongside JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring, Rick Riordan’s The Lost Hero – starring the children of the Greek gods – and Veronica Roth’s story of a dystopian future, Divergent.
The only non-fantasy title to make the list of most-loved books was John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, about a terminally-ill teenage cancer patient who falls in love.
Have children’s book stopped being entertaining adventures and become more about issues than they used to be? Julia Eccleshare responds.
The quote is only a snippet – read the full reply by following the link.
Currently, imaginary dystopias are replacing familiar fictional backgrounds of historical upheaval such as the French Revolution or the second world war as places where children are forced into managing their own lives. These are not darker places than their historical precursors and, like them, they provide a space where children, especially todays much-watched children, can tackle demons, take risks and grow up.
After Tomorrow by Gillian Cross, reviewed by Linda Buckley-Archer
Cross, who has won both the Carnegie and the Whitbread, is an expert storyteller: her plotting is seamless; her prose is supple and economical; she creates characters you care for, and depicts a world so plausible you can smell it. If I have a gripe with this engrossing tale, it is that the ending came too soon; small things are resolved but bigger things aren’t. I’d have loved an epilogue or the promise of a sequel. The issues Cross raises will stay with you.