About a year ago, I talked about my problem with dystopians. Dystopians have long been a genre that I’ve gotten tired of and felt burned out by, so I’m even more tired by each new dystopian that goes through the hype machine. Hype isn’t good for me in general, but when people are raving about dystopian books, I have to keep myself from rolling my eyes. Now, I’m not saying that there’s something wrong with liking dystopians. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with liking any genre of books. No, my point is that dystopians just don’t work for me. But I wish it didn’t have to be that way. So, rather than ranting about what I dislike in dystopians, I’m going to talk about things I would actually be happy to see. Well, some ranting might slip in, but not on purpose!
Anyway, on to the things that’ll get me to pick up a dystopian:
#1: Creative and Different Worlds
I feel like too many dystopians are the same world with some different rules or locations or technology. The government is oppressive, most people could care less; things like books, movies, poetry, and art are often highly regulated or done away with completely except for one magical collection that the protagonist will happen upon in her or his journey; romance will somehow be constricted; and so on and so forth and what have you. There’ll be some differences, of course, but too often they still seem to be the same foundation with a different paint color or something.
I want worlds that are different. If you’re going to have a big, scary government that attempts to control everything, then I want a society where women are in charge or art is celebrated above money and logic or the majority of people are homosexual and children all come from IVF or something – I want something truly unique, not just something that is a slight twist on the regular. If you’re going to use such a common trope, then you need a really, really different element to mix into that trope.
You’re creating an entire world, authors! You can be as creative as you want – stop sticking to the same tired tropes over and over again!
#2: Something Other than a Patriarchy
We live in a mostly patriarchal society. Modern-day and past settings in books all reflect this – this is an unfortunate reality that we have to face. So why are books set in completely-made-up future settings so often patriarchies as well? Specifically, why are so many of them steps backward rather than forward (although this is a topic for another day – and one I think I might have had in a past review)?
Again, you are creating a completely new world! You can make one where women are in power, whether that creates a perfect world or one just as flawed as ours today. You can create a world where men and women are completely and 100% equal, or where women have a slight advantage because they have the ability to give birth to the next generation. There are just so many possibilities, and I’m so sick of seeing dystopian patriarchies.
#3: Less of a Focus on Romance
This is a little unfair of me – there are a lot of YA books that focus too much on romance, but especially in a story where the world is basically ending, it can stand out like a sore thumb a lot. And too many dystopians decide to throw romance into part of the mythology of the story by focusing the premise on a world where love is considered a disease or everyone is assigned a (heterosexual) partner or something along those lines.
Now, I like reading books with romance. I’m one of those readers who actually doesn’t mind if there’s romance in every single YA book (or at least most of them), so I’m not saying that I’m only going to read dystopians with all 100% platonic relationships because that might be almost boring for me. No, I’m perfectly fine with romance – I just want dystopians where they’re very much in the background. If I want to read a book that focuses on the romance, I’ll read a contemporary book where many of the issues and plotlines can involve romance because the protagonist isn’t also busy fighting the government or evil forces or something. Romance is perfectly realistic, but a huge spotlight on the romance that blocks out everything else, especially world building, is not what I want from dystopians.
#4: Happy Futures!
I know that dystopians are typically not that happy, but do they all have to be so darn bleak? Seriously, can’t we just have some happy worlds where cracks are beginning to show but things aren’t completely bleak and depressing? This probably the least-realistic wish on this list and the main reason that I avoid dystopians so much (if I’m going to deal with books that don’t have any of the other things I want, then gosh darn it, they’re going to be happy and fluffy!), but it’s still something I’d like to see at least a little in dystopians. Seriously, having a seemingly happy world with a terrifying underside can be just as interesting.
For example, you can have an interesting world where global warming has been stopped, technology makes everything easier, everyone is fed, and the poverty level is at its lowest – and then bam, technology turns on us and we have to run around trying to stop it in a happy, well-let world. Maybe it would take away from the drama of it all if you’re fighting the antagonist in the middle of a beautiful meadow of daisies or something else happy, but I don’t care if we have to work harder for the drama – I just want happy sometimes!
So, these are some of the things that will make me quite likely to pick up a dystopian book again. Until then, I’m mostly going to avoid them and read contemporary and paranormal and historical and (the occasional) adult books instead – I have a feeling my TBR won’t be hurting without any dystopians.