RSS Feed Print
YA vs. Adult Dystopian/Postapocalyptic Fiction
Nevena Georgieva
Posted: Thursday, November 14, 2013 12:30 PM
Joined: 2/9/2012
Posts: 427

I feel like more than any other genre (except for New Adult perhaps) YA dystopian fiction has been in flux over the past several years. New tropes and conventions have emerged and shaped this now very popular literary category. 


I read a lot of YA dystopian/posapocalyptic fiction, so embarking on an adult dystopian/postapocalyptic series (THE DARWIN ELEVATOR, which is absolutely excellent, btw!) really got me thinking about the vast differences that exist between books in the genre written for adults and ones written for young adults.


Today's guest on the blog--British YA author Teri Terry--said something pretty interesting on the subject:


Traditional dystopian novels tend to end very badly for the hero: the whole point is that of a warning, a call to action – to change the world to avoid this coming to pass.

Conversely, YA dystopian novels tend to have more hopeful endings, even happy ones at times. Literary critics argue this negates the message of a dystopian novel; at the same time, debate rages about the impact of dark dystopian novels on younger readers.


 Okay, your turn!


Book Country coordinator






J.M. Berenswick
Posted: Friday, January 31, 2014 10:06 PM

Having read both kinds, I think there's more to it than that. In adult novels, the dystopian society is going to be a lot harsher with its citizens. The world that Divergent sets up, for example, isn't as bad as what happens in Brave New World. Those people had no say whatsoever in who they got to be, and the people who didn't belong had it a lot worse off than the Factionless. The Capitol using tracker jacker venom on Peeta hasn't got anything on O'Brien and his cage of rats.


Building on what Terry said, adult novels often paint their societies as being indestructible. It doesn't just end badly for the hero, it ends with all their beliefs getting crushed and the regime continuing as if they never existed. You're not going to find that in the average YA dystopia.


That said, the line isn't completely solid. There's Fahrenheit 451, which is considered an adult dystopia but ends on a more hopeful note and even implies that the good guys will eventually win. On the YA side of things, Katniss and Peeta are still pretty damaged at the end of Mockingjay. While there are basic elements you can expect to find in each kind of story, they aren't necessarily exclusive to that story.





Danielle Bowers
Posted: Sunday, August 10, 2014 10:25 PM
Joined: 3/16/2011
Posts: 279

There's a lot at play in the YA love of dystopian novels, in my opinion.  Most teens and young adults have been living under the roof and rules of someone else their entire lives.  School,  home, work...they have to follow the rules.  Schools are more structured socially than a medieval court. I think they love dystopian novels because they crave that upheaval of the world, when all the rules are thrown out and everyone has to get by based on their skills. 


I can't say I've made a note of the endings of YA dystopians versus adult.  True, the adult books usually have a grittier storyline, but the one book that gave me nightmares was a YA dystopian.  Stephen King's THE STAND ended on an optimistic note, but with a foreshadowing of returning danger.

My one beef with YA Dystopians is the authors tend to focus more on the romantic element and hold back from the real emotional punches.  A girl lost her home, family, and is traveling across the country with a boy she barely knew.  I would believe the giggling and flirting more if twisted into a coping mechanism.  Show me hollow-eyed, shell shocked people who don't have a clue what to do next.  Or a girl who latches on to a guy early on to avoid being alone and slowly realizes he's a great person. 


Jump to different Forum...