Sarah is another one of my fellow dystopian lovers and I was so excited when Sarah asked if she could put student quotes in her guest post- what a great way to show the real impact of this genre!
I didn’t know it at the time, but I was first exposed to dystopian literature when I read Brave New World by Aldous Huxley for my senior AP English class. I remember being confused as I read Huxley’s classic, but I tried my best to make sense of it so I could write my essay. I didn’t read another dystopian novel until I took Literature of Non-Western Cultures during my under-grad. The title escapes me, but my professor organized this class so we were reading and studying utopias, dystopias and ending with myopia. Thankfully my professor took more time to explain the differences which helped my understanding greatly.
I’m bringing up my past experiences with dystopian literature because besides wishing that Y.A. had boomed when I was in high school, I wish titles like The Hunger Games, Memento Nora, and Unwind were around when I was reading those required high school and college titles. I think I would have had a better understanding of Brave New World if I had already been exposed to dystopian titles written for teens. Young adult authors and publishers have done a top-notch job making dystopian and post-apocalyptic stories more accessible and easy to understand for our teens. This is an intriguing, discussion-heavy genre that should be explored by teens, and now it’s easier and more fun than ever. I’ve read quite a few dystopian and post-apocalyptic titles, so I know that not all of them are “fun,” but my students love reading them regardless. I teach mostly freshmen and I’ve noticed that in general they aren’t very interested in the government. Once I started reading The Hunger Games aloud to my freshmen, more and more of my students started asking questions about the government and whether something like the Hunger Games could actually happen one day. These two genres in Y.A. are provoking thoughtful discussions.
When I blog I focus quite a bit on my students because everything I read is with them in mind. Granted I get to enjoy some fabulous novels in the process, but the more important part is connecting my students with titles. I love exposing them to new authors, topics, genres, and more. With the recent popularity of dystopian and post-apocalyptic stories, I’ve been collecting a large variety of titles for my kids. I’m actually having a hard time keeping up with all of them, so I’ve asked some of my kids to be student reviewers for me. These students have formed a book club of sorts because they’re often swapping books once they’ve finished. One of my freshmen boys discovered that he likes dystopian novels, but after reading Enclave by Ann Aguirre, he’s found that he prefers post-apocalyptic novels. Since this discovery was made, I’ve been handing him all the titles I have and can find that fit this genre. I’ve really enjoyed listening to him recommend titles to his friends in class. Because my students are my focus, I’ve compiled a list of their favorite dystopian and post-apocalyptic titles.
In no particular order, these are the dystopian and post-apocalyptic titles borrowed the most often:
A couple student opinions:
“I like The Maze Runner series the best because it has a mix of adventure and suspense,
and it never goes as you think it will. It also has a mix of betrayal and love;
it’s a mix of all human emotions into one.” - Christian, 9th grade
“Enclave by Ann Aguirre—This book was very good. I didn’t want to put it down.
This book drew me in to keep reading because I couldn’t figure out what would happen next.
This book was also filled with weird, wild creatures and what the world looks like now.
Also I like this book because it’s full of new ideas, but it’s not ridiculous.
Ship Breaker is written by Paolo Bacigalupi. This book was also very good. I kept getting
in trouble for reading when I wasn’t supposed to. This book drew me in because it could really happen. Also, there were weird creatures like half-men. Ship Breaker was cool because it shows the
fight for survival in a hard world destroyed by killing all of our resources.” -Anthony, 9th grade
Sarah is a high school English teacher with a passion for both YA literature and connecting it with her students. She fell in love with YA lit the summer of 2006 when she took Young Adult Literature with Dr. Steffel at Central Michigan University. She read about 20 books in six weeks and hasn't stopped since! Sarah can be found on Twitter @yaloveblog or at her blog.