For some reason that is out of my reach, when there’s a book that becomes really popular between young adults, many books that belong to the same genre start escalating the charts too. That is what happened with the dystopian genre. What is this genre, though? The webpage ReadWriteThink defines it as “A futuristic, imagined universe in which oppressive societal control and the illusion of a perfect society are maintained through corporate, bureaucratic, technological, moral, or totalitarian control”. Its boom started when The Hunger Games trilogy began gaining popularity back in 2010. But it’s been a long time since that happened and, still, the dystopian genre is one of the most read ones between teenagers.
The protagonist in dystopias is constantly questioning the society they live in and the political system in particular. They believe that something is terribly wrong in the system and want to escape it or change it whatever it takes. They are willing to go until the end to change what they believe is wrong. The importance of this subject is that some of the most popular dystopias for young readers have a woman as the main character, which, sadly, is a not so common view of women in literature. Many times the woman in literature for teenagers is treated, mentally, as a weak character, someone that doesn’t have a deep background and who, essentially, is a pure stereotype. So, contrary to that, in the dystopian books, the woman becomes the hero of the plot, challenging the corrupt systems that are more powerful than herself.
One of the most powerful women in these genre is Katniss Everdeen, the protagonist of The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. At the beginning of the story, Katniss is a 16 year-old girl living in the poorest district of Panem. She was forced to grow up at an early age when her father died and her mother’s grief made her unable to provide for Katniss and her sister, making the young girl develop amazing archery skills to keep her and her family from starving. Katniss is seen by others as a quiet and cold person, but actually everything she does, she does it for her family. Although, she is not good at understanding other people’s emotions, which may mislead her way sometimes when treating with others. She is a natural survivor and logical thinker who messes up the whole of Panem’s social and political system becoming, in fact, the image of the revolution in the whole country.
Similarly to that there’s the Divergent series by Veronica Roth. Its main character is Tris Prior, a character that despite what others tell her tries to escape the social schemes to follow what her heart tells her. When she turns 16 she finds herself choosing what the rest of her life is going to look like, and contrary to what they all expect, she is encouraged to follow the hardest path and join the Dauntless faction, where the most brave and strong people belong to. She is a very strong-willed, determined person who pushes herself to overcome any weakness that might be in the way to achieving her goals.
However, even though these are some of the strongest women we can find in young-adult books nowadays, they still keep some of the classical characteristics of women in literature. There’s no clear explanation to why the main plot in these books ends up moving from the characters themselves and how they overcome their difficulties to some kind of classical love story. It looks like whether they are determined survivors who push themselves over the limit to put in question a whole society or not, the romantic part always gets in the way of the plot and makes the characters, in this case Katniss and Tris, somewhat weaker and dependent to their romantic interests.