Posted by: michelle @ books my kids read | December 13, 2011

a brave new world of books

Lately I have been fascinated with books that fall into the category of young adult dystopian novels. What are these books, you make ask? According to the wonderful world of wikipedia,

Dystopian societies feature different kinds of repressive social control systems, various forms of active and passive coercion. Ideas and works about dystopian societies often explore the concept of humans abusing technology and humans individually and collectively coping, or not being able to properly cope with technology that has progressed far more rapidly than humanity’s spiritual evolution. Dystopian societies are often imagined as police states, with unlimited power over the citizens.

As for the novels themselves, they are often futuristic in scope. The classics from dystopian fiction are books we all recognize – 1984, Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451. These are titles that most people my age were required to read sometime in school and to write many papers on them. I remember reading 1984 for a second time in one of my early Mass Comm classes and being fascinated by double speak and the power that government had over us.

Recent books that fall into this category are The Hunger Games, Divergent, Matched, Uglies, etc. My first draw into this genre was The Hunger Games. I had heard about this book, but shied away from it, thinking it was for teenagers and not worth my time. I knew only that it was a young adult book, not that it fell into the dystopia category – which I wouldn’t have even been able to describe at the time.  Little did I know that while it was originally aimed at the young adult audience, it also covered subject matter that would get the grown-up mind thinking, and isn’t that part of what books should do? I mean, I love a good escape read and a lush story, but there is something alluring about books that challenge the way that you think about the world around you. It doesn’t hurt when those books are written in a style that encourages you to devour them in as few sittings as possible.

The classic dystopian novels had adult protagonists “who questions the society, often feeling intuitively that something is terribly wrong.” The difference about this new batch of novels is that is it a younger generation who starts to question society. These teenagers have to take power into their own hands to try to find a way to make society more accepting of a variety of issues and, in the case of The Hunger Games, to save their own lives.

So where am I going with this? Well, I just finished the latest in a string of books that I truly enjoyed – Awaken.  Awaken is the story of Maddie, a girl in 2060 who experiences life as everyone else does, from behind a computer screen. She goes to Digital School (DS) and even has virtual dates. When she “goes” to the movies with friends, they watch them from the comfort of their own individual homes on a wall screen and somehow manage to share the experience. The overabundance of digital life, especially on the school level, was brought about due to the increased violence that truly is occurring in our schools today. The final straw had been a shoot out where Maddie’s father, the creator of the digital school, had to kill a student who had gone on a shooting spree in his brick and mortar school. Then one day, Maddie meets Justin in an honest to goodness face to face meeting and everything changes. The love story is cliche, but her new-found understanding of the importance of actually talking to people, touching, experiencing things together, is not.

I think that the writer, Katie Kacvinsky, managed to write a number of truly quotable lines.

Computers have turned life into a digital world and people are so wrapped up by the convenience of it all that they don’t care they’re as plugged in as machines.

People are becoming spectators of their own lives instead of living them. But the best part is getting in the game. That’s when it’s all worth it.

It’s not that I’m anti computers. They have their advantages. But technology can be like a drug if you don’t keep it in check. After a while it gets in your system and you’re addicted…We’ve become so dependent on computers we can’t cut ourselves off.

What really stands out to me is that this is often how I feel about computers right now. We are addicted. We are so used to Facebook and quick updates that sometimes we don’t get out and make sure that we socialize. Even picking up the phone and having an honest to goodness conversation. I know that I make a big effort to make sure and socialize, but there are questions in my head about what all of these social media sites are doing to our children and future generations. Our communities are so scattered that there is a need for technology to keep us together, but do we rely on it too much? I think that this book brings up a lot of interesting conversation topics (hint hint book clubbers). The ending left me a little flat, but that’s probably because the author was just leaving you hanging for the next installment (another big trend right now) due out in 2012. Until then, I will just have to read one of the other books on my ever-growing list.

Happy Reading!



  1. well said! and i need to read some of these other series. i am OBSESSED with hunger games.

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