Saturday, August 28, 2010

Recap of the Dystopian YA panel at BEA

Three months ago during BEA, I attended a panel about dystopian YA literature. Four authors were on the panel, but only two of their books are being marketed as YA: Lesley Hauge’s NOMANSLAND (my review) and Ally Condie’s MATCHED (my review). The other two have written very adult books with young main characters: Sigrid’s Nunez’s SALVATION CITY (my review) and Adam Dunn’s RIVERS OF GOLD (not yet reviewed).

I took a few notes, which I will finally share with you now.

When asked why she writes dystopian lit for teens, Lesley Hauge answered that YA should cover the whole range of the human experience, including suffering. Her book should create a sense of unease and get teens thinking.

Ally Condie says she likes writing from the point of view of teens because they are more vulnerable yet can feel accountable and still have time to take action. She wants to offer hope in her writing and said, “if you want to feel hopeful, but also sad, buy my book!”

Sigrid Nunez started her book about the effects of a global flu pandemic in 2007, before the swine flu panic. She feels like we are living in a time of extremes where there is incredible tension and something to be afraid of in every sphere. Readers like to be scared, but they also want the sense that they could survive if the scenario happened to them.

Adam Dunn talked by far the most. His book is about taxi cabs in NYC and is very anti-government in its sentiments. He likes mixing teens and dystopia because youth implies motion and dystopia implies a downward spiral. He thinks the genre is so popular right now because we are living in a gloomy time. Another such time was 1979, and 1982 therefore rife with dystopian movies such as Mad Max and Blade Runner. “The pendulum has swung back.” Is not that interested in offering hope, and said, “You have survivors, but they aren’t necessarily winners.”


Amanda said...

I have to admit, that Adam Dunn guy offended me so much with his comments (I most remember the "Children are monsters" comment) that I really don't want to have anything to do with his books.

Trisha said...

I attended this panel as well, and I definitely remember Dunn as a rather pessimistic, narcissistic, and bold individual. As to the issue at hand, I think that focusing on teenagers as the victims of a dystopian society elevates the readers' emotions. It also makes sense to have teens as the heroes because who better to rebel against society than a teenager?

Lenore Appelhans said...

Amanda - I remember that! Do you recall what context that comment was in?

Trisha - Agreed.