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The Meteoric Rise and the Quick Disappearance of the Teen Dystopia Genre

You’ve probably fallen in love with a number of dystopian novels and movies without realising it. By definition, it’s quite the opposite of utopian fiction, wherein the characters live pretty perfect lives in ideal towns with happy families. Dystopian literature is when the characters face the worst situations and suffer distressing lives, have important choices to make and tons of morally grey areas, with the plot often following the “big bad government” narrative. Teen dystopian novels and movies are rather addictive– a young renegade taking the system down with a group of unlikely friends in a burning city? Count us in! But this genre rose meteorically and disappeared just as quickly – there were a few years when it was all anyone could talk about, and then suddenly… it wasn’t. So, what happened?

The Meteoric Rise and Quick Disappearance of the Teen Dystopian Genre

Let’s take a moment to reflect. Remember the time of Divergent? Everyone was on the edge of their seats, watching Beatrice fight through a world governed into factions, led by a foul woman intent on controlling the masses. Three movies later and the story was complete, we were left quite satisfied with the turn of events and we felt alive, like we could fight whatever systems we were struggling with too (don’t worry, no spoilers!). Same with novels and movies like The Hunger Games, where the unwilling hero (check out Popular Story Tropes That Will Never Die for more info on the unwilling hero trope!)Katniss Everdeen took us through life-threatening games, or The Maze Runner where Thomas made us hold our breath with his dangerous escape plans. This is pretty confusing, because weren’t these all extremely successful novels and movies? And they had quite a few sequels, right? So why aren’t people writing them anymore?

One of the very first dystopian novels to become popular was actually George Orwell’s 1984, but since then, this genre really started becoming well-loved and adored in the early 2000s and people went absolutely nuts for it. Somewhere in the late 2010s it all suddenly came to an abrupt halt, and there’s a very good reason for that – it became too repetitive. The genre was exciting because it felt new, it was so radically different from the societies and rules we were used to. It gave us confidence and made us feel invincible; we were expecting that feeling to continue with more stories, more plot twists, seeing the unexpected but there were only so many different routes those stories could take. Eventually, they’d stick to the same relationship tropes, the same plot lines, the same “a single teenager starts a revolution and brings down the government in three movies” routine. We felt like rebels (especially considering a lot of places banned dystopian books and novels), but we were cheated. The novels and movies didn’t evolve as time went on; they just started to blur into one another and it became boring. So just as quickly as it rose in popularity, it died out.

But worry not! The world of novel genres has a funny way of making strong comebacks, so hopefully soon we’ll feel rebellious and invincible once again. If you are thinking about trying to bring the teen dystopia genre back with a crazy new tale, message us for some writing advice!

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