Why Do Teens Love Dystopia?


For some reason, books taking place in a dystopian society (definition: a post-apocalyptic, oppressive, or otherwise miserable world) are being rapidly consumed by teenagers, myself included. Think of the popularity of The Hunger Games, for instance. So why do so many people enjoy them?

According to Read Kiddo Read, a dystopian book contains these qualities. (See if some don’t remind you of the “typical” high school experience in America):

  • An imaginary future world or society
  • Tightly controlled inhabitants
  • Conformity as good and individuality as bad
  • Lack of awareness by most that their circumstances are not utopian
  • A main character who is frustrated by the controls and acts in spite of them
  • Treats the author’s perception of a problem in the current real world through its exaggeration in the story’s universe

Reading about a world outside our own seems more enjoyable to teen readers, as we are able to delve into worlds that seem impossible to survive. We are able learn about ourselves by living, if only for a little while, alongside characters who do all the work: we only have to read about it.

BHS student Kaitlyn Stork summed it up perfectly when she said, “I really enjoy learning about a new and different form of society that may seem familiar yet foreign at the same time.”

Despite the negative connotation that the word “dystopian” brings, these books do seem to have some positive attributes. We learn alongside the characters as they make their way through physical and mental challenges, without having to go through them ourselves.

These books also help you learn about the challenges we all face, even though they may never be as extreme as the ones we are reading.

Kaitlyn said, “These books contain a certain form of honesty that we all like, whether or not we admit it. We’re all aware of the horrible things that are happening right now in our world, and most of us do nothing about it. So, it shows us what could happen in the future if we don’t change.”

We also don’t want our lives ending up like the ones lived in these books, unless we are set on being heroic and constantly battling with others in order to survive. It’s much simpler to indulge ourselves in these other worlds from the comfort of our homes.

Not everyone reads these books for the pure enjoyment, however. Kaylagh Walsh, a sophomore at Bethpage High School who loves reading dystopian books, said that she thinks many people read these books only “because they get made into movies.”

This is true for a lot of these books, such as The Hunger Games, and Divergent, and many of the movies end up as wonderful representations of the books themselves.

Overall, dystopian books are just fun to read. The obstacles that the characters must face—and even the characters themselves—are generally well-put-together, and it’s enjoyable to watch and see how everything plays out.