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Blog Exploring Dystopian Fiction for Young Adults

Exploring Dystopian Fiction for Young Adults

By Clare Furniss | Guest Blog

Exploring Dystopian Fiction for Young Adults

There’s a strong tradition of dystopian fiction for Young Adults. It’s no surprise that as readers reach the point where some of the comforting safety of childhood is left behind and a world of possibilities – both good and bad - opens up, darker fiction that explores big themes appeals.

Whether it’s the epic, post-apocalyptic drama of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins or the too-close-for-comfort slide into war of How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff, it’s compelling to read stories these stories that not only provide gripping peril for teen protagonists to navigate, but also prompt questions about the real world.

I wanted the world of The Things We Leave Behind to feel within touching distance, not a far-off dystopia but our own world given a push in a particular direction. The England my protagonist Clem lives in has an authoritarian government, and when London descends into civil unrest she’s forced to flee. It may be fictional, but for some people in some parts of the world it’s reality. And if circumstances changed, could it happen here? Confronting that question is unsettling, but it’s powerful too. It brings us closer to Clem’s story because it could almost be ours.

That’s the power of stories. You can take a huge, complicated issue and see it through one person’s eyes. ‘The refugee crisis’ sounds like a big, impersonal thing but that’s not what I wrote about. I wrote about one teenage girl, Clem. Her life revolves around friends and school, parties and arguments, family she loves but are also annoying… and then suddenly her life changes in ways she couldn’t have imagined.

The stories I like best don’t tell me what to think. Instead, they make me ask questions. How would I feel if that was me? What would I do? This is how stories can build empathy and it’s what I’ve tried to do in The Things We Leave Behind. After all, a refugee crisis isn’t really a big, impersonal thing. It’s the combined stories of many, many people with lives whose lives suddenly change in ways they couldn’t have imagined.

This story tackles serious issues, but it also shines a light on the precious things that can be lost. It highlights the freedoms we have that are worth fighting for. It focusses on the good as well as the bad. In my story, there are kind, compassionate people who help Clem despite the risk to themselves. There are always people in the real world who run towards danger to protect others.

The world of The Things We Leave Behind may be dangerous and dark, but the story is about more than that. There are mysteries and secrets, twists and heartbreak. There are memories and lies. There are fairy tales and magical birds. There is romance and laughter – because life goes on, even in the worst of circumstances. Most of all, there is family, friendship, love – and, despite everything, hope. These above all are the precious things worth fighting for.

If you’re keen to read more dystopian fiction, How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff and Floodland by Marcus Sedgwick are two classics with dystopian settings of war and environmental devastation. Two recent recommendations are the twisty dystopian thriller Happy Head by Josh Silver and You Could Be So Pretty by Holly Bourne, the feminist dystopian take on beauty norms and pressure on teen girls to conform.

Published: Wed 20th Mar 2024

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I absolutely love what young writers write i find it really imaginative
by Lilly Cutler - 23-03-2024 18:08
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