Monday, October 19, 2009

Books on the Nightstand Reading Challenge: Dystopian YA Fiction

Books on the Nightstand is offering up a Dystopian YA Fiction Reading Challenge and I'm definitely going to be in on this one! I love dystopic literature and I agree with Ann Kingman's statement that some of the best in dystopic literature comes in the form of the Young Adult novel! I've read a lot of dystopic novels but there were a number of new to me novels mentioned on the Podcast where they introduced the challenge. I'm really looking forward to this challenge. So, here are the details & I'll sum up this post with which books I'm planning to read before December 31st for the challenge. I hope you check it out HERE and join me!

So, first, let's define dystopian fiction - according to Wikipedia it is defined as follows: The utopia and its offshoot, the dystopia, are genres of literature that explore social and political structures. Utopian fiction is the creation of an ideal world, or utopia, as the setting for a novel. Dystopian fiction is the opposite: creation of a nightmare world, or dystopia. Many novels combine both, often as a metaphor for the different directions humanity can take in its choices, ending up with one of two possible futures. Both utopias and dystopias are commonly found in science fiction and other speculative fiction genres, and arguably are by definition a type of speculative fiction.
The Rules of the Challenge (as indicated on the challenge post at Books on the Nightstand):

There are always rules in dystopic societies. We will be benevolent despots in the running of this challenge. Your participation is voluntary and we will be deactivating the Reading Challenge Police, so you are on the honor system.

1. You must do as you are told. You are hereby commanded to read 3 works of dystopic fiction that were written or published primarily for young adults. Books must be read between October 5, 2009 and December 31, 2009 in order to count for the challenge.

2. Secret activities are forbidden in dystopic societies. You must post your reading list and/or your review(s) of the books that you've read. Reviews can be formal or informal, as you like. You may post them one at a time or all at once, it's up to you. If you have a blog, please post there. If you do not have a blog, there are two options:

  • A. (Preferred) - use one of the special discussion threads we've set up on Facebook or Goodreads.

  • B. Post your reading list and/or reviews in the comments on this post.

3. A dystopic society controls the spread of information among its citizens. If you have teens or tweens in your life, tell them about this reading challenge, and consider doing it together.

4. Dystopic governments control your behavior with a system of rewards. So, there will be prizes!We'll do a random drawing from all participants at the end of the challenge.

5. Dystopic governments can track the identities of community members. Post the URL of your list/review in the Simply Linked box below. If you posted at Goodreads or Facebook, include the URL of the discussion post.

 Doesn't this sound FUN? I think so ...

And, so, after giving it some thought, I'm going to be reading the following books (yes, I'm planning to read more than 3 - always the overachiever, I guess):

#1 - The Maze Runner by James Dashner  
When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. He has no recollection of his parents, his home, or how he got where he is. His memory is black. But he’s not alone. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade, a large expanse enclosed by stone walls.
Just like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning, for as long as they could remember, the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night, they’ve closed tight. Every thirty days a new boy is delivered in the lift. And no one wants to be stuck in the maze after dark.
The Gladers were expecting Thomas’s arrival. But the next day, a girl springs up—the first girl ever to arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers. The Gladers have always been convinced that if they can solve the maze that surrounds the Glade, they might be able to find their way home . . . wherever that may be. But it’s looking more and more as if the maze is unsolvable.
And something about the girl’s arrival is starting to make Thomas feel different. Something is telling him that he just might have some answers—if he can only find a way to retrieve the dark secrets locked within his own mind.

#2 - Candor by Pam Bachorz
Oscar Banks has everything under control. In a town
where his father brainwashes everyone, he's found a way
to secretly fight the subliminal Messages. He's got them
all fooled: Oscar's the top student and the best-behaved
teen in town. Nobody knows he's made his own Messages
to deprogram his brain. Oscar has even found a way to
get rich. For a hefty price, he helps new kids escape
Candor, Florida before they're transformed into
cookie-cutter teens. But then Nia Silva moves to Candor,
and Oscar's carefully-controlled world crumbles.

One by one, five sixteen-year-old orphans are brought to a strange building. It is not a prison, not a hospital; it has no walls, no ceiling, no floor. Nothing but endless flights of stairs leading nowhere -- except back to a strange red machine. The five must learn to love the machine and let it rule their lives. But will they let it kill their souls? This chilling, suspenseful indictment of mind control is a classic of science fiction and will haunt readers long after the last page is turned.

#4 - Gone by Michael Grant  
In the blink of an eye. Everyone disappears. GONE.
Except for the young. Teens. Middle schoolers. Toddlers. But not one single adult. No teachers, no cops, no doctors, no parents. Just as suddenly, there are no phones, no internet, no television. No way to get help. And no way to figure out what's happened.
Hunger threatens. Bullies rule. A sinister creature lurks. Animals are mutating. And the teens themselves are changing, developing new talents—unimaginable, dangerous, deadly powers—that grow stronger by the day.
It's a terrifying new world. Sides are being chosen, a fight is shaping up. Townies against rich kids. Bullies against the weak. Powerful against powerless. And time is running out: On your birthday, you disappear just like everyone else...

#5 - The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
In Mary's world there are simple truths. The Sisterhood always knows best. The Guardians will protect and serve. The Unconsecrated will never relent. And you must always mind the fence that surrounds the village; the fence that protects the village from the Forest of Hands and Teeth.

But, slowly, Mary's truths are failing her. She's learning things she never wanted to know about the Sisterhood and its secrets, and the Guardians and their power, and about the Unconsecrated and their relentlessness. When the fence is breached and her world is thrown into chaos, she must choose between her village and her future - between the one she loves and the one who loves her. And she must face the truth about the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Could there be life outside a world surrounded in so much death?

#6 - Feed by M.T. Anderson  
 This brilliantly ironic satire is set in a future world where television and computers are connected directly into people's brains when they are babies. The result is a chillingly recognizable consumer society where empty-headed kids are driven by fashion and shopping and the avid pursuit of silly entertainment--even on trips to Mars and the moon--and by constant customized murmurs in their brains of encouragement to buy, buy, buy.
Anderson gives us this world through the voice of a boy who, like everyone around him, is almost completely inarticulate, whose vocabulary, in a dead-on parody of the worst teenspeak, depends heavily on three words: "like," "thing," and the second most common English obscenity. He's even made this vapid kid a bit sympathetic, as a product of his society who dimly knows something is missing in his head. The details are bitterly funny--the idiotic but wildly popular sitcom called "Oh? Wow! Thing!", the girls who have to retire to the ladies room a couple of times an evening because hairstyles have changed, the hideous lesions on everyone that are not only accepted, but turned into a fashion statement. And the ultimate awfulness is that when we finally meet the boy's parents, they are just as inarticulate and empty-headed as he is, and their solution to their son's problem is to buy him an expensive car.
Although there is a danger that at first teens may see the idea of brain-computers as cool, ultimately they will recognize this as a fascinating novel that says something important about their world.

AND, that is what I"ll be reading between now and the end of the year! I'm so excited! I've already got a couple of them on my nightstand, waiting for me. And the rest are on their way from the library! And I'll be coming back periodically to post my reviews, etc. I really do hope you'll consider joining in the challenge - I think its going to be fascinating!

In closing, I thought I'd give you some other dystopic fiction (YA and adult) recommendations. I've read each of these and highly recommend them all ...

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
1984 by George Orwell
The Giver by Lois Lowry
The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins 

And there is a pretty cool list of dystopic fiction compiled on Wikipedia - HERE.

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