My post about "The Hunger Games" and the dystopian novel trend, brought some interesting replies. One reminded me of a curious theme I was introduced to during a stint as a volunteer at the local middle school library when I was a young mother.
The librarian was receiving box loads of books for the upcoming semi-annual book fair. As each box was opened she'd tell me under which genre to place each title. She finally handed me a stack of books and said, "Place these over there with the other death books."
I stopped dead in my tracks, (no pun intended.) "Death books?"
She raised a cautionary eyebrow. "Yes, the death books. It's one of the most popular genres for this age group--I'm dying, my friend is dying, my mom is dying. . ."
"You're kidding?" I was appalled.
"No. it's true. These students have reached the age when they're grappling with hard things. They're realizing that bad things happen to good people. Some of them have already lost family members--grandparents, their own parents in some cases. These books help them deal with grief. They're cathartic."
I expressed concern that such a literary trend might be encouraging a generation of anti-depressant customers, but this forty-year library veteran smiled and shook her head. "They pass through it. One year I'll watch a student stock up on 'death' books, and by the time the next book fair rolls around she'll be stocking up on copies of 'The Babysitters' Club.'"
Then I remembered my own son's reaction to "The Bridge to Terabithia." It was an assigned book, but it was the first actual novel that kept him reading late into the night. One day he actually brought it to me, asking me if I had read it. I hadn't, and he suggested that I do. I hurriedly read through the book, crying through the second half, and when I thanked him for the suggestion, we shared a great moment together. His comments were very brief. "It was sad, huh?" But it was still a great moment.
Perhaps that's the appeal of these dystopian novels. Perhaps a completely broken, corrupt society makes ours appear more bright and redeemable in the end, giving relief to the readers. Who knows? But I can admit to personally finding comfort and inspiration in a wide variety of books, and warnings in others. I've read a few books that disturbed my thinking. They soured my look at life. I steer away from them and instead choose to spend my limited reading time with material that lifts my spirits, strengthens me, and adds to my war chest of positive ideas and tools. But that's me.
I'm sure you've read books whose message went deep into your soul. What were they, and how did they affect you?
“A nation which does not remember what it was yesterday, does not know what it is today, nor what it is trying to do. We are trying to do a futile thing if we do not know where we came from or what we have been about.” -Woodrow Wilson