Dystopian novel author sheds light on her work
Updated: June 18, 2012 8:19AM
A world that by definition is terrible does not really sound like the place you want to escape to when you curl up with a book. However, dystopian novels are dominating fiction right now, especially in the young adult genre.
One such book is the New York Times bestseller Divergent. I had the amazing opportunity to interview the author of Divergent and its sequel Insurgent, Veronica Roth, and she shed some light on the appeal of dystopias. Roth said when she was a teenager, “I wanted to read books where characters were in a really challenging situation but they were sort of making the best of it.”
She also explained the appeal of the modern dystopian hero, someone who “takes charge of the world they live in.” Roth recognized that taking charge of your world can seem impossible as a teenager, but that’s why dystopias are so compelling, because they teach you how.
In Divergent and Insurgent, Beatrice Prior really does learn how to take charge of her world. Her world is a dystopian Chicago which consists of five factions which each try to stop evil by embracing certain human qualities and rooting out others. The factions Abnegation, Amity, Candor, Dauntless and Erudite blame selfishness, aggression, duplicity, cowardice and ignorance, respectively, for the problems of the world.
When asked which trait she blamed, Roth said, “Well, I’m sort of with Abnegation on this one. I think its selfishness, mostly. Just people looking out for their own best interests and failing to see how they can look out for other people. So if I had to pin it on something, it would be that.”
Roth added she agrees with all the factions in a way saying, “people are not perfect, so they will always sort of fail in some way.”
After I read Divergent and Insurgent, I began thinking more about disasters, and the part of human nature that causes them; and wondered why I didn’t think about something that important before. What makes Divergent, Insurgent and other dystopias so amazing is that they can be so thought-provoking and entertaining at the same time. You may finish them quickly, barely able to put the book down, but you are left thinking about the imaginary world and it’s problems for much longer.
The scariest thing of course, is when you can easily see the slippery slope that extends from where we are now to dystopian disaster. So while dystopias might not help you escape into a fantasy world, they will have you thinking about your real world a little more. And if you don’t believe thinking is important, you might want to pray you do not run into any Erudite anytime soon.
Dystopias like Divergent and Insurgent are becoming so much more important as technology develops. As we are surrounded with 24 hour news and instant information, it is important that we are exposed to literature that can entertain us while making us pause to really think about human nature.
Kiley Roache is a sophomore at Nazareth Academy.