I actually don’t think I ever heard the term YA dystopia fiction until a few years ago when I read The Hunger Games and fell in love with the genre. Before that I read a wide variety of books, but when I read fiction, it’s largely YA dystopian books now. It’s become my guilty pleasure, so every few YA books, I read a hardcore business or marketing book. It’s sort of like eating your veggies so you can have dessert.
However, I am starting to wonder if reading so much post-apocalyptic fiction has changed me. I mean I grew up a child of the suburbs and never so much as mowed the lawn. A few years ago I tore up all the grass in my backyard and turned it into an organic fruit and vegetable garden – well with a lot of help from a garden partner since I knew nothing. I find myself obsessing over garden catalogs looking for more kinds of food I can grow. I am also considering urban chickens and have had a passing fancy about a fish pond. So many dystopian books describe the extreme hunger of the characters, The Hunger Games aside, that I wonder if this newfound connection to the earth is related to my reading habits. I have to admit to feeling a certain level of comfort that there are edible plants in close proximity. I also have rain cisterns too and a rain barrel. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not a survivalist stockpiling canned foods and weapons in my basement, but I do feel like I am subtly changing.
This year I took advantage of a local program to add insulation to my home. I can’t help but remember the grimness of a family almost freezing to death in their home in the book, Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer which takes place after a natural disaster. My home that used to be freezing in the winter is now toastier and I go to sleep at night feeling better about its ability to provide shelter. I even got two estimates this year for installing solar panels. The irony is that I am such a low energy user already, that financially it doesn’t pencil out in a way that makes sense taking over 15 years to pay off. My hope is that eventually the costs will drop even lower, as I would feel more secure relying on natural energy and I would feel better about not contributing to an apocalypse caused by energy related issues. I guess someone could say I am not reallydystopian minded, I am just an environmentalist. Maybe.
I do know that I have been eyeing solar or crank powered flashlights and radios on shopping sites the way I used to eye home decor. I have also started working out with kettlebells, is it because I want to fit into my old smaller size clothes or because I need to build up strength to fight off those violent factions in YA dystopian novels such as Article Five and Breaking Point by Kristen Simmons? A friend of mine bought the thickest book I have ever seen full of things we have basically forgotten in our modern age. How to butcher, grow plants for medicine and food, how to repair things, etc. If the worst happens, I will generously provide her with shelter and food ffrom the garden (as long as she brings the book with her of course!)
I also think about how truly few useful skills I have. Well I have skills such as social and digital media expertise, software training, marketing, etc. but those are only relevant in our modern world. If a disaster happens that wipes out energy and thus technology, most of those would be useless and the things that would be important such as knowing how to use a bow and arrow (go Katniss), how to build things, self-defense (from zombies or other survivors), how to climb trees, how to repair machines etc., those I simply don’t know. I guess that’s why I find so many dystopian books fascinating. In the ones that happen after a natural or even man made disaster, the characters have had to learn all new skills, and quickly, in order to survive in their changed world. I wonder where I would stand.
Has reading YA dystopia novels changed YOU in any way?