What About the Before in YA Dystopian Books?

So I rented and watched the film Seeking a Friend For The End Of The World last night.  First, I thought it was interesting that Hollywood would even dare make a movie about the end of the world, usually the only time they do is when the heroes of the movie manage to divert the disaster, such as Independence Day.  However, I guess if you have actors such as Steve Carell and Keira Knightley signing on, anything is possible.

Anyway, the fact that the plot takes place BEFORE the apocalyptic event happens got me thinking about all the YA dystopian fiction I have read.  Most all of it has taken place after an event, and oftentimes generations after an event.  Even the couple of books I have read which are exceptions, take place right before the event such as the amazing, Life As We Knew It, by Susan Beth Pfeffer.  The event in this book, likethe movie is an asteroid, but in the movie civilization knows the event will be happening enough in advance that we get to see how people might handle it.

Since it’s a movie and it stars Steve Carell, most of the reactions are absurd and funny.  Carell’s character, Dodge, continues to show up for work as ironically an insurance salesman.  Many people in the film do which seemed strange to me, as I thought in real life no one would, but it did start me wondering how many people maybe would continue at work either because they find the routine comforting or because they think somehow the crisis will be averted.  Scenes in the film of wild parties with drugs and orgies  taking place seemed more accurate, as were later scenes of riots.  Also, the idea of people wanting to find closure in their lives, or reaching out to lost loves or families happens in the film. I guess no one truly knows how they themselves would react if they knew such an event was coming, but how do you think you might behave?

I thought to myself that this is untapped territory in dystopia fiction, writing about the lives of characters before the event.  Yes, books like Pure make references, but the main characters were children and the book is written when they are teens, therefore they don’t understand the enormity of the loss as they don’t remember life before very well.

I would like to read a book that develops characters through a transition from young innocence and carefree years to having to mentally and physically adapt to a coming disaster.  Many zombie books take place right after the zombiefication of the world like in This Is Not A Test, so we get to see some of the evolution of characters such as the teen pothead who becomes a leader by default.  However, if there was a book where there were weeks of advanced notice beforehand, what would happen?  What would people’s reactions be?  Would they cling to hope?  Would they not prepare because they don’t believe the worst will happen?  Will they rebel against what is happening by acting out through drugs, violence or sex?  How will their relationship with their parents be effected?  How will they deal with the idea that the milestones they have not hit, such as graduation, college, marriage and children might never happen for them?   Will they be more resilient than adults in a crisis?  Maybe the state of the world before the event happens is one which the characters find hard to survive as things spin out of control.

What do you think about a book like this?


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